Warehouse automation equipment vendor Swisslog will bring its Forte Industries and Power Automation Systems (PAS) divisions under the corporate umbrella in 2017 as the company makes a renewed push for market share in the retail e-commerce and beverage distribution areas, the firm said Tuesday.
Swisslog will unite the three companies under one banner known as Swisslog Warehouse and Distribution Solutions (WDS). The move will allow Swisslog to pursue market share in some of the fastest-growing segments of the economy, the company said.
The move comes 17 months after Swisslog acquired Mason, Ohio-based system integrator Forte in 2015, a move that enabled the Swiss firm to expand its presence in e-commerce fulfillment and in the midrange material handling segment of the U.S. market. At the time, Swisslog continued to hold Forte as a standalone unit, operating under its own name and remaining in its Ohio headquarters.
In April 2016, Swisslog added PAS, a Salida, Calif.-based warehouse automation solutions provider with a specialty in pallet-shuttle automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). Over the past year, the Switzerland-based Swisslog has worked to forge a single technology platform from the two acquisitions by creating a North American regional technology hub.
"There's a little more to it than changing the signs on the buildings. We're in the early stages of focusing our company in the Americas on some strategic verticals," Tom Rentschler, head of marketing for Swisslog, said in explaining the move during a phone interview.
"One is the e-commerce retail market, where Forte has some strengths in retail fulfillment, and Swisslog has goods-to-person technologies that are extremely well-suited to that market. And another is the beverage-distribution market, which is also a growing business for us," Rentschler said.
The merger creates a single portfolio comprising Swisslog's own advanced automation systems such as AS/RS; Forte's mid-market focus on conveyor and sortation systems and pick modules; PAS' pallet shuttle products; and advanced automation from Swisslog's parent company, the German robotics firm Kuka Systems GmbH, Rentschler said.
By aligning a broad range of products, the company will be better able to reach new customers in the exploding sector of online retail, he said. "Swisslog's heritage is in handling pallets and cases, but piece picking, or each picking, is a very different operation that is critical to the e-commerce and retail segments," said Rentschler.
Swisslog WDS Americas will continue to be run from its main office in Newport News, Va., with a Midwest office at the former Forte headquarters in Ohio and a West Coast office at the former PAS facility in California. Swisslog's Mason office will continue to be led by A.K. Schultz, vice president of Swisslog WDS Americas.
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