Locus Robotics Corp. today announced that it has raised $26 million in Series C funding. The Wilmington, Mass.-based company produces autonomous mobile robots for e-commerce order fulfillment. Its “multi-bot” picking system includes LocusBots and the LocusEmpower software, which integrates with warehouse management systems.
“The continued, rapid growth of the warehouse industry and a tight labor market have placed tremendous pressure on warehouse operators to find a scalable, cost-effective way to meet increasing productivity and efficiency demands,” stated Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics. “We have seen a massive uptick in demand for the flexible automation incorporated into Locus’s multi-bot solution.”
“The new funding will help us extend our market leadership with new deployments in Europe and help us accelerate our ongoing product development,” he told The Robot Report. “To do this, we’re actively looking to hire across all areas of our organization, including sales, marketing, customer success, and engineering.”
The company has raised more than $66 million since it was spun out of Quiet Logistics in 2015.
The number of warehouses worldwide using robots will grow from 4,000 last year to 50,000 by 2025, predicts ABI Research.
“Robots enable the optimization of space in expensive warehouse facilities and can reduce the need for new and costly greenfield fulfillment centers,” said ABI. “Mobile robotic systems also offer major flexibility advantages. Robot vendors … enable additional robots to be added to or removed from a fleet as operational demands require. They also allow easy and relatively rapid reconfiguration of entire workflows and operations if product lines or fundamental operational requirements change.”
“Finding qualified labor and managing seasonal peaks continue to be the key issues driving the implementation of autonomous mobile robots in fulfillment warehouses,” Faulk said. “The worldwide market for collaborative robotics will continue to have significant growth as e-commerce accelerates and the labor challenges become more acute. While we continue to see strong demand in North America, we’re also seeing significant opportunities coming to us from the European market, including growth of our bigger accounts.”
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Locus helps customers increase productivity
Locus Robotics said its offerings have helped customers, including DHL, GEODIS, Port Logistics, Radial, and Verst Logistics, double or even triple fulfillment productivity. It added that they have been able to save 30% or more on operating expenses.
“Locus’ offering delivers powerful results, scales to meet growth and seasonal demands, and is flexible enough for us to deploy it rapidly throughout our network,” said Eric Douglas, executive vice president of technology and engineering at GEODIS Americas.
At ProMat in Chicago this past month, Locus announced its Spring 2019 hardware and software suite. They included omnichannel support for simultaneous picking for retail store replenishment, wholesale, and e-commerce orders in a single robot.
Other enhancements included “putaway functionality,” in which items could “be easily and accurately restocked or returned to inventory”; multi-order, multi-tote picking; and bulk item pricing. In addition, Locus’ Spring 2019 release supports auto-recharging to “top off” LocusBots, gamification in its user interface, and real-time traffic-flow management, as well as custom branding for customers.
“We’re really excited about our new omnichannel capability and putaway functionality,” said Faulk. “These industry-first features directly address two major needs in the warehouse: the need to be highly flexible to meet the complicated and multi-faceted demands of today’s 3PL and retail fulfillment operations. We are also laser focused on the need to continue to deliver improved worker productivity and operational efficiency.”
“Our multi-bot solution is what differentiates Locus,” he added. “The multi-bot approach allows the warehouse operator to ‘think outside the cart.’ Unlike the traditional and extremely inefficient model where workers pull heavy carts, carry RF devices, or simply follow motorized carts through the warehouse, Locus’s flexible automation approach helps cut the time workers spend walking between shelves and picks. This multi-bot solution operators to improve overall efficiency and productivity by two to three times.”
Scale Venture Partners, which led Locus’ Series B round in 2017, and Zebra Ventures, the strategic investment arm of Zebra Technologies Corp., participated in the round. Zebra Technologies is working to integrate its technologies with those of Locus.
Locus recently added an accessory power port to its LocusBot. “This new, mast-mounted feature allows us to add a wide range of mobile hardware for use during piece handling,” said Faulk. “At ProMat, we showcased a Zebra printer attached to a LocusBot that allows it to automatically print shipping labels and pick labels, saving significant time that would otherwise be spent walking to printers.”
The company also demonstrated a Zebra wireless handheld scanner that works with its putaway functionality.
“We invest in technologies that will help our customers increase operational efficiency and meet their requirements for on-time delivery,” said Tony Palcheck, managing director of Zebra Ventures. “We invest in technologies that will help our customers increase operational efficiency and meet their requirements for on-time delivery. Locus has quickly established itself as a leader in warehouse automation, and the company is a natural fit with our enterprise intelligence vision in the warehouse market.”