The robots are here! And Thomas H. Lee Partners LP in November collected $900 million in capital commitments betting that the productivity-improving technology behind robots as well as artificial intelligence and business integration services will continue to spread.
Technology has improved to a point that company executives can see a return on their investment, said Jim Carlisle, a managing director at the private equity firm and head of the THL Automation Fund, a $900 million private equity fund that closed in November and is aimed at investing in automation companies.
"Automation solves many of the challenges companies face in today's business environment, including managing labor, increasing throughput, improving accuracy and delivering on customer expectations," Mr. Carlisle said in an email.
The technology is marching across industries from e-commerce, health care and agriculture to real estate and consumer products, he said.
T.H. Lee views automation as a $140 billion total addressable market, which is automation's expected revenue potential.
The pandemic has increased the move toward automation, Mr. Carlisle said.
"Think about the demands from e-commerce today," he said. During the pandemic, there's been an increase in demand, "while, simultaneously, it is harder to find reliable labor to make goods, sort and pick them from warehouses and ultimately deliver them to consumers," Mr. Carlisle said. "Automation helps every phase."