If Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) hadn’t bought Kiva Systems for $ 775 million in 2012 and stopped selling its robots, Locus Robotics might not have become a spin-off of 3PL Quiet Logistics.

“The management team at the time had a choice not to use robots, buy a robot, or build their own,” said Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics, in a fireside chat with Tony Palchek, Managing Director of Zebra Technologies, at FreightWaves Future. of the Logistics Real Estate Summit on Tuesday. “I think they made a really smart decision.”

Quiet Logistics began using Kiva robots in its e-commerce order fulfillment business in 2009. After Kiva became Amazon Robotics, Quiet Logistics operated a robotics project in stealth mode for three years before launching Locus Robotics in 2015. Locus publicly launched its product selection robots. in 2017.

Over the next three years, Locus raised $ 105 million in four funding rounds and surpassed 200 million direct debits while growing globally as a full-service provider of autonomous mobile robots that navigate. in messy warehouses.

Rooted in the warehouse

“Locus is really rooted in the 3PL and the DNA of the warehouse,” Faulk said. “And it makes a big difference when we go to the market to really understand the customer’s issues. “

The best use of robots in warehouses follows the logic of robot manufacturing: the higher the volume and the more repetitive the task, the better.

“If an organization only had two or three SKUs (inventory management units), that’s not really suitable for automation,” Faulk said. “They better do it by hand.”

A good baseline for automation is at least 500 SKUs and at least 1 million units per year. Locus robots need at least 25,000 square feet to operate. But they can operate in over half a million square feet. The ideal picking products fit the robot’s h-peaks and weigh less than 80 pounds.

Collaboration at work rather than elimination

Workers often fear they will be replaced by automation. Today, most warehouse picks are done by workers pushing 300 to 400 carts through a building.

“They will be walking 12 to 15 miles a day,” Faulk said. “With Locus, you will always walk. But you will be reduced to two to three miles a day. The reality is that what we deliver is work that is easier, makes [workers] more efficient and makes them more satisfied with what they are doing.

Less walking is a factor in Locus’ claim that its robots help businesses achieve two to three times the productivity.

Locus robots speak the language of their human colleague, displaying information on an iPad screen in the worker’s preferred language based on reading a Bluetooth tag the human worker is wearing. Comments on progress towards achieving shift goals are also displayed on the iPad.

Selection errors occur where Locus robots are used, Faulk said.

“For all of these reasons, we find that workers really like it,” he said. “There is some apprehension. But once the management educates them and we train them, they’re really excited about it. “

Staff for the summits

As businesses seek to meet the growing demands of e-commerce, they must be able to ship more goods from the same facility. Robots allow multiple shifts when needed.

“Perhaps the most important thing, especially at this time of year, is, ‘How do they deal with spikes? “This is the problem that most of these organizations have,” Faulk said,

Locus will send additional robots to its customers to cover the busiest times. Adding them to the workforce involves unpacking and powering up. The robot itself finds the Wi-Fi signal and downloads the image map of the place where it will be working.

“In three minutes it works,” Faulk said.

Locus can check a customer site and deploy bots in three to four weeks, with few changes to a building. The integration of the Windows Metafile (WMF) – a list of recordings to display on the robot’s iPad screen – happens at the same time.

Robots as a service business model

Locus believes that following a Robots as a Service (RaaS) plan is the only sensible way to deploy them.

“There is no initial capital for the client. There is an installation fee of up to $ 100,000 depending on the size of the installation. It’s the only immediate catch, ”Faulk said. Customers pay a monthly fee for the robot, much like they would for a human employee, but cheaper.

One to three year contracts include support, maintenance, and software upgrades. The RaaS model includes high priced short term robot loans. Faulk points out that it’s better than owning the asset.

“It’s all an operating economy, and they’re going to see those savings in a few weeks,” he said.

Locus performs structured business reviews of data from its customers’ facilities, such as units per hour (UPH). He recommends changes for the machine and for men.

“We can look at the footsteps of your best worker and the footsteps of your worst worker,” and recommend changes, Faulk said.

Related Articles:

Locus Robotics Secures $ 40 Million Investment From Existing Partners

Locus Robotics Raises $ 26 Million in Round C

Report: Warehouse Robotics Investments Increase 57% in 2020

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


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