Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Locus raises $25m for warehouse robotics

Steve Rogerson
December 5, 2017



Massachusetts-based Locus Robotics, a provider of autonomous, mobile robots for use in e-commerce fulfilment warehouses, has secured $25m in series B funding led by Scale Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. Existing investors also participated in the round.
 
"E-commerce fulfilment warehouses are under tremendous pressure to meet increasing demands for fast, accurate order fulfilment in the face of significant labour challenges," said Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics. "Locus Robotics' collaborative robots allow warehouse operators to significantly increase worker productivity while economically closing the growing labour gap. In an economy largely dominated by Amazon, Locus arms independent operators with the means to compete effectively."
 
Locus provides for retailers and third-party logistics (3PL) operators looking to meet the shifting demands of the e-commerce market, expected to grow by 20% CAGR to become a $4tn global market by 2020, according to Nielson.
 
"We look for huge markets, burning needs, and compelling and innovative technologies that address those needs," said Rory O'Driscoll, general partner at Scale VP. "We try to invest just when that innovative technology is ready to jump from an interesting idea that might happen, to a core business imperative that is happening right now. For collaborative robotics, the time is right now. Robots can work safely with humans, each doing what they do best, to double human productivity and lighten the physical workload in industries like logistics. We anticipate an explosion of this trend in the next few years, and Locus will be at the heart of that trend."
 
Locus' turnkey robotics let warehouse operators achieve more efficient e-commerce fulfilment operations, while simultaneously managing both labour costs and seasonally fluctuating order volume. Users are said to be already seeing doubling or tripling of fulfilment speed with near-100% accuracy, while saving a third or more in operating expenses.
 
The company's robots-as-a-service (RaaS) subscription model allows users to solve this problem without a large-scale capital investment.
 
"DHL Supply Chain takes digitisation seriously and we have made some significant strides partnering with Locus Robotics," said Adrian Kumar, vice president, at DHL Supply Chain, a Locus customer. "Integrating LocusBots into one of our sites has increased productivity two-fold and the associate feedback is positive. Locus has been agile with their ability to adapt and change as we learn from these innovations. When we can provide our customers with more efficient and effective operations, we all win. We are eager to further develop our relationship as our commitment to continuous improvement is solid."
 
John Santagate, research director for service robotics at IDC, added: "We have seen rapid growth in robotics technology worldwide. Robots in fulfilment is one particular area where robotic technology maturity and market readiness have come together in a perfect storm. The acquisition of Kiva by Amazon and the subsequent privatisation of the technology left a gap in the market, which several robotics vendors have been working to capture. However, companies like Locus have taken the lessons learned from Kiva and built out a different kind of model, collaborative and safe mobile robots. Locus has done a good job of developing an innovative approach to e-commerce fulfilment, enabled by robots, and this round of funding will help them in their efforts to emerge as a leader in the space."
 
The company will use the series B proceeds to make increased investments in product development and go-to-market activities, as well as to expand into international markets. In addition, the company will invest in its growing, subscription-based robot fleet.
 
"We're thrilled to be working with Scale VP," said Faulk. “Their leadership in technology investment with emphasis on quantitative results aligns closely with our corporate vision for customer success. This milestone reinforces the original vision of our founders – Bruce Welty and Mike Johnson – to bring collaborative robotics to the e-commerce warehouse."
 
Choate Hall & Stewart served as legal counsel to Locus Robotics in this transaction.