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Gap Advances Fulfillment Operations with Kindred Robots

While AI continues to take supply chains to new levels, Gap is stepping up its fulfillment game with a new fleet of robots.

Kindred, a Canada and U.S.-based robotics startup, is working with Gap and other major retailers to test Kindred Sort—a warehouse robot—in its fulfillment centers nationwide.

Developed for use in e-commerce fulfillment centers and retail distribution centers, Kindred Sort works with fulfillment center employees to quickly put together orders from batch-picked items. The robot works like an arcade machine claw and can pick up, bar code scan and sort 250 to 400 times per hour to speed up outbound fulfillment, inbound receiving, order assembly and store replenishment. Kindred Sort could help retailers alleviate pressures like labor shortages, online sales growth and supply chain technology issues.

Major retailers, including Gap, are already piloting Kindred at their fulfillment centers. Kindred previously signed Gap as a trial customer and the retailer has been testing the bots at one of its Tennessee-based warehouses, Fortune reported. Gap is reportedly using the robots to process actual orders and help human staff separate apparel items, including jeans and shirts, for delivery.

Kindred, which has offices in San-Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver, is having its staff remotely aid Gap in training the robots’ software for automated operations in the Tennessee center. Built by Fanuc, a Japanese robotics company, Kindred Sorts’ arm is powered by Kindred’s custom software. Using the software, Kindred’s employees control the robots and each time a Kindred employee moves the robotic arm to pick up a product, the software records the data, so Kindred Sort can eventually operate without human help. Reinforcement learning and deep learning, AI technologies, also help the robot remember which items to pick up more gently and learn the location of their designated drop-off spots.

[Read more on how AI is powering up apparel supply chains: The Robots Are Coming-And They May Pick Up Retail’s Pace]

Kindred’s partnership with Gap follows its recent financial funding. On Oct. 24, Kindred announced that it raised $28 million in Series B funding led by Tencent, a China-based internet company, and additional funding from Eclipse Ventures and First Round Capital—bringing total funding to $44 million. The funding will support the continued research and development of Kindred’s robots, including Kindred Sort and enable Kindred to accelerate human-like intelligence in multiple industries.