Recently Danish research company HowToRobot published its analysis of the Dutch robotics market. This comprehensive report emphasizes the supply chain and logistics sector as the economic center of gravity for the Dutch economy, as most of all robot suppliers active in this market target this vertical. Rocking Robots discussed the findings of the report with CEO Søren Peters.
The Market Analysis of Automation Firms in The Netherlands contains an overview of 110 robot and automation suppliers. It includes firms related to automation and robotics including manufacturers, integrators, distributors, advisors and sub-component suppliers. The researchers analyzed 42 automation and robot brands, including industrial robots, mobile robots, components, and end-of-arm-tools.
The reports by HowToRobot usually reflect broader economic trends. Søren Peters explains: “In a lot of European countries we see different trends. And one of the things that pleases us is if the report fits those trends. For example, one of the things we saw in the French report was that a lot of robot companies were focusing on something called the ‘other’ category, and we started digging into that. It turned out it was defense. And when looking into that, we saw that the French defense sector had grown 20%, and with robots focusing on defense it was 25%. That fits.
In The Netherlands the biggest concentration of integrators and producers is focused on Zuid Holland and Noord Brabant. At the same time the categories material handling, logistics and palletizing & packaging are the three ‘big hitters’ in the Dutch industry. This makes sense with regards to the large role infrastructural logistics plays in these provinces, with ports, logistics hubs and industry. These regions also connect to Belgium and Northern France.”
“You could say it is all getting more sophisticated, especially in the motivation to invest in robotics. In, for example, the Rust Belt in the US the goal of the investment is mostly to solve really basic problems like a shortage of workers, right now. Whereas if you look at trends in The Netherlands there is more of a tendency to experiment with robots, to see if they can do something for us.”
As we saw earlier, in Holland material handling, logistics and palletizing are areas where robotics play a large role. In a heavily industrialized country like Germany cutting, welding and assembly is a bigger market for robots. Classic brands that are big in The Netherlands are ABB and FANUC. The industries these robots suppliers are targeting are logistics, food and beverage and palletizing and packaging. Robots in healthcare and farming are a fast growing market.”
The most firms in the report are small and medium size. The most common category of automation firms in the Netherlands is companies employing less than 250 people. There are only 8% of the companies with above 250 employees. “In robotics companies the biggest ones are very few. In the category 20 to 49, like in Denmark and other more high tech countries, there are a lot more. In heavy classic industry countries it is the other way round. The biggest increase in new companies was, not surprisingly, in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The last two years, probably because of COVID, there were not that many founded.”
A contributing factor could be that the Dutch underlying industry is not as big for the robot market. So limited exports during COVID will mean that a lot of robot companies have trouble selling their products. It is comparable to a market like Denmark. In the United States on the other hand the domestic market is so big that suppliers can keep on selling, even during COVID. But even with the dependency on the world Peters still sees a big potential for growth in the Dutch robot market because of the innovation here: “The technology companies we’ve seen look pretty advanced.”
This is reflected on the number of Dutch people finding its way to the advisors of HowToRobot. “We are actually working with Dutch companies. On HowToRobot we have got 60,000 users now. Last time we spoke, we had 700. We see people post requests here all the time trying to find suppliers. I think there’s about a $50 million underlying market on HowToRobot just right now in leads. There’s quite a few from the UK, and we’re actually developing this in The Netherlands as well. The market is really growing, and people don’t know where to turn to.”