August 16, 2016      

InVia Robotics Inc., which supports e-commerce fulfillment, today announced the nationwide availability of an automated materials handling system it described as “the world’s first goods-to-box” system. The Agoura, Calif.-based company said its logistics robots can integrate easily with existing warehouse management systems and enterprise resource planning systems.

The global market for materials handling equipment will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3 to 6 percent from 2014 through 2020, with 30 to 40 percent of that market in Asia, predicted Future Market Insights.

More than half of supply chain executives surveyed cited the lack of a skilled workforce, the need to quickly respond to e-commerce customers, and pressure to reduce delivery costs as major challenges, found Deloitte and MHI. Robots are widely viewed as a way to improve productivity.

InVia is joining the competitive automated materials handling market with robots and software that it said will be easy to use.

Automated materials handling with GrabIt and TransIt

InVia said its GrabIt robot is designed to pick items weighing “up to 30 lb. and up to 24 in. wide, ranging in size from a deck of cards to a 24-pack of soda. It can also reach up to 8 ft. and work for 10 hours on a single battery charge.”

The company also noted that “competing robotic solutions typically can only handle items weighing about 3 to 6 lb. and have a limited reach into shelf space.”

GrabIt can then give items to TransIt, another inVia robot, that gathers orders and brings them to a box for packing and shipping.

Both robots were designed in-house, and inVia has filed for several patents for their software.

GrabIt and TransIt are lightweight and are designed to be safe to operate around humans. They use machine vision for navigation and sonar for obstacle detection.

“InVia has been developing hardware using rapid iterations to quickly match customer needs,” said Lior Elazary, CEO and founder of InVia. “We have also been advancing state of the art in computer vision and artificial intelligence algorithms to reliably identify and localize objects in the chaotic space of the modern-day warehouse.”

“We have a standard SOAP/REST API that allows easy integration into warehouse management systems,” he said. “We have worked with Western Computer, a Microsoft Dynamic NAV provider to [achieve] out-of-the-box integration with NAV and Dynamics AX.”

The evolution of ‘goods to box’

Although other companies are also pursuing the growing market for automated materials handling, such as Fetch Robotics’ Fetch and Freight, inVia’s systems are different, Elazary told Robotics Business Review.

“Traditionally, several different picking models have emerged in the warehouse — the first model was ‘man to goods,’ in which a worker physically retrieves an item,” he explained. “Then, fixed automation and ASRS [automated storage and retrieval systems] brought automation to the warehouse, using a ‘goods to man’ approach, in which a robot picked an item and brought it to a human to be packaged.”

“InVia is the next evolution in picker efficiency, having developed the world’s first ‘goods to box’ solution for the fulfillment industry,” Elazary said. “The GrabIt and TransIt robots can work together to pick an item and move it to be packaged without needing human intervention.”

“The robotic system was designed from the ground up to solve a specific need in the low-margin fulfillment space,” he added. “Our unique robotic platform allows us to grab and transport a huge variety of item shapes and weights in a very cost-effective manner.”

RMS empowers end users

Another component of inVia’s technology is its Robotic Management System (RMS), which the company said “enables … customers to dynamically change their workflow in real time as well as minimize wait times, empowering businesses to change their processes on the fly.”

InVia Robotics' Robotics Management Software for automated materials handling

InVia’s Robotics Management Software is intended to increase productivity.

“Our Robotic Management System … enables [customers] to scale quickly, adding more robots as their throughput increases. They can go from two to 200 robots by just powering on more robots,” Elazary said. “Additionally, they have the option to have redundant robots on hand, so even if a robot experiences an issue, their throughput does not drop.”

“Each robot communicates with each other and the RMS,” he continued. “At any given time, robots can be brought online or shut down, zones can be opened or closed, and inventory locations/quantities can be modified. InVia’s GrabIt robots do cycle counting while picking, which updates the RMS snapshot of the inventory. This can be propagated back to the [warehouse management system].”

“We currently provide a dashboard, where warehouse managers or executives can see their operation’s performance at a glance and make decisions in real time,” said Elazary.

The RMS works alongside inVia’s Robotics Operation Center, which monitors the tasks conducted by the fleet of robots and is intended to be interoperable with customer systems.

“The complex optimization of coordinating a large number of robots is a big algorithmic challenge that we have been tackling,” Elazary noted.

“We designed this system to be a complete solution that can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure,” he said. “Developing a solution — as opposed to a stand-alone product — allows our customers to be up and running in a very short amount of time, enabling them to concentrate on their business and not worry about how to program a robot.”

Robots as a Service model

InVia is offering its automated materials handling systems through a “Robotics as a Service” model that it said “requires a minimal upfront investment.”

“Customers pay monthly for each robot, which allows them to quickly scale up or down to meet seasonal or fluctuating demand,” the company said. “If a robot malfunctions or requires an upgrade, inVia Robotics will swap it out to ensure downtime is minimized.”

LD Products, a Long Beach, Calif.-based office supply company, has benefitted from using inVia’s robots.

“InVia Robotics gives us the edge to compete with some of the larger e-commerce companies,” said Aaron Leon, CEO and founder of LD Products. “Since we launched our inVia Robotics system, order accuracy has shot up through the roof. We also are processing a lot more orders with the same amount of people, so it has reduced our labor cost per order and increased customer satisfaction.”

“Additionally, its Robotics as a Service model gives us cost certainty, as we know how much we’re going to pay per pick,” he said. “We don’t need a huge capital expenditure to hit the ground running, and the speed of deploying a new system will expedite how quickly we can open up a third fulfillment center in the U.S.”

InVia said it is working with other major retailers but declined to identify them.

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