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Robotics Innovators Partner for High-Volume Warehouse Fulfillment

High growth in online retail is driving tech companies to innovate in the warehouse and now two robotics firms are working together to serve retailers and 3PLs with high-volume fulfillment needs.

RightHand Robotics and Locus Robotics, which raised $26 million in April, announced a new partnership that will unite RightHand’s robotic piece-picking solution with Locus’s autonomous mobile robots and offers online retailers a platform to accelerate warehouse fulfillment.

“By working together, we can bring greater flexibility and productivity to the fulfillment warehouse,” Locus Robotics CEO Rick Faulk said. “This is particularly impactful in high-volume scenarios, where automation can drive greater operational efficiencies.”

Last month, RightHand released RightPick2, the latest generation of its autonomous piece-picking platform that combines artificial intelligence-enabled vision and motion control with deep learning to handle thousands of products safely.

“The RightPick platform has successfully completed 10 million picks (MPicks) autonomously across many industries, including e-commerce, retail, pharmaceuticals, grocery, and more,” said Leif Jentoft, co-founder of RightHand Robotics, which raised a $23-million Series B round in December. “Building on this experience, RightPick2 sets a new standard for speed and dependability. Being able to reliably pick a wide range of items at a high rate helps distribution and fulfillment centers improve overall customer experience, making them more competitive in the global marketplace.”

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Market advisory firm ABI Research estimates that more than 50,000 warehouses will employ 4 million robots by 2025, a sizable increase over the 4,000 robotic-enhanced fulfillment centers counted in 2018. Factors driving this expected investment in robotic warehouse automation include the rise of same- and next-day delivery and robotic offerings that require a much lower financial outlay than in the past, ABI Research said when announcing the new data in March.

“Flexibility and efficiency have become primary differentiators in the e-commerce fulfillment market as retailers and Third-Party Logistics (3PLs) struggle to cope with volatile product demand, seasonal peaks, and rising consumer delivery expectations,” ABI Research senior analyst Nick Finill, said. “Robots enable warehouses to scale operations up or down as required while offering major efficiency gains and mitigating inherent challenges associated with labor and staffing.”

As new solutions come onto the market and robotic technologies drop in cost, automation will increasingly become an option for companies that lack the size and scale of the biggest players, like Amazon and Walmart.

“By lowering the barriers to adoption for robots in the warehouse, vendors are disrupting the wider logistics value chain,” Finill noted. “If advanced automation becomes possible for mid-size e-retailers, they will be able to fight back against the dominant players and also bring fulfillment operations back in-house, disrupting the relationship between retailers and 3PLs.”