Sunday, February 10, 2013

Financial snapshot

There aren’t many “pure play” machine vision companies that make public their financial performance – in fact Basler and Cognex are the only ones I can think of – so anyone interested in seeing how business is going has to look companies that have vision as part of their portfolio.

Two of these who reported last week are robot manufacturer Adept and automation house, ATS Automation, and they make for an interesting comparison.

These were interims rather than full year results, so I’m not going to rush to any conclusions, but the last quarter of 2012 was challenging for both.

Starting with Adept, they lost money hand over fist. Revenues were down from $15.2m to $10.8m, and the reported loss was a whopping $5.2m. Now I suspect there’s an element of “if you’re having a bad quarter, just get out all the bad news and make it really bad”, but even so…

What’s their problem, apart from not selling enough? They’ve recently launched a new autonomous robot product, the Lynx, and at Automate they had the new Flexibowl feeding system on show, so perhaps they’ve just been busy investing in new products. I can’t help think though that maybe they’re spreading themselves too thin. Perhaps too many product lines creates inefficiencies? Just a thought.

I certainly hope they bounce back, because Adept has been one of the mainstays of the vision-guided robotics industry since, well forever.

Over at Canadian machine builder and integrator ATS Automation the story is quite different. True, the last three months of ’12 did them no favors either, but they strike a very upbeat tone, based on growth in their life sciences and transportation markets. Apparently it was the energy side of their customer base that took the real dive last year, probably due in part to all the economic pollitiking going on here in the US.

The bottom line: there’s potential business out there but you need the products and services that customers want to buy.

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