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Robot startup scores DHL deal

Employees using robots from Locus Robotics inside a DHL warehouse.Locus Robotics

Warehouse robot maker Locus Robotics of Wilmington says it’s landed its biggest deal yet — installation of hundreds of its machines at 10 US warehouses run by logistics giant DHL.

Locus robots function as delivery vehicles inside a warehouse; armed with plastic bins, they roll through the aisles and collect merchandise from workers who pluck merchandise from the shelves.

“We know where the human is standing and we surround that person with robots,” said Locus Robotics chief executive Rick Faulk. This sharply reduces the amount of walking required for workers to get products into the delivery stage.


When the machine has collected a full load, it rolls to a station where other workers pack and ship the items to consumers. Robots do the job faster while reducing the need for humans to move large cartloads of merchandise.

Robot startup scores DHL deal
Warehouse robot maker Locus Robotics says it’s landed its biggest deal yet — installation of hundreds of its machines at 10 US warehouses run by DHL. (Video courtesy of Locus Robotics)

DHL, a global package delivery service owned by the German company Deutsche Post AG, runs a network of order fulfillment warehouses that store and deliver products on behalf of ecommerce companies. Instead of running their own warehouses, online retailers keep their goods at DHL fulfillment warehouses.

“The associates love working with these Locus bots," said Jim Gehr, president of DHL Supply Chain North America. "It does the heavy lifting.”

Dan Kara, vice president of robotics at WTWH Media, a Cleveland publisher of robotics industry trade journals, said the warehouse robot market is hot and likely to get hotter, as consumers step up online purchases and ecommerce retailers seek to keep their costs low.

Locus was founded in 2015 by warehouse company Quiet Logistics of Devens, three years after that company’s robot supplier, Kiva Systems was acquired by online retail giant Amazon.com. Renamed as Amazon Robotics, the Kiva machines were reserved for Amazon’s use alone. So Quiet launched Locus to ensure a reliable supply of robots for itself, and to sell its machines to other warehouse operators. Locus is backed by $59 million in venture investment.


Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him @GlobeTechLab.