Industrial robots and warehouse automation are lucrative intertwining markets, and one needn’t look further for evidence than Lexington, Massachusetts-based Berkshire Grey. The company, which combines AI and robotics to automate omnichannel fulfillment for retailers, ecommerce, and logistics enterprises, today announced that it secured a mammoth $263 million in series B funding financing from SoftBank with participation from Khosla Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and Canaan. CEO Tom Wagner says the fresh capital will fuel the startup’s global expansion, acquisitions, and team growth.
“With our intelligent robotic automation, our clients see faster and more efficient supply chain operations that enable them to address the wants of today’s savvy consumer,” said Wagner.
Berkshire Grey develops AI-imbued, cloud-hosted software that leverages a custom framework to achieve continuous improvement. It logs real-time data to inform future decisions and generate intelligent product-handling and process-operating behaviors, such that each system learns from its own activities as well as other systems within a facility or from deployments across the client network. Furthermore, Berkshire Grey’s platform constantly reacts to changes in the environment (e.g., containers filling or emptying and products shifting) in order to optimize real performance, and it performs preemptive self-diagnoses for preventative maintenance purposes.
On the computer vision side of the equation, 2D and 3D perception technologies and a battery of camera technologies enable the software to manipulate visual data and act upon a large breadth of items and materials. Combined with motion planning techniques and only simple environment descriptions for input, they let Berkshire Grey’s robots automatically and intelligently move through environments.
Some of the robots, speaking of, handle products using patented gripping technologies that enable accurate picking and placing. Their grippers are outfitted with sensors that send signals like tactile pressure, light beam, and accelerometer readings to the AI, coupling them with visual data to react in real-time.
AutoPick uses industrial robotic arms to pick hundreds of thousands of different items with fluid and dynamic movements, and with grip force, robot motion profiles, swing velocities, accelerations, and placement tolerances that can be customized down to the SKU level. As for Berkshire Grey’s FlexField family — which comprises FlexTiles, FlexFeeds, and FlexBots — they serve totes of products to AutoPick units that pack store and customer orders while parallelizing delivery where needed.
Berkshire Grey’s systems are designed to work with existing IT infrastructure, including chain and maintenance management software, and to plug into APIs. It also provides a web-based management dashboard for tracking work progress and monitoring system performance on desktops and mobile devices, with common metrics and operational statistics such as picks-per-hour and order completion status are recorded and presented for customers and push notifications related to order completion status and inventory availability for real-time operational planning.
Berkshire Grey says that its solutions are used by Fortune 50 customers to reduce picking costs in break pack and eeommerce operations by 70- 80%, and relied on by retail and logistics customers to improve throughput by 25% to 35%. “Our customers from leading enterprises in retail, ecommerce, and logistics are selecting Berkshire Grey as a competitive differentiator,” added Wagner.