Amazon just announced they acquired Cloostermans, a Belgian mechanial innovation outfit, in a recent blog post (AboutAmazon - thanks to TechCrunch for highlighting this @ source).
Cloostermans will apparently be integrated in Amazon Robotics and their European innovations team...
What is Cloostermans?
D.Cloostermans-Huwaert (aka "Clostermans"), founded in 1884, is a Belgian mechanical/mechatronics consulting firm building bespoke machinery for a variety of customers.
The company had 138 staff according to their LinkedIn page in Sep 2022.
This is not exactly the M&A profile for Amazon's many startup acquisitions in the automation & robotics sector.
Image from Cloostermans website
It is highly likely that Cloostermans developed a highly useful tool or solution in their work with Amazon that made Amazon opt for acquiring the company instead of potentially sharing their IP with the rest of the world.
STIQ is aware Amazon has worked together with multiple warehouse automation companies. For Amazon to acquire one of these vendors means there must have been a willing seller with significant value and a good offer price from Amazon.
A company in trouble?
Cloostermans revenue declined from 2016 and reached nearly half of 2016 numbers in 2021.
Source: STIQ research & analysis (contact us for exact numbers). Pre-order STIQs free 2022 AGV & AMR Robotics report to get access to numbers.
STIQ Note: The 2018 revenue figure covers 18 months (no 2017 figure). In STIQs experience, extending or changing the accounting date is often done to mask declining revenues or to boost headline figures. Furthermore, this could also indicate that an external investor was involved in the company in one way or other.
Speculating, it is reasonable to assume that revenue may have continued to decline and that Amazon simply rescued the company from default/bankruptcy by acquiring it.
Still, there must have been sufficient value in the staff. STIQs patent search did not uncover that the company was a prolific patent seeker. Note that this is under the company name (clients may have patented some of the inventions).
What does this mean in the wider automation context at Amazon?
STIQs view is that Amazon have recognised they have other pain points or bottlenecks than the storage & retrieval part ("Kiva Systems") of its business which includes a wider solution thinking.
Apparently, Amazon has worked with Cloosterman since 2019 and it is likely that Amazon saw wider potential for the Cloosterman team as part of Amazon internally rather than as a company with outside interests.
This acquisition has many similarities to how Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012. Amazon also worked with Kiva before acquiring them.
STIQ has previously expressed a view that Amazon was likely to acquire a system integrator or an ASRS vendor.
However, people STIQ have spoken to seem to indicate that Amazon is very reluctant at replacing any of their 520,000 deployed robots. And this makes sense - the robot estate Amazon has built simply outnumbers volumes sold and deployed outside the company on the "open market".
Should companies like Dematic, TGW, SSI Schaefer, etc. be aware of the potential for Amazon Robotics to emerge as a System Integrator in the next 5-10 years?
Yes. Whilst Amazon are unlikely to offer system integration services in the short term, they seem to be evolving into a fully fledged vendor of such services and once its retail growth starts maturing and slowing down, it is not inconceivable that services may be offered to external customers.
Amazon already have some form in offering some of their services, such as Amazon Go and others, to external customers. AWS has also started offering simulation tools, such as RoboMaker .
Furthermore, Chinese companies, such as JD Logistics (of JD.com) and Cainiao (of Alibaba) are increasingly active system integrator and/or warehouse automation vendors to external companies.
NOTE: This article was updated to include D Cloostermans-Huwaert's revenue
Download related free market reports from STIQ:
- 2022 Goods to Person Solutions ("Kiva Systems")
- 2021 AGV & AMR Robotics ("Amazon Proteus")