Amazon has been the main force driving the enormous increase in financing for warehouse robots. Of course, there are other issues that affect the market, such as the pandemic, labor shortages, and supply chain restrictions, but Amazon is a constant threat that forces businesses to find new and inventive methods to stay competitive. Even a natural powerhouse like Walmart is not immune. Walmart has been working hard on automation recently, despite its own track record being a little spotty, most notably in the case of Bossa Nova, which has gone quiet since the company abandoned its shelf-scanning systems. Amazon has a head start in this area thanks to its 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems.
Symbotic, located in Massachusetts, has seen noticeably better results. Due in large part to an ongoing agreement with Walmart that brought its warehouse robots to 25 of the mega-distribution/fulfillment retailer’s sites, the business declared its plans to go public via SPAC late last year. The two parties today announced an extension of the agreement that would see Symbotic equipment installed in all 42 of Walmart’s distribution hubs in the United States. Walmart has confidence in the systems, but it won’t happen overnight. The retrofitting implementation, according to Symbotic, will take more than 8 years to complete. It’s reasonable to predict that in less than ten years, both the retail and robotics environments will look very different.
In a statement, an SVP for Walmart claims that “the requirement for accuracy and speed in the supply chain has never been more obvious” and that “we are sure that the time is now to go even quicker by growing Symbotic’s technology throughout our entire regional distribution center network.” “The Symbotic System revolutionizes how we acquire and distribute items to retailers by using high-speed robots and sophisticated software to manage and optimize inventory,” says the company. Symbotic’s system has several facets, making it comparable to businesses like Berkshire Grey in that regard.
It combines mobile robots that resemble Kivas for moving inventory with robotic arms with a range of attachments that can pick, position, and depalletize items. According to Symbotic, the SPAC, which was earlier anticipated to continue into H1, is currently on schedule. However, considering the status of the market, delaying going public for a little while would be a good idea. Meanwhile, Walmart has formed alliances with a variety of robotics companies, including GreyOrange, which is supplying the company’s Canadian division with equipment.