ABB spending $20M to expand U.S. robotics factory

ABB this morning started construction on the expansion of its existing North American robotics headquarters and manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The $20 million project is expected to be completed in November 2023 and will create 72 highly skilled new jobs in the area and is supported by a $450,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant.

Adding to the $14 billion ABB has invested in the US since 2010, the latest investment in its robotics headquarters and factory will benefit customers in the Americas, particularly those in growth sectors including electric vehicles, healthcare, packaging and logistics. With the expansion set to increase the factory’s production capacity, it responds to the increased demand for automation from 70% of U.S. businesses looking to bring production closer to home, as revealed by ABB Robotics’ survey of 1,610 executives in the U.S. and Europe in June 2022.

“Our investment is a significant step in accelerating ABB Robotics’ global leadership in developing and manufacturing cutting-edge robotic solutions in the U.S., for the Americas,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation. “As the global megatrends of labor shortages, uncertainty, the near and reshoring of production, and a desire to operate more sustainably accelerate, more businesses are turning to automation to build resilience while improving efficiency and flexibility. Our expanded facility will help us to better serve customers in the US and across the Americas, giving them access to innovative automated solutions.”

ABB Robotics moved into the 538,000-square-foot building in 1993 and opened the manufacturing plant in 2015. The expansion and increased use of automation in the factory will create new jobs, supporting the ABB Robotics Packaging & Logistics Headquarters in Atlanta and the Robotics Lifesciences and Healthcare Hub located at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. ABB already has a workforce of approximately 350 employees at Auburn Hills.

“ABB’s $20 million investment creating 72 jobs will build on our economic momentum and help us continue leading the future of robotics and automation,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Thanks to companies like ABB Robotics and the support of our local partners, we can keep bringing jobs and investment to every region of our state, revitalizing communities, and building an economy of the future.”

ABB said this investment will see the latest digital and automation technologies implemented to manufacture next-generation robots in the U.S., for the Americas, streamlining the delivery process and reducing lead times. Close to 90% of robots delivered to customers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America will soon be made in Auburn Hills. The plant will use flexible, modular production cells that are digitally connected and networked, and served by intelligent autonomous mobile robots. AI-powered robotic systems will take on tasks such as screw driving, assembling and material handling, relieving people from these tasks and enabling more rewarding work.

“The expanded facility will feature the most advanced technology available, with AI-enabled robots and smart digital manufacturing systems supporting the production and manufacture of state-of-the-art customer solutions,” said John Bubnikovich, ABB United States robotics division president. “Almost every aspect of the site will be upgraded to enrich our efforts to attract, retain and nurture the best automation talent, while creating a US manufacturing hub and headquarters befitting of a global leader in automation.

As a world-leading robotics company, ABB has made a number of important announcements over the last few months. In December 2022, it launched the SWIFTI CRB 1300 robot arm and opened a robotics mega factory in Shanghai. In October, ABB launched the IRB 1010, which is the company’s smallest industrial robot ever. 

And in September 2022 it launched its first range of rebranded autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) following the acquisition of mobile robot leader ASTI Mobile Robotics in 2021 for $190M. ASTI Mobile Robotics’ solutions are now rebranded and integrated into ABB’s portfolio, grouped under the Flexley name, indicating the flexibility of operations that the AMRs offer. The first rebranded models to be released, Flexley Tug and Flexley Mover, cover applications including towing, trolley transportation up to 5,350 lbs (2000 kg), as well as lifting and transporting racks, containers and pallets of 4,000 lbs (1,500 kg).

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