Attabotics, a developer of goods-to-person storage, retrieval, and real-time order fulfillment robots, has raised a $50 million Series C round. The round, which was led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, along with existing investor Honeywell, brings Attabotics’ total funding to $82.7 million. Attabotics raised $25 million in Series B funding in July 2019.
Based in Calgary, Alberta, Attabotics’ technology is inspired by ant colonies. The company said it condenses the rows and aisles of traditional fulfillment centers with a patented storage structure and robotic shuttles that move in three-dimensional space (X, Y, and Z axes). The robots can store and deliver goods to people at the perimeter to pick, pack and ship e-commerce orders.
In its press release announcing the funding, Attabotics, founded in 2015, said it has “seen a significant uptick in interest from retailers” as “COVID-19 has drastically accelerated commerce growth and demand for warehouse space, making supply chain efficiency a critical issue for all.” However, it also notes that it has just six live installations in North America, spanning customers across retail, B2B, food & beverage. Microsoft also partners with Attabotics for cloud-based supply chain management on the Azure platform.
Scott Gravelle, Attabotics’ founder, CEO, and CTO, has said the company’s warehouse robotics system can reduce a company’s warehouse needs by 85%, as well as save money on real estate costs. This reduction in space requirements also allows retailers to place warehouses closer to high-density urban for faster delivery times and use existing back-of-house capacity to create mini-fulfillment structures, helping to solve the last-mile gap, claimed the startup.
Chris Feuell, a marketing executive for Honeywell International’s warehousing technology business, said many of its customers were losing 25%-30% of their regular labor pool due to the pandemic and are looking for solutions.
While warehouse robots can help reduce real estate costs and fill labor gaps, they aren’t enough to save retailers from the affects of the novel coronavirus and their pre-pandemic issues. According to Zen Research, retail traffic in the U.S. was at 77% of its 2019 normal on July 30. By the end of 2020, the retail industry is forecasted to be at 65% of normal.
Take Nordstrom, for example, which is one of the largest luxury retailers in the U.S. and one of Attabotics’ customers. The novel coronavirus has taken a major toll on Nordstrom, as it has many other retailers and businesses. As this analysis from Deep Dive points out, Nordstrom started 2020 with high hopes after launching a new market strategy. However, “at the end of May Nordstrom reported that first-quarter sales plummeted — 36% at the full-line banner and 45% at Rack, with e-commerce edging up just 5%. Taking after-tax COVID-related charges of $173 million, the company swung to a loss exceeding half a billion dollars, from net earnings of $37 million the year before.”
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and trade tensions, robotics companies received more than $1.9 billion in funding in July 2020, according to The Robot Report‘s analysis.
“We are excited by the opportunity to become a long-term investor because we believe in Attabotics’ differentiated technology and highly skilled team, and how this combination is poised to disrupt existing cube storage solutions currently available in the market,” said Olivia Steedman, Senior Managing Director, TIP at Ontario Teachers’. “We believe Scott and his team have created a unique technology that can rapidly be deployed, and which provides concrete benefits to retailers and their customers, including quicker delivery, reduced inventory, more efficient use of warehouse space and lower overall costs.”
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