Otto Group, one of the largest online retailers in Europe, is entering into a long-term strategic partnership with Covariant, an AI robotics company.
Covariant’s AI-powered robots will be used to automate a wide range of manual fulfilment activities that require hand-eye coordination and object manipulation – supporting Otto Group to enhance services for its customers and to take another important step towards a digitalized and AI-driven future.
The Otto Group will deploy Covariant robots to increase operational efficiency, build resilience against labour market challenges, and improve the overall quality of work within their fulfilment centres.
The investment is expected to create new work profiles and attractive jobs while enhancing overall facility performance and ensuring more reliable delivery times, especially during periods of high or fluctuating demand.
Kay Schiebur, member of the executive board, services, Otto Group, says: “Logistics faces the challenge of being as cost-efficient as possible. The use of a generalist AI allows us to rethink processes that were not possible before and provides an answer to the massive shortage of workers.
“In times when handling is often outsourced to cheaper locations, we are especially happy to continue to be close to our customers and strengthen the European, and especially German business location. The use of AI will be a key success factor in logistics in the future.”
Covariant was founded by the pioneers of modern deep learning-based AI. The company delivers the widest portfolio of robotic picking, placing, and sorting solutions available in today’s market.
Each of these solutions is powered by the Covariant Brain, a universal AI platform that enables robots to see, think, and act. The vision of this partnership is to have hundreds of Covariant’s AI-powered robotic solutions installed across all Otto Group fulfilment centres.
The companies are starting this year in Germany by deploying robots at the Haldensleben and Altenkunstadt facilities. These robots will enable Otto Group to autonomously handle the dynamic and unexpected fulfilment scenarios that have previously limited picking automation including the successful processing of ever-changing products without having to pre-program data.
Furthermore, all Covariant robots – regardless of facility location – learn together as a fleet to ensure that learnings and operational improvements automatically propagate across the entire Otto Group network.
Peter Chen, CEO, Covariant, says: “This is a huge step forward for the automation of Europe’s ecommerce market as it represents one of the largest investments in a foundation model for robotics to date.
“We’re honoured that Kay and team recognize the importance of developing a universal AI for robot learning and we look forward to delivering the operational improvements that will help maintain Otto Group’s market-leading position for years to come.”
Schiebur says: “In times of a challenging market environment, it is essential that future investments do not fall by the wayside. We invest here and now in our future viability to strengthen our position as a market leader in Europe.”