Logistics technology provider Zebra Technologies is buying the autonomous mobile robot (AMR) vendor Fetch Robotics for an estimated $300 million, saying the move could apply intelligent industrial automation to help reduce the impact of labor shortages in fulfillment, distribution, and manufacturing environments.
Lincolnshire, Illinois-based Zebra had already bought 5% of Fetch in a 2019 funding round, but will now pay $290 million for the remaining 95%, citing Fetch’s success in optimizing picking in fulfillment centers and distribution centers and supporting just-in-time material delivery in manufacturing facilities.
The move shows an increasing integration between warehouse robotics startup firms and larger systems integrators and logistics technology providers. In 2019, industrial automation equipment vendor Teradyne Inc. acquired the autonomous forklift vendor AutoGuide for $165 million and e-commerce platform Shopify Inc. acquired AMR vendor 6 River Systems for $450 million. More recently, piece-picking robot vendor Kindred Inc. said in June that it will team with the systems integrator Hy-Tek Material Handling LLC to sell its systems, and AMR vendor Otto Motors announced partnerships with systems integrators in Ireland, the Netherlands, and Germany.
These deals affect more than just physical hardware. As warehouse robots have started to become more common in the sector, AMR providers have increased their focus on the software that not only controls the bots but also merges their activities with human workers and other material handling automation. According to Zebra, that approach can provide better orchestration of technology and people, especially when applied to users who have labor-intensive operations. Zebra plans to mesh Fetch’s technology with its own workflow solutions for human workers, such as the FulfillmentEdge and SmartSight products.
In addition to its robotic hardware, San Jose, California-based Fetch’s software portfolio includes Workflow Builder, a drag-and-drop workflow development studio that enables out-of-the-box automation so that customers and partners can quickly deploy automated material handling workflows. The firm also provides the cloud-based FetchCore platform for deploying and integrating a broad range of automated workflows into manufacturing and warehouse operations.
“The Fetch team is excited to join Zebra and accelerate the adoption of flexible automation through AMRs and our cloud-based robotics platform. Together we have the right team with the right technology to provide end-to-end solutions that solve real customer problems,” Fetch CEO Melonee Wise said in a release. “By helping customers dynamically optimize and holistically orchestrate their fulfillment, distribution, and manufacturing operations, together we help enable their ability to stay ahead of growing demand, minimize delivery times and address shrinking labor pools.”