E-commerce giant Amazon has changed the landscape of online retail logistics with its investment in robotics at its fulfillment centers. Now, Shopify, a smaller competitor in the e-commerce industry is bringing robots into its logistics offerings. Jennifer Smith reports at The Wall Street Journal:
E-commerce technology company Shopify Inc. is buying warehouse robot-maker 6 River Systems Inc. for approximately $450 million as it deepens its move into physical distribution.
6 River Systems makes software and autonomous mobile robots that guide workers through warehouse aisles, lighting up when they reach the next item to pick. Customers for the units, known as collaborative robots because they work alongside human staffers, include Office Depot Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp. and XPO Logistics Inc.
Founded in 2015, Waltham, Mass.-based 6 River Systems includes veterans from warehouse robotics company Kiva Systems, which was bought by Amazon.com Inc. in 2012 and became the foundation of the e-commerce giant’s push to automate its fulfillment operations.
The company raised $25 million in Series B funding last year.
Ottawa-based Shopify provides internet shopping platforms and other services that help customers such as Unilever PLC, Kylie Cosmetics and footwear maker Allbirds Inc. sell items online.
Earlier this year, Shopify rolled out a service offering customers access to a network of dedicated U.S. fulfillment centers to store and ship consumer goods for online orders, a move aimed at helping retailers speed up delivery as they compete with Amazon.
Automation is gaining more traction among logistics companies and online fulfillment providers as they push to ship products faster to consumers. Warehouse operators also are competing for workers in an extremely tight labor market. Proponents of collaborative robots say they can be added quickly to distribution centers to boost output more efficiently and cheaply than conventional automation systems such as conveyor belts.
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