It was Amazon that drove America’s warehouse operators into the robot business.
Quiet Logistics, which ships apparel out of its Devens, Mass., warehouse, had been using robots made by a company called Kiva Systems. When Amazon bought Kiva in 2012, Quiet hired scientists. In 2015 it spun out a new company called Locus Robotics, which raised $8 million in venture capital. Last year, Locus unveiled its own warehouse robotics solution called the LocusBot—first using it for its own business, then selling them to companies that ship everything from housewares to auto parts.
Now, Locus has landed a bigger fish: It’s selling its robots to DHL Worldwide Express, the world’s largest third-party logistics company. DHL will use the machines at a South Haven, Miss., location to help ship surgical devices to operating rooms across the country.
To do that, Locus’s software directs a LocusBot to a shelf where the specific item is located. A human worker meets it there, reads a description of the item off an iPad, and drops it into a plastic bucket mounted on the machine. The idea is that the robot does the majority of the traveling, while the worker simply patrols a specified zone.
“The first trend was to try to replace humans,” said Rick Faulk, chief executive of Locus. “Now it’s about humans and robots working collaboratively.”
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