Many warehouses and order-fulfillment facilities worldwide need more automation to deal with variable demand, the need for greater efficiency, and worker shortages. GreyOrange Pte. Ltd. today announced a significant expansion into the U.S. market, with a new headquarters, a new research and development center, and new customers.
As part of the global materials-handling equipment market, robotics is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8% between 2017 and 2024, reaching $20 billion, according to Global Market Insights.
Singapore-based GreyOrange makes the Butler goods-to-person system, the Butler PickPal picking robot, and linear sortation and directed-picking systems. Last December, GreyOrange released its GreyMatter platform, which uses artificial intelligence to optimize warehouse operations.
GreyOrange rolls into Atlanta
GreyOrange’s U.S. headquarters in Atlanta will eventually employ more than 85 people. It plans to hire 1,000 workers across the U.S. in the next few years. Atlanta is a leading transportation hub, with major supply chain and logistics providers.
“[The expansion into the U.S.] was part of our three-year plan,” said Samay Kohli, co-founder and CEO of GreyOrange. “We started off in Japan and Germany last year. In the U.S., the timing got accelerated from our slow-and-steady plan.”
“Usually, we would launch and after that seek customers, but last year when we started researching the U.S. market, we ended up picking up our first couple of sites. This was a pleasant surprise and yanked us forward,” he told Robotics Business Review. “This year, when we’re launching, we’ll already have our first site live, and we’ll have the second and third in the next three to four months.”
Chris Barber this month became CEO of GreyOrange’s U.S. operations. He was previously vice president of Southern Operations at warehouse management company Intelligrated, which was acquired by Honeywell in 2016. He also worked at Total Handling Solutions and Dematic.
“GreyOrange is the world’s largest supply chain robotics company and the global leader of robotics technology for operating flexible automated warehouses,” stated Kohli. “With our expansion into the United States and Chris Barber as our regional CEO, we will transform warehouse processes and efficiency and enhance employee engagement and retention, bringing it on par with tech jobs.”
GreyOrange isn’t starting small, with 740 robots at its first client site in Atlanta. Kohli noted that U.S. deployments will be larger than those in Europe or Asia, where sites often use 80 to 400 robots.
“We’re bidding on sites with close to 1,000 robots,” he said. The company is building a factory in the U.S. that it expects to complete next year. GreyOrange plans to make and deploy 20,000 robots in the U.S. over the next two to three years.
“Our focus has been on e-commerce and store retail,” Kohli added. “Our sweet spot is companies that want to run online and offline orders from the same facilities.”
“Our sweet spot is also consumer electronics, apparel, and small goods in store retail,” he said.
Although a number of startups have entered the supply chain and logistics space in the past few years, GreyOrange isn’t concerned about competition.
“We don’t do sites of 20 to 30 robots, but we do stand out with enterprise, high-reliability, big systems,” Kohli said. “We’re not just focusing on improving the picking and putting process; we concentrate on clearly solving system-level problems.”
GreyOrange’s robots are now UL-certified, joining certifications in Japan and the EU.
“We’re still, globally, one SKU, and we are compliant,” said Kohli. “We’re fortunate that our software integration is standardized around the world … there’s not too much specialization. Our software runs on ROS, and our robots are in their fourth or fifth generation.”
GreyOrange, which is a returning member on the 2018 RBR50 list of leading robotics companies, also plans to hire more than 50 employees in Boston. They will be conducting research into AI, human-machine interfaces, machine vision, and data intelligence.
“We looked at where the best talent around cutting-edge hardware is in the robotics world,” said Kohli. “Boston is the heart of doing technology innovation in our space.”
“We’re setting [our center] up for disruptive new product lines that will come out in the two- to three-year horizon in what I’d call our ‘skunkworks,'” he added. GreyOrange will announce the leader of its Boston R&D center soon.
“There is a lot of hype around AI,” Kohli acknowledged. “But we’ve been using machine learning for a use-case point of view for five years. In our core software multitag environments, each robot has its own agent or brain. Our agent architecture enables agents to interact with one another virtually and always have the ability to have crowd knowledge on them.”
“For instance, when a site first starts running robots, they might run a little crooked. Within 10 or 12 hours, they already start correcting themselves,” he explained. “This also happens when you introduce new hardware.”
“Secondly, we start doing what is known as operator profiles,” Kohli said. “When a person logs in with a new ID, the system learns what each person is faster or more comfortable doing.”
“Around the order profile, what sells fast, what sells with something, what confuses operators, all of that inventory and master data, it also learns,” he said. “Our system don’t just follow SOPs [standard operating procedures] in the warehouse, but it knows the process combinations that are possible, but the system picks the combination that is most efficient.”
GreyOrange said it can help reduce supply chain inventory in transit by 10% to 15%. In one use case, Japan’s largest home-furnishings company achieved a 15% increase in warehouse storage efficiency and quadrupled throughput.
Note: Editor Keith Shaw contributed to this article.