This Boston robotics startup wants to revolutionize the world’s warehouses

by Justine Hofherr
October 15, 2018
locus robotics
photo via locus robotics

With the world turning to computers for all their shopping needs, warehouses fueling the e-commerce craze have become increasingly complex operations that must fulfill orders faster than ever before.

But humans can only work so fast.

That’s where companies like Locus Robotics come in. The Wilmington, Mass.-based warehouse robotics company makes autonomous, mobile robots that support human labor in the e-commerce industry.

Founded in 2014, Locus Robotics’ origin story can be traced back to an acquisition made by an e-commerce giant we’re all pretty familiar with: Amazon.

If our clients are successful, we’re successful.”

According to Locus Robotics CEO Rick Faulk, when Amazon acquired warehouse robot giant Kiva Systems in 2012, they quickly took Kiva in-house, renaming the company “Amazon Robotics,” and cornering the market on warehouse robotics. Suddenly, there was a scramble for new providers to fill the void Kiva left.

Enter, Locus Robotics.

“We were built out of need, driven by Amazon taking those robots off the market,” Faulk said. “We spent three years in stealth mode trying to build a robot better than what Amazon has and bring it to market.”

So far, Locus is off to an impressive start.

In November 2017, the company nabbed $25 million in funding and announced a partnership with DHL Supply Chain, the largest third-party logistics company in the world, which would be officially using LocusBots.

These machines aid human workers in item retrieval by traveling to where an item is and bringing it to a conveyor or packing station while humans patrol the operation. DHL said it would use the robots to ship surgical devices.

“We make it really, really easy,” said Faulk. “Today, if you work in a warehouse, you’re walking 13 or 14 miles per day with a big gladiator device on your wrist. With Locus, you’re hands-free and can work freely around the warehouse.”

Faulk said a Bluetooth badge tells robots where you are and will display any tasks you need to do in your native language on an iPad, which provides feedback on how you’re working against your goals.

“A system that used to take a company two days to train someone now takes two minutes,” Faulk said.

To that end, Faulk said the robots are capable of doubling the rate of units per hour that humans can fulfill, so buildings essentially only have to hire half the workers that they used to employ. The robots don’t even have to be purchased by a company, Faulk said; instead, they’re hired.

Locus Robotics has grown its employee count to around 65, and expects to near 100 people by the end of 2018, Faulk said.

Faulk said he has a few major goals for Locus Robotics over the course of the 2019, including doing business with the top five third-party logistics companies in the world, which he said they’re going after “very aggressively.”

“Our most important goal is to make sure our clients are successful,” Faulk said. “We have to get two times their rates for every deployment. If our clients are successful, we’re successful.”

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