Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

Warehouse automation company Fetch Robotics raises $46 million in latest funding round

Fetch Robotics, a provider of warehouse automation technologies, has raised $46 million in its Series C round of funding.

The round was led by Fort Ross Ventures, with additional participation from CEAS Investments, Redwood Technologies, TransLink Capital and Zebra Ventures.

All existing investors – O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Softbank Capital and Sway Ventures – also participated in this round.

Fetch Robotics now has raised $94 million to date.

The company says the funding will be used for “international expansion, to meet accelerating customer demand, and for ongoing research and development”.

Fetch Robots machines at Universal Logistics’ Smyrna facility

Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics, says: “Customers have responded enthusiastically to our unique cloud robotics solution, and we’re responding by securing the funds we need to continue growing and enhancing our offerings.

“The competitive pressures for excellence in logistics have never been greater. Our autonomous mobile robots and cloud platform enables our customers to meet their customers’ demands while meeting their own financial objectives.”

While supply chain automation isn’t new to logistics or manufacturing, what is new is the need for speed – to produce, transport, package, ship, deliver and adapt – at a pace never before seen.

At the same time, the labor shortages that plague ecommerce operations are also impacting distribution, fulfillment and manufacturing facilities.

In a recent survey, the number one concern among logistics industry leaders was “hiring qualified workers”, and an additional survey reported that manufacturing executives are worried that around sixty percent of current open positions in their businesses are unfilled due to lack of skilled workers.

It is, therefore, no wonder that warehouse and manufacturing operators are struggling to find solutions that let them meet the demanding workload, says Fetch.

One such company is Universal Logistics Holdings, a full-service provider of customized transportation and logistics solutions.

With headquarters in Michigan, Universal provides value-added logistics services for Fortune 500 manufacturers and retailers, including several of the top automotive and transportation original equipment manufacturers.

Universal recently deployed the Fetch Cloud Robotics Platform in its 1 million-square-foot Smyrna, Tennessee logistics facility which serves the nearby Nissan Motors plant, the largest auto manufacturing facility in North America.

Just outside of Nashville, the greater metropolitan area where Smyrna resides ranks among the lowest overall unemployment rates in the United States at 2.4 percent.

This makes it especially difficult to meet the demand for logistics workers and leads to chronic under-staffing situations, says Fetch.

As a result, Universal has a pressing need for flexible, reliable and cost-effective automation solutions that can handle low-level tasks – like pushing carts with parts and sub-assemblies over long distances.

Jeff Rogers, CEO of Universal, says: “In Smyrna as in many markets we serve, we face chronic labor shortages, at times in excess of ten percent of our required staff, which puts significant pressure on everyone from the workers on the floor to senior management.

“The Fetch Robotics system provides an answer to our problem. Because the system installs so quickly – we had it fully operational in less than a week – we’re able to boost output and manage our costs.

“And our workers like it because the robots take on the less interesting, more laborious tasks. With Fetch, our employees can focus on the revenue-generating tasks that are more fulfilling and more valuable.”

In the Smyrna facility, Universal is using 10 Fetch CartConnect robots in conjunction with 40 carts to automate several key processes in the warehouse.

This enables them to meet their targets while reducing the near-continuous need to ask associates to work overtime. By opting for the Fetch Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) monthly fee model, Universal has been able to minimize their upfront investment and realize a compelling return on investment.

Lee Weisenberger, managing director of IT at Universal, says: “Thanks to the short time from delivery to operation and the pay-as-you-go approach, we’ve seen an immediate financial benefit from the Fetch deployment.

“This is a model we can easily roll out to many additional facilities.”

The Fetch Cloud Robotics Platform provides the market’s only cloud-driven Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) solution that addresses material handling and data collection for warehousing and intralogistics environments.

Cloud robotics is revolutionizing automation by bringing the kind of speed, agility and cost advantages that cloud computing brought to IT.

Anurag Chandra, venture partner at Fort Ross Ventures, says: “We’ve had great success investing in companies that are using unique software platforms to transform large, global industries, and so Fetch Robotics is a natural addition to our portfolio.

“Fetch’s cloud-first approach enables on-demand automation, which we believe will transform logistics, manufacturing, retail and other industries in the US and internationally. We’re delighted to be a part of the Fetch team.”

John Santagate, research director at IDC, says: “Flexibility in operations is a top priority for warehouse operators today.

“Traditional automation technology lacks the ability for rapid deployment, scalability, and flexibility that modern robotics are enabling.

“On top of the physical element of modern robotics, development of cloud-based applications to enable robotics has greatly enhanced the ability to rapidly and efficiently deploy robotics at scale.

“The cloud robotics approach at Fetch is something that is enabling warehouses to rapidly realize the benefits of robotics and making it easier for companies to deploy and use robots in their operation.”

Fetch customers include leading, global companies in third-party logistics, manufacturing, and distribution.