Ocado, a leading British online supermarket, has acquired two U.S.-based robotics companies for $287 million in hopes of making its warehouses more efficient. Ocado purchased San Francisco-based Kindred Systems, which specializes in robotic piece-picking, for about $262 million and Las Vegas-based Haddington Dynamics, a developer of low-cost robotic arms, for about $25 million.
The acquisitions are subject to regulatory approvals, but Ocado expects the deals to be completed in 2020. Ocado said the acquisitions will also enable Ocado to enter new robotics markets outside of grocery. Ocado put together this presentation to explain what it sees as the benefits of these acquisitions.
“We consider the opportunities for robotic manipulation solutions to be significant, both for Ocado Smart Platform clients and across the fast-growing online retail and logistics sectors,” said Tim Steiner, CEO Ocado Group. “Ocado has made meaningful progress in developing the machine learning, computer vision and engineering systems required for the robotic picking solutions that are currently in production at our Customer Fulfilment Centre (“CFC”) in Erith. Given the market opportunity we want to accelerate the development of our systems, including improving their speed, accuracy, product range and economics.
“I am delighted to be welcoming Kindred Systems and Haddington Dynamics to the Ocado group, as we believe they have the capabilities to allow us to accelerate delivery, innovate more, and grow faster. I am also excited by the opportunity to enter new markets for robotic solutions outside of grocery that is demonstrated by Kindred Systems’ robust growth, with existing customers such as Gap and American Eagle across the general merchandise and logistics sectors.”
The Ocado Smart Platform is an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). Ocado is being sued by AutoStore, a Norwegian developer of AS/RS systems, for patent infringement. AutoStore alleges Ocado is infringing on five of its patents.
Kindred will have 180 robots deployed by the end of 2020. It expects to have revenue of more than $35 million in its fiscal 2021, the vast majority of which it said is recurring. Kindred’s SORT system features a proprietary technology stack, including machine learning, deep reinforcement learning and motion control, for robotic piece-picking. Its customer base includes leading global general merchandise retailers.
“The capability of handling 60,000+ products in e-commerce grocery fulfilment is that ultimate nirvana,” said Marin Tchakarov, CEO of Kindred.
Haddington Dynamics makes a variety of low-cost robotic arms, including the HDI collaborative robot that starts at just $11,000. The company credits it success to a “leap forward” in its proprietary encoder technology. Haddington said “the FPGA supercomputer onboard the robot gets 0.8-1.6 million points of precision (CPR) directly on each of the robot’s joints, allowing extremely imprecise parts to produce extremely precise movement.” Haddington’s customers include DuPont, MIT, NASA, Toshiba and many more.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be joining Ocado Group,” said Todd Enerson, President of Haddington Dynamics. “Five years ago we were in a garage with a vision of taking this technology worldwide.”
In mid-October, Ocado acquired a minority stake in robotics startup Myrmex, which develops autonomous mobile robots to help automate the fulfillment of online grocery orders.
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