As the market for robotics continues to grow, innovators are capitalizing on this growth by developing components, in this case an end effector, that help to give robots a boost in terms of their capabilities. It is such innovations that are capturing the attention of the VC and private equity communities, where 2016 saw an increase of over 100% in the value of investements to robotics related companies reaching over $1.8 billion and 3x increase in the number of deals. The money that is flowing into the robotics market is certainly helping to fuel innovations, such as the RightPick, that are making robotics a viable technology in a broader range of industries and use cases.
On March 28th 2017, RightHand Robotics announced the release of its “RightPick” product, a combination hardware and software application designed for piece-picking. The Somerville Massachusetts based company designed the RightPick to address the growing challenge of automating the process of picking single items to support the growing influence of e-commerce and direct to consumer fulfillment. “Unlike traditional robots, RightPick handles thousands of different items using a machine learning backend coupled with a sensorized robot hand that works in concert with all industry-leading robotic arms”.
RightHand Robotics has announced the launch of its e-commerce fulfillment robotic end-effector, the RightPick. The robotic hand is capable of handling thousands of different items due to its combination of machine learning software and its sensor enabled robotic hand. The robotic hand is built out with a combination of a suction mechanism and grippers that enable it to select and grasp material in different types and sizes of packaging.
The robotic hand is compatible with a variety of traditional robotic arms which enables it to be placed into existing robotic deployments, but is also a good fit for e-commerce fulfilment centers, 3PL’s, warehouses, and direct to consumer manufacturing warehouses that are just getting started on their path to introducing robotics. The company cites its rapid setup, remote support, and easy integration as elements that help RightPick to deliver rapid time to value, hours rather than days, months, or years. The flexibility of the robotic hand allow the device to be utilized in a variety of workflows including: sorting batch picked items, picking from Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), inducting items to a unit sorter, and order quality assurance.
In addition to the announcement of the RightPick, RightHand Robotics also announced that it has closed its Series A round of funding in the amount of $8 million. Investors in the Series A round are Playground Global, Matrix Partners, Seven Seas Partners, Dream Incubator, and several angel investors. The company will use the funding to expand product development, hire talent, and engage in marketing driven activities. According to Andy Rubin, Founder and CEO of Playground Digital, “RightHand Robotics has created a transformative technology combining machine learning and smart hardware to address a tremendous opportunity in the logistics industry…For the first time, affordable industrial robots can grasp things they have never seen before”.
IDC's Point of View
Two of the markets that IDC believes will benefit from advances in robotic technology are warehousing and e-commerce fulfillment. Both manufacturers and retailers stand to benefit from the ability to introduce robotics into the warehouse. From the manufacturing side of things, we have been hearing for several years now that manufacturers are acutely aware of the need to improve their ability to engage in direct to consumer (D2C) fulfillment. This is a drastic shift from the traditional manufacturing fulfillment approach which was designed to manage cases, pallets, and truck load. However, as omni-channel fulfillment has become a critical lever to driving value, manufacturers have identified that they must improve their ability to fulfill consumer demand in order to capture additional market share.
Retailers are a bit different in that they are built out to provide direct to consumer fulfillment through brick and mortar stores. Omni-channel fulfillment again has forced retailers to rethink their approach to fulfillment and provide their customers a greater set of fulfillment options, including the management of e-commerce fulfillment centers. Most fulfillment centers today operate with a largely manual pick and pack process. However the emergence of mobile platform robotics has helped to introduce robotics into this process, and now we are seeing companies such as RightHand deliver robotics capable of taking on more traditionally manual fulfillment processes.
The RightPick is unique in its ability to both handle a wide variety of material without retooling and its machine learning backend that enables it to manage material that it has not seen before or been specifically programmed to handled. The RightPick is an exciting new robotic advancement that has the potential to drive significant improvements to the fulfillment process. This is especially interesting for the manufacturing industry that has largely struggled with adding D2C fulfillment into their processes.
RightHand robotics is an example of the rapid pace of innovation in the robotics industry that is driving an increase in acceptance of robotics across industries. Additionally, by focusing on developing an end effector, rather than a full on robot, RightHand has broadened their opportunity for adoption. The fact that the robotic hand is compatible with a variety of robotic arms opens the opportunity up to both companies with existing robotic deployments as well as those companies that are considering adding robotics into their process.
As manufacturers, retailers, e-commerce fulfillment centers, and 3PL’s look to improve productivity, efficiency, and quality in their fulfillment processes they now have the option of integrating a robot with the flexibility to handle a variety of products across a wider range of workflows. IDC believes that as the market for robotics continues to grow, we will indeed continue to see innovative new robotics products that help to fill the gaps that have traditionally kept robotics from wide spread adoption.