French start-up Exotec Solutions is working with e-commerce giant Cdiscount to test a scalable, speedy autonomous robot network that could take order fulfilment to the next level.
Ferrying items from one side of a warehouse to another is well within the operating parameters of many industrial robots. In fact, from online retailers such as Amazon to groceries from Ocado, the brute-force side of the order fulfilment process is increasingly dependant on nuts and bolts, AI and autonomous machines.
However, the final steps of picking, placing and packaging require a level of dexterity that only humans are capable of – although that too is changing. Ocado’s robots are getting smarter and events like Amazon’s Picking Challenge are enabling researchers to test out new techniques in real-world scenarios.
For now though, with the orders mounting up, online retailers are keen to speed up the process in any way possible.
Taking order fulfilment to new heights
French AI robotics start-up Exotec Solutions is today launching Skypod Robots, an autonomous system designed to improve order processing speed and, according to the company, work two times faster than its rivals.
French e-commerce company Cdiscount has been testing the Skypods at its Bordeaux warehouse and seen order processing speed rise by a factor of four. The Skypod system is making an impact for three reasons.
First is the ability of the ‘3D mobile robots’ to scale shelves as well as roll around at ground level. Second is speed. Scuttling about at 10 mph, the robots can quickly transfer goods in the warehouse to human operators who handle packing and shipping. Third, according to Exotec, the robots’ laser scanner navigation system allows them to travel anywhere in the storage area, while carrying boxes weighing more than 60 pounds.
Exotec emphasizes flexible deployment
Romain Moulin, CEO of Exotec Solutions, suggests that a flexible, scalable system is best positioned to disrupt e-commerce logistics. “To respond to today’s market requirements, companies are putting the emphasis on deployment speed and flexible deployment capability rather than heavy fixed infrastructure in order to best respond to rapid fluctuations in demand,” he said.
“The Skypod addresses the needs of a new generation of customers who are looking for high performance and high-density systems that can be modified every two years.”
“From inception, the system has been designed to ensure fast deployment and full scalability. Skypod’s free navigation allows the robots to travel anywhere within the system, something the competition can’t offer today,” said Renaud Heitz, Exotec’s CTO and co-founder.
“The system’s software is powered by the latest artificial intelligence, allowing us to deploy on site within days instead of weeks.”
In December last year, Exotec raised $3.5million from 360 Capital Partners and Breega Capital.