The US warehouse robotics market is expected to surpass $20 billion by 2024, according to a recent study by Global Market Insights. And GreyOrange warehouse robots are joining the mix.
GreyOrange, a leading warehouse automation company based in Singapore, is opening its US headquarters in Atlanta, an R&D office in Boston, and a US-based manufacturing facility that will be completed in 2019. GreyOrange named Chris Barber, former VP of Southern Operations at Honeywell Intelligrated, as Regional CEO of North America.
“Having built my career in the industry, I see a massive opportunity in the US to make robots widespread in the workplace; to increase worker safety and allow humans to do more meaningful work with support from their robot companions,” says Barber. “I’m excited to join GreyOrange to fuel the robotic revolution in the supply chain industry.”
Interestingly, Honeywell Intelligrated and Carnegie Mellon University announced today they’re joining forces “to advance artificial intelligence and robotic technologies to help distribution centers address rising demands fueled by rapid growth in e-commerce.”
The R&D office in Boston will be tasked with developing the next generation of GreyOrange warehouse robots. GreyOrange co-founder and CEO Samay Kohli tells The Robot Report it plans to build a team of more than 60 R&D engineers, adding to the current global team of 250 R&D engineers. “Boston, for us, I won’t call it a moonshot. But Boston is always ahead of the curve with anything happening in robotics. We’ve watched Boston for a long time.”
As for Atlanta, Kohli says the area is home to some prominent supply chain companies, including GreyOrange’s first US customer. He adds that Georgia Tech has a solid industrial design program for supply chain.
GreyOrange, which was founded in 2011 and has raised $30 million over two funding rounds in 2014-2015, says it will deploy 20,000 of its robots in the US over the next three years. That might sound ambitious, but GreyOrange warehouse robots are already deployed in 60-plus installations throughout four APAC countries, Chile, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The US was a major omission for GreyOrange. But not anymore as its US operation is off to a solid start.
GreyOrange warehouse robots find first US customer
Kohli says the company is knee-deep in its first US project, which it tells The Robot Report includes 740 GreyOrange warehouse robots being deployed for a client in Atlanta. Unfortunately, Kohli cannot talk about the project, but he tells The Robot Report a second US-based customer will be deploying GreyOrange warehouse robots in the next few months.
“Usually we launch and then try to find initial deals,” Kohli says. “We are pleasantly surprised how supply chain people in the US [understand the benefits of automation] and how fast adoption is. In Japan they all say the word “robots” before they say anything else, but the supply chain isn’t very automated. In the US, adoption is quicker in supply chain because attrition in these warehouses is crazy compared to the rest of the world. They’ve done the math and understand the technology. They’re skipping the pilot stages altogether because they can’t wait two years.”
That’s because e-commerce sales in the US are through the roof. According to the US Commerce Department, US consumers spent $453.46 billion online in 2017, a 16 percent increase from the $390.99 billion spent in 2016. That’s the highest growth rate since 2011 when online sales grew 17.5 percent over 2010. Geek+, China’s leading provider of warehousing and logistics solutions, also sees opportunity in the US market. The company exhibited at MODEX in April 2018, also located in Atlanta, as a coming-out party of sorts.
There are many goods-to-person automation solutions on the market, but an order of 740 robots from an outside company is significant. For comparison, Ocado, the well-known British online supermarket uses 1,000 of its mobile robots in a newer warehouse in Andover, UK that help process 65,000 orders per week. And Amazon, of course, employs thousands of its “Kiva” robots throughout its warehouses. But those companies are building robots for their own benefit. inVia Robotics, a Calif.-based startup and GreyOrange competitor, recently touted its new partnership with Hollar, a customer that purchased 100 of its Picker robots.
Kohli confidently says GreyOrange is not worried about the crowded warehouse robotics market. He declined to comment on financials, but said 2017 revenue was in the “double-digit millions.”
“We don’t traditionally work with small or medium-sized companies,” he says. “Our contracts start at 10s of millions of dollars, so we need to build something reliable that works at scale. Our competitive edge isn’t just our current products, but it is also our future roadmap. We have more things in the pipeline. Customers are signing up with us for a roadmap of the next 5-7 years.”
Next steps for GreyOrange warehouse robots
GreyOrange serves e-commerce, retail, consumer electronics, fashion, third-party logistics, fast-moving consumer goods, apparel and industrial tools companies. The company already has a couple US distributors signed up, but it is looking for more. Kohli says 50 percent of its customer pipeline will come from integrators. GreyOrange’s robots need to be purchased outright by customers, and the software is leased on an annual basis. “We don’t do small sites,” Kohli says. “All our jobs are big to massive, so a Robotics as a Service model does not make sense.”
GreyOrange products include Butler, an autonomous robot that uses goods-to-person technology for inventory storage, replenishment and order picking. Butler PickPal is an automated picking system that works with human employee to pick, process, consolidate and prepare orders. PickPal, which launched earlier in 2018, can achieve 500-600 picks per hour while working alongside a human, GreyOrange says. It can handle more than 100,000 SKUs that weigh up to 8.8 pounds
GreyMatter is the company’s software platform that uses AI algorithms and machine learning to optimize path planning, maximize storage, streamline zoning, improve space utilization and accelerate order fulfillment. GreyOrange also offers two sortation systems, the Linear Sorter and Pick-Put-to-Light.
Kohli would not disclose what is coming down the pipeline, but he says the company times new product releases around LogiMat and ProMat, two logistics-related trade shows that next take place in February and April 2019, respectively.