Jerome Dubois and Rylan Hamilton were two executives at Kiva Systems, a robotics company that Amazon bought for $775 million in 2012. (Kiva was founded in 2003 by Mick Mountz.) Within a couple of years of that deal, Amazon took the Kiva robots off the market, rebranded the division as Amazon Robotics, and wielded a big competitive advantage over other logistics businesses and retailers.
Now, they've got a new start-up called 6 River Systems that's bringing Amazon-grade technology to the broader warehouse and fulfillment industry.
E-commerce is expected to grow 12 percent this year in the U.S., and the demand for delivery is growing with it. To help warehouse workers carry their loads, 6 River Systems built a robot called Chuck.
The Chuck is essentially a self-driving cart that leads workers around a facility to the items that they need to pull off of shelves to fulfill a given order. It can also help workers quickly restock items that have been returned.
A screen on the Chuck shows users information about their own productivity during a shift, alerting them if they're close to achieving a personal best, for example. The idea is to motivate them to work as safely and efficiently as possible.
That's a good thing because the industry is actually facing a labor shortage in the U.S. Just 943,000 people worked in warehousing and storage in the U.S. last year, according to data from the Department of Labor. And they helped to pick and pack $394.8 billion worth of goods sold online, representing about 12 percent of total U.S. retail sales, according to Internet Retailer research.