The EV boom is pay-dirt for factory machinery makers

DETROIT — The funding surge by each new and established automakers within the electrical car market is a bonanza for factory tools producers that provide the extremely automated “picks and shovels” for the prospectors within the EV gold rush.

The good instances for the makers of robots and different factory tools mirror the broader restoration in U.S. manufacturing. After falling post-COVID to $361.8 million in April 2020, new orders surged to virtually $506 million in June, based on the U.S. Census Bureau.

New electrical car factories, funded by traders who’ve snapped up newly public shares in corporations equivalent to EV start-up Lucid are boosting demand. “I’m unsure it is reached its climax but. There’s nonetheless extra to go,” Andrew Lloyd, electromobility phase chief at Stellantis-owned provider Comau, mentioned in an interview. “Over the subsequent 18 to 24 months, there’s going to be a big demand coming our manner.”

Growth within the EV sector, propelled by the success of Tesla, comes on high of the traditional work manufacturing tools makers do to assist manufacturing of gasoline-powered autos.

Automakers will make investments over $37 billion in North American crops from 2019 to 2025, with 15 of 17 new crops within the United States, based on LMC Automotive. Over 77% of that spending shall be directed at SUV or EV tasks.

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Equipment suppliers are in no rush so as to add to their almost full capability.

“There’s a pure level the place we are going to say ‘No'” to new enterprise, mentioned Comau’s Lloyd. For only one space of a factory, like a paint store or a physique store, an automaker can simply spend $200 million to $300 million, trade officers mentioned.

‘Wild, Wild West’

“This trade is the Wild, Wild West proper now,” John Kacsur, vice chairman of the automotive and tire phase for Rockwell Automation, informed News. “There is a mad race to get these new EV variants to market.”Automakers have signed agreements for suppliers to construct tools for 37 EVs between this yr and 2023 in North America, based on trade guide Laurie Harbour. That excludes all of the work being finished for gasoline-powered autos.

“There’s nonetheless a pipeline with tasks from new EV producers,” mentioned Mathias Christen, a spokesman for Durr AG, which focuses on paint store tools and noticed its EV enterprise surge about 65% final yr. “This is why we do not see the height but.”

Orders obtained by Kuka AG, a producing automation firm owned by China’s Midea Group, rose 52% within the first half of 2021 to simply below 1.9 billion euros ($2.23 billion) – the second-highest degree for a 6-month interval within the firm’s historical past, because of sturdy demand in North America and Asia.

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“We ran out of capability for any extra work a few yr and a half in the past,” mentioned Mike LaRose, CEO of Kuka’s auto group within the Americas. “Everyone’s so busy, there isn’t any ground house.”

Kuka is constructing electrical vans for General Motors at its plant in Michigan to assist meet early demand earlier than the No. 1 U.S. automaker replaces tools in its Ingersoll, Ontario, plant subsequent yr to deal with the common work. Automakers and battery companies must order most of the robots and different tools they want 18 months prematurely, though Neil Dueweke, vice chairman of automotive at Fanuc Corp’s American operations, mentioned prospects need their tools sooner. He calls that the “Amazon impact” within the trade.

“We constructed a facility and have like 5,000 robots on cabinets stacked 200 ft excessive, virtually so far as the attention can see,” mentioned Dueweke, who famous Fanuc America set gross sales and market share data final yr.

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COVID has additionally brought on points and delays for some automakers making an attempt to instrument up.

R.J. Scaringe, CEO of EV startup Rivian, mentioned in a letter to prospects final month that “every thing from facility building, to tools set up, to car part provide (particularly semiconductors) has been impacted by the pandemic.”

However, established, long-time prospects like GM and elements provider and contract producer Magna mentioned they haven’t skilled delays in receiving tools.

Another limiting issue for capability has been the persevering with scarcity of labor, trade officers mentioned.

To keep away from the stress, startups like Fisker have turned to contract producers like Magna and Foxconn, whose shopping for energy permits them to keep away from shortages extra simply, CEO Henrik Fisker mentioned.

Growing demand, nevertheless, doesn’t imply these tools makers are dashing to increase capability.

Having lived by means of downturns during which they have been pressured to make cuts, tools suppliers need to make do with what they’ve, or in Comau’s case, simply add short-term capability, based on Lloyd.

“Everybody’s afraid they’ll get hammered,” mentioned Mike Tracy, a principal at consulting agency the Agile Group. “They simply haven’t got the reserve capability they used to have.”

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