Fetch Robotics Inc., the San Jose, Calif.-based maker of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) founded in 2014, raised $46 million in Series C funding. The round was led by Fort Ross Ventures, with participation from Softbank Capital, Sway Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Redwood Technologies, CEAS Investments, TransLink Capital, and Zebra Ventures.
“Customers have responded enthusiastically to our unique Cloud Robotics solution, and we’re responding by securing the funds we need to continue growing and enhancing our offerings,” said Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics. “The competitive pressures for excellence in logistics have never been greater. Our autonomous mobile robots and cloud platform enable our customers to meet their customers’ demands while meeting their own financial objectives.”
Fetch said the new funding will be used for international expansion, to meet accelerating customer demand, and to expand the capabilities of its Cloud Robotics platform. The platform manages the deployment and integration of Fetch’s AMRs to customer operations.
Among other future capabilities, the Cloud Robotics platform will analyze the data collected by Fetch’s AMRs to help customers learn gain more insight into their operations and more operational efficiency.
In the funding announcement, Fetch also introduced a new customer. Universal Logistics Holdings, a full-service provider of customized transportation and logistics solutions for Fortune 500 manufacturers and retailers, deployed 10 Fetch CartConnect robots this month at a 1 million-sq. ft. facility in Smyrna, Tenn.
“In Smyrna, as in many markets we serve, we face chronic labor shortages, at times in excess of 10% of our required staff, which puts significant pressure on everyone from the workers on the floor to senior management,” said Universal Logistics CEO Jeff Rogers. “The Fetch Robotics system provides an answer to our problem. Because the system installs so quickly – we had it fully operational in less than a week – we’re able to boost output and manage our costs. And our workers like it because the robots take on the less interesting, more laborious tasks.”
Universal Logistics opted for Fetch’s Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) model. Rather than taking on a sizable upfront cost to purchase the robots, Universal instead pays a monthly fee to minimize its upfront investment and expedite its return on investment. RaaS was a major topic at the Robotics Summit & Expo 2019, which is produced by The Robot Report. Recently, companies have been exploring the idea of hiring robot workers similar to the way people are hired — as independent contractors.
“Thanks to the short time from delivery to operation and the pay-as-you go approach, we’ve seen an immediate financial benefit from the Fetch deployment,” said Lee Weisenberger, managing director of IT at Universal. “This is a model we can easily roll out to many additional facilities.”
Fetch’s AMRs use a combination of LiDAR and 3D cameras to navigate unpredictable environments. In the event of an obstacle, these robots can adjust routes in real time, unlike automated guided vehicle systems, which depend on pre-programmed, fixed paths. This enables the AMRs to take on repetitive warehousing tasks that may otherwise require significant travel time between locations and transporting heavy loads.
Wise told The Wall Street Journal Fetch is expanding beyond e-commerce customers to include industrial distribution and manufacturing. “E-commerce is like a $50 billion market, and when you look at manufacturing, warehousing equipment and automation, it’s closer to a $500 billion market,” she said.
Fetch’s AMRs are used in some 100 logistics, manufacturing, and distribution sites across 11 countries, the company said. Wise also told The Wall Street Journal that Fetch “aims to turn a profit in the next couple of years.”
Of course, the AMR market is becoming increasingly crowded. Geek+, a Chinese company founded in 2015 that entered the U.S. market in 2018, raised $150 million in Series C1 funding earlier this month. Geek+, which sells robots for picking, moving, sorting, and storage and retrieval of goods, said it hopes to deliver “20,000 to 50,000 robots per year.”