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Instock Inc., a developer of customer fulfillment robots, has raised $3.2 million, bringing its seed round to a total of $6.2 million. The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund led the latest funding.
The San Carlos, Calif.-based startup said it plans to use the financing to further its mission to lower barriers to automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS). Instock added that its robots-as-a-service (RaaS) offering can provide cost-effective and streamlined way to enhance operations with automation.
Instock offers an ASRS that uses modular racking. End users can build the racks in various shapes and up to the clear height of a building.
Once installed, Instock’s autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) drive inside the racking to collect bins and present them to operators picking and packing orders at ground-level workstations.
What makes these AMRs unique is their ability to drive along U-shaped ramps at the end of racks and then onto the ceiling of the racks, asserted Instock. Robots carry bins horizontally and move on the walls and ceiling by gripping the bin wings, giving the AMRs more space to transport and collect bins, it said.
Since the mobile robots are the only moving part of the system, the company said maintenance is easily encapsulated for the end user or an off-site technician.
“Our innovative architecture delivers on the promise of a remarkable tenfold reduction in fulfillment costs while simultaneously creating flexibility for e-commerce operators,” Yegor Anchyshkin, co-founder and CEO of Instock, said in a release. “Unlocking this potential and wrapping it in RaaS eliminates risks for 3PLs [third-party logistics providers] and retailers, enabling businesses of all sizes to transform their existing spaces starting as small as 1,500 square feet with cutting-edge automation.”
In January 2024, Instock said it plans to launch its first production system with a tech-forward 3PL in North America.
E-commerce fulfillment needs more automation
“Our mission is to empower business operators with radically accessible goods-to-person automation,” stated Rebecca Dyer, chief of operations at Instock. “We provide a tool for high-density storage and quick retrieval of goods that is affordable, easy to use, and delivers value on Day 1.”
Fulfillment operators are constantly pushed to improve speed, efficiency, accuracy, and service while also driving down costs and maintaining a competitive advantage. Instock claimed that automation can be a key enabler on all of these fronts.
However, 80% of e-commerce fulfillment still relies on entirely manual labor, according to SDC.
“The technology that Instock has built can have a material impact on the future of e-commerce fulfillment,” added Semyon Dukach, founding partner of One Way Ventures. “We are excited by the unprecedented speed and efficiency Instock can bring to fulfillment operations across the country.”
Instock investors interested in plug-and-play automation
The Amazon Industrial Fund led the company’s latest funding round. Amazon established the $1 billion fund in April 2022, and its first round of investments included Agility Robotics, which is building a bipedal walking robot; BionicHIVE, a company developing an autonomous robot that can adapt to existing warehouse infrastructure; and Mantis Robotics, which is working on a tactile robotic arm.
“There is a growing need for highly automated, space-efficient buildings in logistics,” said Franziska Bossart, the head of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund, in the release. “Instock’s ASRS capabilities have the potential to improve the number of shipments per day and storage density in space constrained environments – all of which can enable faster delivery to customers and lower costs.”
“Part of what makes Instock’s ASRS unique is that it can be easily retrofitted into existing environments, allowing for plug-and-play automation in a wide variety of building types,” she said. “We’re excited to support Instock’s vision as they scale and offer production systems more broadly.”
Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it would be testing Agility’s Digit humanoid robot in its warehouses. Amazon could also adopt the other technologies in which its fund has invested in the coming years.
OneWay Ventures and Lux Capital co-led Instock’s earlier seed round. Other participants include Commerce VC, u.ventures, Cybernetix Ventures, and other investors active in the robotics and e-commerce space.