Locus Robotics, a Wilmington, Massachusetts-based warehouse robotics startup, today announced it has raised $150 million in series E funding at a $1 billion post-money valuation. The company says the funding will allow it to accelerate product innovation and global expansion. Locus expects that in the next four years, over a million warehouse robots will be installed and that the number of warehouses using them will grow tenfold.
Worker shortages attributable to the pandemic have accelerated the adoption of automation. 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 under 4,000 warehouses as of 2018. In China, Oxford Economics anticipates 12.5 million manufacturing jobs will become automated, while in the U.S., McKinsey projects machines will take upwards of 30% of such jobs.
Locus’ autonomous robots — called LocusBots — can be reconfigured with totes, boxes, bins, containers, or peripherals like barcode scanners, label printers, and sensors. They work collaboratively with humans, minimizing walking with an app that recognizes workers’ Bluetooth badges and switches to their preferred language. On the backend, Locus’ LocusServer directs robots so they learn efficient travel routes, sharing the information with other robots and clustering orders to where workers are. As orders come into warehouse management systems, Locus organizes them before transmitting back confirmations, providing managers real-time performance data, including productivity, robot status, and more.
When new LocusBots are added to the fleet, they share warehouse inventory status and item locations. Through LocusServer, they detect blockages and other traffic issues to improve item pick rates and order throughput. Locus’ directed picking technology points workers to their next picks, optionally providing challenges through a gamification feature that supports individual, team, and shift goals, plus events and a mechanism managers can use to provide feedback. In addition, Locus’ backend collates various long-tail metrics, including hourly pick data, daily and monthly pick volume, current robot locations, and robot charging levels.
Locus offers a “robot-as-a-service” program through which customers can scale up by adding robots on a limited-time basis. For a monthly subscription fee, the company sends or receives robots to warehouses upon request, and it provides those robots software and hardware updates, in addition to maintenance.
Locus claims that its system, which takes about four weeks to deploy, has delivered a 2 to 3 times increase in productivity and throughput and 15% less overtime spend for brands like Boots UK, Verst Logistics, Ceva, DHL, Material Bank, Radial, Port Logistics Group, Marleylilly, and Geodis. The company’s robots passed 100 million units picked in February 2020, and last April UPS announced that it would be piloting Locus machines in its own facilities.
Locus recently opened a new headquarters in the EU and surpassed 50 customer deployments, with companies including DHL, Boots UK, and Geodis. As of late 2020, the company’s robots had picked and sorted over 300 million units, equating to ten thousand units every 15 minutes or roughly a million units a day.
Bond and Tiger Global Management led the round announced today. It brings the Quiet Logistics spinout’s total raised to over $105 million, following a $40 million series D investment last June.
Locus competes in the $3.1 billion intelligent machine market with Los Angeles-based robotics startup InVia, which leases automated robotics technologies to fulfillment centers. Gideon Brothers, a Croatia-based industrial startup backed by TransferWise cofounder Taavet Hinrikus, is another contender. And then there’s robotics systems company GreyOrange; Otto Motors; and Berkshire Grey, which combines AI and robotics to automate multichannel fulfillment for retailers, ecommerce, and logistics enterprises. Fulfillment alone is a $9 billion industry — roughly 60,000 employees handle orders in the U.S., and companies like Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn have deployed tens of thousands of assistive robots in assembly plants overseas.
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