Pittsburgh startup IAM Robotics raised $20 million to expand the deployment of its Swift mobile picking robot. The round was led by KCK Ltd, a family-owned investment firm with teams in New York and San Francisco.
IAM Robotics was founded in 2012 by Tom Galluzzo and Vladimir Altman, who worked at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center. Swift is an autonomous mobile picking robot that can scan shelves for products, pick those products and move to other locations. IAM Robotics said the funding will accelerate robot production and help build a sales, marketing, and delivery team.
“Distributors and retailers need more workers to meet the demands of e-commerce. In the U.S. alone, consumers spend 40 billion hours picking items from store shelves,” said Joel Reed, IAM Robotics CEO & President. “As we buy more items online, that work moves to the warehouse. Currently, there are not enough people in the workforce to do this for us. The answer is to give organizations a tool that increases existing worker productivity, fosters greater job satisfaction, and maintains operational flexibility. This not only helps them to remain sustainable in a rapidly changing landscape, it makes them more competitive.”
Swift stands about 74 inches tall, boasts integrated 360-degree obstacle detection and can work for 10 hours on a single charge. IAM Robotics said Swift can work alone or in a fleet. It can pick up objects that weigh up to 15 lbs, from both sides of an aisle.
“We’re expanding what is possible to accomplish with autonomous robots,” said Tom Galluzzo, IAM Robotics Founder & CTO. “There is a great deal of buzz around autonomous cars, but we see shorter term opportunities to put autonomous robots to work performing tasks that will have a huge impact on global logistics operations. This funding will help us to recruit the talent needed to make autonomous robots an immediate reality.”
IAM Robotics also develops the Flash product dimensioner and photo booth that records the barcode, 3D dimensions, weight and a high-resolution image of any product placed inside. It also collects information that teaches Swift how to find the product on shelving. IAM Robotics’ other product is the SwiftLink software system that relays order and task status to warehouse management systems and logs performance reports.
IAM Robotics also recently partnered with logistics leader DB Schenker. The two organizations are collaborating, for example, on the deployment of mobile picking robots and other robots that can both pick up and transport goods.
“IAM’s core technology can be leveraged to build a suite of products that can serve different market segments,” said Dr. Nety Krishna, KCK’s Head of Industrials and EmTech. “We are looking forward to working together to solve some challenging problems in the logistics industry, thereby unlocking tremendous value for our customers.”
IAM Robotics’ funding follows a slew of investments into logistics robotics companies in 2018. Other notable investments in the space include GreyOrange’s $140 million Series C, Boxed’s $111M Series D, inVia Robotics’ $20M Series B, Vecna’s $13.5M Equity Round and many others. The US warehouse robotics market is expected to surpass $20 billion by 2024. The main driver is the booming US e-commerce market, which grew to $453.46 billion online in 2017, according to the US Commerce Department. That represents a 16 percent increase from the $390.99 billion spent in 2016.