Fresh off landing fresh venture capital backing and a string of large customer orders, the autonomous mobile robot (AMR) powerhouse Locus Robotics today said it had broken ground for a new global headquarters in Wilmington, Massachusetts.
The nearly 200,000-square foot facility in the Boston area will serve as the hub of Locus Robotics' expansion into new global markets for warehouse automation and will house its engineering, manufacturing, and operations divisions.
The firm will build the expanded footprint known as “Locus Park” after announcing in May that contract logistics provider DHL Supply Chain would expand its fleet of Locus AMRs to 5,000 robots across its global warehouse network, representing the industry’s largest AMR deal to date. And in 2022, Locus recorded a $117 million, “series F” investment round that brought its corporate valuation close to $2 billion.
When it moves in to the new building in the Spring of 2024, Locus will consolidate its current campus of five buildings into a single facility, attracting new hires and supporting better interaction between employees as they increasingly return to in-person work from pandemic remote status, Locus CEO Rick Faulk said in an interview. It will also support a technology showcase, demonstration center, and client briefing center, alongside its foundational functions of labs, testing, and manufacturing.
The new building will also include a refurbishing center for Locus’ robots, which is a critical function for the company’s robots-as-a-service (RaaS) business model. “In the RaaS model, we don’t like to throw robots away; I can count on one hand the number of robots we’ve scrapped,” Faulk said.
To build each rolling robot, Locus uses a contract manufacturing firm to produce the component parts, then performs final assembly, testing, and branding in Massachusetts. Over time, it circulates older robots back to the factory for periodic upgrades that can improve features like battery life and navigation.
In the future, Locus plans to sell some of those older units into more price-sensitive markets. “Typically, robots are in the field for three years or so, but we’ve had robots operating right now for over seven years and we think they can go over 10. It’s a big part of how we keep costs down for our clients,” Faulk said. “Eventually we want to go into secondary markets—like Brazil, India, and Eastern Europe—where wage rates are less, and we will charge less for them.”
But Faulk says the true differentiating feature of Locus robots is the artificial intelligence (AI) that governs their operations. “Locus Park will be ‘The House that AI Built’,” Faulk said. “We’ve been using AI in our robots for a long time; it’s how they navigate, talk to each other, figure out where to go, do predictive analytics, minimize travel time, and slot inventory for the best picking efficiency.”
Powered by that AI, Locus says its robotic platform helps to optimize task allocation, route planning, and resource use, with the ultimate goal of empowering labor-strapped 3PL, retail, health care, and manufacturing businesses to optimize productivity in their operations, reduce costs, and stay competitive in the rapidly evolving e-commerce landscape.