Robotic supply chain startup Attabotics today raised $50 million in venture equity financing. The funds will be put toward accelerating current projects, investing in new technologies, and scaling manufacturing operations.
Worker shortages caused by the pandemic have prompted retail, fulfillment, and logistics companies to accelerate the rollout of robots. According to ABI Research, more than 4 million commercial robots will be installed in over 50,000 warehouses around the world by 2025, up from just under 4,000 warehouses in 2018. Gap more than tripled the number of item-picking machines it uses to 106, while Amazon says it is relying more heavily on automation for product sorting.
Attabotics’ novel fulfillment automation technology condenses rows and aisles of warehouse shelves into single, vertical storage structures. Orchestrated fleets of robotic shuttles within these structures move horizontally and vertically along the X, Y, and Z axes, retrieving goods and delivering them to the perimeter, where workers pick, pack, and ship them.
Attabotics claims its modular all-in-one supply chain product can reduce a retailer’s required warehouse needs by 85% while accelerating shipping. The company also says its technology has already been adopted and deployed across six North American installations spanning customers in retail, business-to-business, apparel, home goods, and food and beverage verticals.
In December 2019, Nordstrom announced a pilot combining Attabotics and Tompkins Robotics technologies in a 340,000-square-foot Newark, California warehouse and a newer facility in nearby Torrence. At the time, the retailer said it would consider rolling the platforms out to seven other distribution centers in the U.S., though the companies have not announced any plans to date.
More recently, Attabotics announced a partnership with Microsoft and Canadian cell carrier Rogers for supply chain management workloads hosted in the cloud. Attabotics is piloting Microsoft’s Azure Private Edge Zones, a private 5G/LTE network paired with Azure Stack Edge on-premises machines to deliver security, low latency, and high bandwidth.
June 2020 marked the kickoff of Attabotics’ collaboration with Food-X Technologies, a Vancouver-based grocery startup. The two will explore business opportunities over the next three years, with an initial focus on streamlining Food-X’s technology and operations. Attabotics plans to implement its supply chain technology at Food-X facilities and partner centers around the globe.
Israel-based CommonSense Robotics takes a hybrid approach to fulfillment not unlike Attabotics’. CommonSense’s machines — managed by software that breaks orders into tasks and delegates those tasks autonomously — bring items awaiting shipment in totes to teams of employees, who pack individual orders while other robots move packaged orders to dispatch.
Of course, Attabotics and CommonSense are far from the only companies bringing micro-fulfillment tech to retail. Takeoff Technologies’ platform, which works out of pharmacies, convenience stores, and quick-service restaurants, doubles as a pickup station, complete with lockers for easy access. In August 2018, commerce giant Walmart partnered with Alert Innovation to deploy AlphaBot, an autonomous fulfillment system capable of picking and transporting the “vast majority” of grocery items.
Alberta, Canada-based Attabotics is better-funded than most, with $82.7 million raised to date. Beyond the customers it has disclosed, the company says it is advising and working with retailers and grocers as they look for innovative and cost-effective ways to provide fast delivery, free returns, and wide product selection.
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board led this latest investment in Attabotics through its Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP), with participation from existing investor Honeywell.