Fetch’s Quick-Install Mobile Robots Lead Warehouse Revolution
Worker shortages in the supply chain may have been a worry a few years ago, but Fetch Robotics’ highly advanced AMRs
could be the answer you’ve been waiting for.
by John Hitch
During Melonee Wise’s time at the infu- ential Silicon Valley robotics research lab Willow Garage, she worked on
self-driving cars and boats, and personal
robots for hospitality and healthcare. After
leaving, Wise pursued the one vertical that
would have the most immediate impact:
warehouse and distribution robots.
On the surface, accident-preventing autonomous cars and robo-nurses to help grandma out of bed certainly sound like they’d
be more helpful to society. But a deeper
dive shows Wise’s choice was absolutely the
*ahem* wise choice.
The global logistics industry is valued
at $5 trillion, and customer expectations
have never been higher due to ecommerce
envelope-pushers like Amazon Prime’s two
“The industry is being pushed really hard
to deliver on a faster and faster time contract
between them and the customer,” Wise says.
“Now people want their goods in hours; ten
years ago it was maybe a week.”
To exacerbate matters, there’s not enough
people who want the usually low-paying ma-
terial handling jobs. A 2015 survey done by
CSCMP and Capgemini Consulting indicates
nearly four out of fve third-party logistics
providers were unprepared for the impending
“You’ve got an industry that needs to hire
more people, needs to be more effcient,
and needs to deliver on these requirements
for customers, and yet the resources aren’t
available,” Wise says.
Her solution was to found and become the
CEO of the San Jose-based Fetch Robotics,
and consequently, create AMRs (Autonomous
Mobile Robots) that roll along on the bleeding
edge of material handling technology.
The Freight line comes in several models,
including the Freight 500 and 1500, named
for their payload capacity (in kg), as well
as the three-tiered HMIshelf 15, 20, and
25 (coming soon), which are named for
their width (in inches). The various models can do anything from haul boxes in
plastic pallets around a busy warehouse
foor, track inventory with an RFID scanner.
The Freight models can
combine with a collaborative robot named
Fetch that is “armed”
with seven degrees
of freedom and interchangeable fngertips.
The most obvious advantages are that, unlike
automated guided vehicles (AGVs), AMRs don’t
need to alter the environment with magnetic tape
or refectors to create a
fxed route for the one-track minded machines.
“If an AGV is driving down a path, and
something is in its way,
the robot will stop and
wait right there until the
object is moved,” Wise
says. “And it will wait forever. In the case of an
AMR, the robot doesn’t
have a specific path.
You create the suggested path, and will go
around or go back and take another path
if something is in its way.”
Fetch’s AMRs take as little as eight hours
to install, and learning the path initially takes
only a joystick and muscle memory from
playing MarioKart—or for those old timers
who once played outside, an R/C car. During
this time, the Freights will map the facility to
get a literal lay of the land.
The controller will at this time also mark
keep-out areas, speed zones, preferred
paths, and destinations for the robots,
Fetch has mapped a 2 million-ft² facility
before, she notes.
The sensors to allow this include two
IMUs (intertial measurement units) to gather
rotation velocity and forward acceleration,
a 25-m SICK laser scanner, and 3D camera
for dynamic obstacle avoidance, including
forklifts. Future models are expected to have
two Intel RealSense cameras to increase
Wise says Fetch has the fastest deployment time. Competitors’ AMRs may take six
to ffteen weeks, and AGVs can take several
weeks. Fetch also doesn’t require additional
infrastructure like separate Wi-Fi.
AGVs also have the disadvantage of infex-ibility when it comes to changing workfows.
If a manufacturer or warehouse wants to
change its confguration, the route for the
AGV must be changed all over again. With the
company’s cloud-based software platform
FetchCore, changing routes is a quick drag-and-drop process on the app, and simple
enough to be completed by operators.
Last December, Fetch raised $25 million
in Series B funding to continue its growth and
expand into even more applications.
“The warehouse and logistics automation
market is estimated at over $40 billion today,
and is poised to double over the next fve
years,” said Brian Nugent, Founding General
Partner at Sway Ventures. “Our investment in
Fetch complements and extends our portfolio
of exceptional leaders who are transforming
the global supply chain.”
As the supply chain changes, Wise advises
to explore all material handling options, not
just the fancy, high tech ones.
“Some problems are just solved better
by simpler more cost effective robots,” says
Wise, adding that AGVs cost less and may
offer higher capacities.
Other times, a combination of an AMR and
an Automated Storage and Retrieval (ASR)
system could work best, she offers.
“Most automation equipment is not one
For more information:
size fts all,” she says. “Fetch is one part of a
very large automation story. We want to play
a lot of parts in that story, but we can’t solve
all of it by ourselves.”
As robots are an ever increasing presence
in the supply chain, Fetch, which offers an ROI
in three to nine months and handles half of
the material handling for customer RK Logis-
tics, it does seem to be carrying quite a load.
Fetch’s line of AMRs are ready to deliver results.