Amazon’s drive to get as many products to customers as quickly as possible, coupled with a decade of technological breakthroughs, labor shortages and skyrocketing e-commerce growth, are aligned to create ideal conditions for warehouse robotics startups.
This fruitful convergence has led to acquisitions, major funding rounds and at least one robotics IPO next year. And the growth appears to be limitless, according to TC Sessions: Robotics panelists Locus Robotics CEO Rick Faulk, Berkshire Gray SVP Jessica Moran and Melonee Wise, who founded Fetch and is now VP of robotics automation at Zebra Technologies.
“Amazon really started rocking the boat, right?” Moran said during the panel on warehouse robotics. “The Amazon effect of getting as many SKUs as possible to as many people as quickly as possible really puts everyone in a position – even pre-COVID to say – ‘Hey, I need to figure out how to automate how to do that. things faster.’”
“We look at Amazon, probably as the best marketing arm in the robotics business today, Faulk said. “They’ve established SLAs that everyone must meet. And we see them as a great part of our marketing team.”
Faulk sees no ceiling to growth.
“If you look at the level of warehouse penetration at the moment by robots and automation, it is at most 5%. There are about 150,000 buildings around the world, billions of square feet of space, so there will be another 6 or 7 billion square feet of warehouse space built in the next four or five years, that will all be automated.”
Warehouse construction combined with labor, rising demand for e-commerce and the challenges surrounding seasonal peaks will help drive growth, he said.
That bullish view is propelling Locus to an IPO in the next year to 18 months, Faulk said.
Wise predicts that this will also lead to a wave of consolidation, as a logistics company may want to add automation to its product offering. It’s exactly what happened when Wise’s startup Fetch was acquired in 2021 by Zebra Technologies, a company already deeply entrenched in the logistics segment, providing printers, barcode scanners and mobile computers.
“I think you’re going to see more of that in the coming years, and more of what you might call consolidation of the alignment of products and product families and portfolios that help tell a bigger story around the end-to-end fulfillment or fulfillment ecosystem. production solution,” says Wise. “Robotic automation is an extension of that logistics portfolio.”