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Warehouse robot maker Locus gets $117 million boost

A robot runs through a demonstration inside Locus Robotics, a Wilmington company that aims to automate warehouses.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Locus Robotics of Wilmington has landed an additional $117 million in venture funding, with Goldman Sachs Asset Management and G2 Venture Partners leading the way. The latest funding round, announced Tuesday, sets the company’s estimated valuation at just under $2 billion.

Locus has emerged as a major global supplier of warehouse robots since it was spun out in 2015 by warehouse company Quiet Logistics of Devens. Chief executive Rick Faulk said the company has produced 10,000 robots that are in service with about 250 customers, with 30 percent of them outside the United States.

The new funding underscores Greater Boston’s status as a leading maker of warehouse robots. The region is home to Amazon Robotics, 6 River Systems, Symbotic, Vecna Robotics, and many others. Even Boston Dynamics, best known for its four-legged Spot robots, has launched a product called Stretch that’s designed to unload shipping containers.

Locus makes a variety of robots that move merchandise inside warehouses. The company’s original robots assist workers in picking individual items from shelves, then carrying them off to be packed and shipped out. But Locus also makes machines that can lift and carry entire shelves full of product, as well as robots that can carry large shipping pallets.

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All the company’s robots are made locally. “We are a Massachusetts manufacturing story,” Faulk said.

But rather than sell the machines, Locus uses a “robots-as-a-service” business model. Clients pay for the use of the machines, which remain the property of Locus. This makes it easier and cheaper for warehouse operators to deploy a fleet of robots. “They’re paying less for Locus than they were for labor,” said Faulk.

It also allows customers to order up surge capacity. During peak periods like the holiday shopping rush, a client can temporarily deploy additional robots, then return them to Locus as demand eases.

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In addition, said Faulk, Locus robots get regular software and hardware upgrades that extend the life of each machine. “We refurb them and then recycle them back to clients,” said Faulk. “The customers don’t need brand new robots as long as they work.”

Faulk said that Locus presently generates $100 million a year in revenue, but hasn’t reached positive cash flow yet. He predicted the company will reach this milestone in the next 18 months.



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