6 River Systems (6RS), a Waltham, Mass.-based startup founded by former Kiva Systems executives, raised $25 million in Series B funding. The company will use the funding to continue developing its Chuck warehouse robot, support development of a decision-making engine for warehouses, and add 80-plus employees over the next 12 months.
6RS has raised a total of $46 million over three funding rounds. It raised a $6 million Seed round in March 2016 and a $15 million Series A round in July 2017. The Series B was led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from all existing investors, including Norwest Venture Partners, Eclipse Ventures and iRobot.
The Chuck warehouse robot collaborates with humans to accomplish fulfillment tasks. It guides workers to items on shelves, tells them the quantity that is needed, and carries up to 160 pounds. The Chuck warehouse robot typically works with about 5-6 human pickers, the company said.
The Chuck warehouse robot, which operates autonomously thank to its onboard sensors, also collects data as it goes. This helps its customers make informed decisions about fulfillment problems.
“The hardware and software systems that most warehouses use today were built for a world that is facing extinction,” said Jerome Dubois, 6 River Systems co-founder and co-CEO. “We live in an on-demand world and operations teams are struggling to keep up. A few leaders have adapted to this reality, but most need to modernize quickly for their business to survive.
6RS said the Chuck warehouse robot will soon have additional machine learning capabilities to boost its ability to identify obstacles and make maneuvering decisions more quickly. 6RS also wants to build more software tools that provide additional insights into customer operations.
According to 6RS, the Chuck warehouse robot is currently working for three of the top third-party logistics providers and some of the largest retailers in the world. The Chuck warehouse robot, 6RS said, helps customers realize 2-3X pick rates at half the cost of previous warehouse techniques. 6RS has about 100 Chuck robots deployed across 10 sites. The company’s goal is to have 600 robots deployed by the end of 2018.
“6RS’ software and their collaborative robot Chuck has increased our productivity, reduced error rates by 50 percent and reduced training times to a matter of hours,” said Lewis Frazer, senior vice president at Barrett Distribution Centers.
6RS was cofounded by DuBois, Rylan Hamilton and Christopher Cacioppo in 2015. Both Dubois and Hamilton formerly worked at Kiva Systems, which built warehouse robots and was purchased by Amazon in 2012. Cacioppo was formerly director of R&D at education hardware company Mimio.
Can Chuck the Warehouse Robot Keep up?
Mobile robots are hot sellers for e-commerce fulfillment. Businesses of all types are using mobile robots because the technology is now cost-effective and the use-cases have been proven.
The Robot Report recently profiled a slew of mobile robot vendors, and the new funding could help 6RS’ Chuck warehouse robot keep up with the Joneses. Some of 6RS’ competitors have also recently been funded, including Fetch Robotics and Locus Robotics which both raised $25 million late in 2017.
GreyOrange introduced its Butler PickPal last month at LogiMat 2018. And Chinese AI and robot maker Geek+ will be demonstrating its line of picking, moving and sortation robots at MODEX, the largest supply-chain trade show in the Americas. Geek+ has over 50 successful cases and 3,000+ robots working in well-known enterprise warehouses.
Keep an eye on Vecna Robotics and RightHand Robotics, leaders in mobile robot and robotic picking, respectively. The companies announced a partnership on Tuesday to “that will improve the performance of e-commerce order fulfillment.” The companies will be showcasing each other’s technologies at MODEX.