5 Robotics Ideas from Q4 2020

Understanding durable industry trends and how they affect robotics and automation focused companies is our core competency.  Applying this understanding through superior stock picking is how we aim to distinguish our ourselves from the indexes.  Below we highlight five key examples of this value proposition at work.

Daifuku (6383 JP) was up 23.3% in Q4 and increased 103.6% in 2020. The company is a Japanese play on precision automated materials handling. They provide automated warehousing, storage, and transport systems, as well as sorting and picking systems to broad array of distributors and manufacturers, including cleanroom applications for the semiconductor and flat panel display industries. Their products drive assembly line production for the global automobile industry, baggage handling systems at airports worldwide, and are used in automated car wash machines throughout Japan and Korea. Through their Contec Co. subsidiary, they also manufacture controllers used in high-end electronics, medical devices, and measuring and control systems for solar facilities.

Harmonic Drive Systems (6324 JP) saw a 39.8% increase during Q4, to end the 2020 full-year up 84.8%. It’s a Japanese play on total motion control in the precision control field, specializing in robotics applications. The company is the leader in their field specializing in two main product lines. The first is Mechatronics to provide total motion control by integrating speed reducers, motors, sensors, drivers, and controllers into one seamless system. These are mainly used in semiconductor manufacturing equipment and other leading high-tech applications. The other is a lineup of standalone speed reducers, including the HarmonicDrive precision reducer, and the AccuDrive and HarmonicPlanetary brand planetary speed reducers. These products are primarily used in high-precision industrial robots and aerospace related applications due to their compact size and light weight.

Brooks Automation (BRKS) experienced a 46.9% advance in Q4 and was up 63.1% for the full year 2020. Brooks supplies best-in-class automation solutions for the semiconductor manufacturing, clean energy, life science drug discovery, and biobanking and related markets. For their largest market, semiconductors, their core products include wafer handling robots and systems, semiconductor contamination control equipment, sorting and handling automation solutions, and asset tracking solutions. Brooks Life Sciences manufactures automated storage systems to store samples at temperatures that range from ambient to cryogenic. They also offer sample consumables and instruments, as well as sterilization services and micro plate coding. Their products and services dramatically accelerate preclinical and clinical research timelines, reduce sample administration costs, and maximize the value of research samples.

Omnicell (OMCL) recovered by 60.8% during Q4, to finished 2020 up 46.9%. It’s a play on pharmacy automation. The company is the category creator of data-driven, automated medication management and adherence solutions that enable health systems, hospitals, and pharmacies worldwide to play a more pivotal role in patient care. From the point at which a medication arrives at the receiving dock to the time is administered, Omnicell systems store it, package it, barcode it, order it, issue it, and charge it. They have literally changed the pharmacy care delivery model through the use of advanced robotics, data intelligence, workflow automation, and technology enabled services across a single, interoperable platform allowing healthcare providers to eliminate redundancies, reduce costs, and improve outcomes.

Raven Industries (RAVN) climbed 53.8% in Q4, ending the year up 57.4% in 2020. It’s primarily a play on precision agriculture. The company’s largest and fastest growing business is the Applied Technology division. Here they are redefining precision ag by using technology to reduce costs and increase crop yields through data management to produce more precise applications, steer equipment in the field, and wirelessly connect the field to the office, while promoting environmental stewardship with controlled outputs. Their autonomous driving technology and field computers provide command and control functionality from GPS-guided on-off planter controls, auto-steering, variable-rate fertilizer applications, yield monitoring, record keeping, mapping, and wireless communications.

Of course, this is looking back at 2020 and is meant to share some thoughts and ideas about interesting robotic and automation focused companies.  Things change and change quickly, but we continue to be optimistic about the future and importance of robotics and automation companies.

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