Kiva Systems was a company that built a mobile robot for logistics operations, mainly for use in warehouses. It was a basically a small platform on wheels, and proved popular throughout the industry.
But then it got bought out by Amazon, which initially said it would still sell it to the rest of the logistics industry but actually didn’t. Instead it rebranded Kiva as Amazon Robotics and turned it into a business unit of its own.
The online retail giant now has one of the largest number of robots in operation of any company in the world.
But two former executives at Kiva Systems – Jerome Dubois and Rylan Hamilton – have now launched a new company and a range of new logistics automation solutions.
The company is called 6 River Systems and the main solution it provides is a “collaborative fulfillment system”, which includes mobile logistics robots.
6RS says one of its warehouse automation solutions is for split case picking operations typically found in e-commerce, retail replenishment, third-party logistics , and parts distribution.
The company says this system has demonstrated significant rate improvements – two to three times faster – over existing cart pick technologies, and is running at several sites across the US.
The solution uses proprietary mobile robots and cloud-based enterprise software that integrates with “warehouse management systems” – a recognised term to mean a particular type of software.
6RS claims its is the first automation system in the world to have a mobile robot lead the associate through a zone-based picking and replenishment workflow, maximizing associate rates while minimizing the number of robots.
Unlike traditional automation projects that take months to deploy, the 6RS system requires no new infrastructure and can be fully operational at a customer site in a couple of weeks, says the company.
Christopher Cacioppo, 6RS co-founder and head of engineering, says: “We expected 50 percent rate improvement using a small number of robots, but we achieved greater than 100 percent improvements during initial pilots and used fewer robots than expected.
“That’s great news for our customers. Faster rates and fewer robots allow us to deliver the best payback in the industry for our customers.”
6RS has so far raised more than $15 million in financing, according to CNBC, from companies including iRobot, the maker of robotic vacuum cleaners.
CNBC also reports that 6 Rivers has launched a new version of its logistics robot which it calls “Chuck”.
Amazon bought Kiva Systems for $775 million in 2012, and the total value of goods sold in the US in 2016 was almost $395 billion, according to DigitalCommerce360.