Hitachi announced that it had acquired approximately 96% of all issued shares of Kyoto Robotics Corporation, a start-up developing intelligent robotic systems. The need for automation is rapidly increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Against this backdrop, Hitachi acquires Kyoto Robotics and its unique, advanced technologies, including three-dimensional vision and a control system of robots using AI.
This enables the Hitachi Group to provide one-stop and speedy robotic SI for an entire automated line in the fields of logistics and factory automation (FA). Hitachi will contribute to the enhancement of the value of the customer’s business by providing total seamless solutions for overall optimization using digital technology centering around robotic SI, which connects workplace and management.
Logistics and manufacturing
In recent years, the need for automation has been increasing rapidly and digital transformation (DX) has been accelerating in the fields of logistics and manufacturing, reflecting the development of digital technology and a labor shortage due to the declining birthrate and aging population and a decrease in the working-age population in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic. Against the backdrop of the rapid expansion of demand for e-commerce in recent years, distribution centers, which store goods and ship them to consumers in a timely fashion, must ensure the safety of employees by mitigating the three Cs, closed spaces, crowded places and close contact with other people, and require further sophisticate operations using robots and digital technology.
Intelligent robotic systems
Kyoto Robotics is a start-up that was founded in 2000 and has been developing intelligent robotic systems that are masterless and do not require teaching that recognize objects using three-dimensional vision like humans and think and carry objects using AI control systems, aiming for full automation at logistics and manufacturing sites. The three-dimensional vision system based on sophisticated image processing technology developed by Kyoto Robotics supports intelligent robots as their eyes, and has a 99.99% object recognition accuracy rate. High-precision loading algorithms and AI technology of motion planning which work as a brain enable robot control according to a wide variety of package types and loading conditions. With the significant technology development capabilities, Kyoto Robotics partners with a wide range of robot manufacturers and has a proven track record of delivering more than 400 robotic systems in Japan primarily for palletizing and depalletizing operations that are difficult to fully automate with robots because of handling objects of many different shapes and weights at logistics and manufacturing sites.
The basic policy for the Industry Sector of Hitachi, one of the priority sectors in terms of investment, is to globally provide total seamless solutions that solve boundary issues existing between the workplace and management and between different entities in the supply chain to create new business value, taking advantage of having products, OT and IT and leveraging Lumada. In the fields of manufacturing and logistics, the need for automation through the use of robots at workplaces is increasing. At the same time, the field of robotic SI, which involves a huge amount of data, is playing a central role in the connecting of management and workplaces to achieve overall optimization. In this environment, in 2019, Hitachi acquired U.S.-based JR Automation and Hitachi Industrial Equipment Systems Co., Ltd. acquired Japan-based KEC Corporation. The Hitachi Group is globally expanding and strengthening it’s capabilities in the robotic SI field.
By acquiring Kyoto Robotics, Hitachi obtains advanced intelligent robotic systems technology and expertise. The Hitachi Group will be able to provide one-stop and speedy robotic SI for entire automated lines in the fields of logistics and FA, and add significant value to the robotic SI that it provides.
Specifically, Hitachi will provide robotic SI that applies Kyoto Robotics’ intelligent robotic systems automating palletizing and depalletizing at distribution centers and will also provide an entire automated line, including a compact and low-floor automated guided robot called “Racrew”, produced by Hitachi Industrial Products, Ltd., and other conveying equipment. Furthermore, by connecting the systems and automated lines to warehouse control systems (WCS) and warehouse management systems (WMS), which is a combination of products, OT and IT. Hitachi will provide sophisticated solutions connecting workplace and management for distribution centers.
For FA, the Hitachi Group will combine its robotic SI and Kyoto Robotics’ intelligent robotic systems to provide automated lines.