Fetch Robotics Exec: Autonomous Mobile Robot Demand Is Surging

By | Managed Services News

Apr 27

CMO Barry Phillips: COVID-19 supply chain shortages have increased demand.

Time will tell whether supply chain shortages from the COVID-19 pandemic will hasten the deployment of robots in warehouses. Last week, we reported that autonomous mobile robot suppliers are seeing a surge in demand.

Among those beneficiaries is Fetch Robotics, regarded as a leading supplier of autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs. Founded in 2014, CEO Melonee Wise was the second employee at Willow Garage, an R&D lab influential in advancing robotics. DHL, Ryder and Universal Logistics are among those that have deployed AMRs from Fetch Robotics.

Last summer, Fetch Robotics raised $46 million in a Series C round of funding. Fort Ross Ventures raised the round with CEAS Investments, Redwood Technologies, TransLink Capital and Zebra Ventures. Overall, the company has raised $94 million. Earlier investors include O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Shasta Ventures, SoftBank Capital and Sway Ventures.

Fetch Robotics last month partnered with Zebra Technologies. Among other things, Fetch Robotics will use Zebra’s recently launched Fulfillment Edge optimization software to manage its mobile robots. Both companies described the partnership last week.

Among those participating in the discussion was Fetch Robotics CMO Barry Phillips. Afterward, Channel Futures reached out to Phillips, who explained why Fetch Robotics and Zebra are working together.

Fetch Robotics' Barry Phillips

Fetch Robotics’ Barry Phillips

Phillips discussed the near-term opportunity for the company and partners to use autonomous mobile robots to advance supply chain automation. What follows is a synopsis, edited for clarity.

Channel Futures: What does Zebra’s Fulfillment Edge bring to your autonomous mobile robot solution that you didn’t already have?

Barry Phillips: Fulfillment Edge can take a list of SKUs across multiple orders and then assign those to different pickers. That way, you can essentially optimize the pick path for each of the pickers. If they’re picking for six orders, they can essentially pick down one aisle and get everything for those six orders. And then I can go to a different place. It’s a much more efficient way than with serial pick paths with one person picking an order. The other thing that we are working with Zebra on with Fulfillment Edge is orchestrating associates and the robots.

CF: How does it orchestrate people and robots?

BP: Our Cart Connect solution moves the carts around. So, one robot can handle between three to four carts. The robot will move a cart to a place. The cart will typically have some sort of totes or orders on it or something like that. And then the associate will grab that. And then they’ll start picking to it based on what they see from the [new] Zebra [HD4000] headset display. When the associate is close to the end of the picks, Fulfillment Edge sends an autonomous mobile robot with the next cart. And that cart could be an empty one, or it could be a partially full one from a different area.

CF: And the benefit of that is?

BP: It allows the associates, who may spend half their time moving in between aisles, to remain in an aisle. The robots essentially keep the associates in the aisle picking and being more productive, rather than just moving things. Fulfillment Edge is making them much more efficient while they’re picking while they’re in the aisle.

CF: Fetch Robotics is focused on both the hardware and software?

BP: We have the robots and the software on the robots. We have about 18 roboticists on staff. Most other AMR companies …

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