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Robots help retailers fulfill orders faster



Advances in robotic technology are making it possible for retail businesses to complete more complex tasks at higher speeds and with improved control and outcomes, driving deal activity in the sector, as we discover in the second part of Mergers & Acquistions’ 7-part series, Retail Tech M&A.

There are 7 technologies retailers are investing in through M&A: The Internet of Things enables enhanced personalization, such as custom drive-thru menus. Artificial intelligence applications predict customers’ needs. Modern data centers and warehouses fill orders quickly. Robots assist with sorting and packing consumer goods. Voice- and text-assisted technology provides customers with hands-free shopping experiences. Analytics give retailers a better understanding of consumer behavior and habits. Mobile payment processing provides consumers with on-the-go convenience.

Check back each Friday for an analysis on each technology.

Here’s our look at robots:

According to the 2019 Mobile Robot Market Report from Interact Analysis, nearly 600,000 robots are expected to be used by companies, not including Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), by 2023 to help with order fulfillments. The demand is driven by Amazon’s increased use of robotics and by other logistics companies looking to keep pace.

E-commerce company Shopify Inc. (NYSE: SHOP) acquired 6 River Systems for $450 million. 6 River Systems uses cloud-based software and mobile robots called “Chuck” that assist employees with inventory replenishment, picking, sorting and packing. The acquisition adds a fleet of six Chuck robots to Shopify, while it allows 6 River to expand its robot technology business. Shopify is keeping the 6 River brand.

“Together, we will help thousands of businesses improve their fulfillment operations with an easy-to-learn solution that can more than double productivity and improve accuracy,” says 6 River CEO Jerome Dubois.

Thomas H. Lee Partners
TH Lee is buying a majority stake in robot technology company AutoStore from EQT, an investment and PE firm. EQT is keeping a 10 percent stake in AutoStore through a reinvestment.

AutoStore makes robots that retrieve products in warehouses to increase efficiency, and to cater to consumer demands to get deliveries faster. AutoStore, based in Norway, operates more than 11,000 robots in 28 countries. The deal will help expand AutoStore’s technology and software systems.

“Global megatrends, including increasing focus on automation and robotization, urbanization and need for space efficient solutions, as well as e-commerce demands requiring increased speed and accuracy, are all expected to continue to fuel AutoStore’s growth globally,” AutoStore adds in a release.

The robotics sector is attracting buyers outside the U.S. also. Japanese technology company Hitachi is buying robots manufacturer JR Automation Technologies from PE firm Crestview Partners for about $1.4 billion.

JR Automation builds production lines and logistics systems that deploy industrial robots for the consumer and food and beverage industries. The acquisition expands Hitachi’s presence in the U.S. robotics industry.

“In the manufacturing and logistics fields, there has been a growing demand for automation because of decreased working age populations, intensifying global competition, and further quality improvement requirements to prevent significant product recalls,” according to a Hitachi release.

Source: The Latest