Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Japanese furniture chain opts for robot butlers

Steve Rogerson
March 16, 2017

Nitori Holdings, Japan's largest furniture and home furnishing chain with more than 400 stores, is deploying robotics at its Home Logistics logistics subsidiary, which operates 34 distribution bases and a logistics network for product delivery to stores and e-commerce customers across the country.

The technology comes from Singapore-based GreyOrange and Japanese logistics company Ground. GreyOrange is a multinational technology company that designs, manufactures and deploys robotics systems for automation at warehouses, distribution and fulfilment centres.

"We were impressed to find that the GreyOrange Butler is an entirely new robotics concept for warehouse automation unlike automated storage and retrieval systems,” said Manabu Matsuura, CEO of Home Logistics. “Also, Butler satisfies our corporate philosophy that we always pursue ideal workplaces for everyone. For example, we have been an early adopter of technology and were the first user in Japan to leverage robotic storage in our warehouses last year."

The Butler system will be installed at the Home Logistics Osaka distribution centre to handle automated inventory storage and picking. The Butler software adapts in real time to changing inventory profiles and order fulfilment patterns, increasing productivity and accuracy.

"We are really happy to announce that Home Logistics has become the first user of the Butler in Japan,” said Hiratomo Miyata, CEO of Ground. “They have evaluated several options and are glad to use the Butler as they believe the Butler goods-to-person technology will be a driving force in their strategy to increase productivity in their warehouse operations through robotics."

Founded in 2011, GreyOrange is headquartered in Singapore with offices in India, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany and the UAE, and a research and development centre in Gurgaon, India.

"Japan has one of the world's most mature distribution infrastructure and it is the fourth largest e-commerce market,” said Nalin Advani, CEO of GreyOrange. “Over 75 per cent of consumers regularly shop online and e-commerce is forecasted to grow to US$200bn by 2020. We are honoured to work with Nitori Group, including Home Logistics, to deploy our Butlers. The Nitori Group is far-sighted in anticipating the challenges of warehouse operations and addressing it with robotics. We are also excited to be selected for the Japan market where specifications for technology are among the most demanding in the world."