The market for autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, continues to be competitive. ForwardX Robotics Inc. recently announced its first U.S.-based project. The Beijing-based company, which has raised more than $100 million in funding since it was founded in 2016, also recently participated in its first U.S. trade show.
“Our results in China, where labor costs are comparatively low, have given us great confidence in what we are able to offer to the rest of the world,” stated Yaxin Guan, chief operations officer of ForwardX. “It’s an exciting time to be in this industry and solve problems that many companies are facing in the wake of the pandemic and rapid growth of e-commerce.”
“We still have a lot of work to do in getting our name out there, but having launched our first project in the U.S. is a great step for us,” she said. “That and finally having feet on the ground in the U.S. where we can exhibit at tradeshows, giving people the chance to actually see and touch the AMRs, makes me very excited for our future.”
ForwardX raised $31 million in Series C1 funding in December 2021. The company offers its vision-guided AMRs through a robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model.
AMRs support 'S2B2C' concept
The new project is at Hiocloud's warehouse in Edison, N.J. The company is an e-commerce fulfillment platform and services provider that said it follows the “S2B2C” concept for supply chain to business to consumer. It said it specializes in multi-enterprise collaborative fulfillment for large-scale home furnishings.
Hicloud focused on reducing errors and increasing productivity in the warehouse when selecting a technology provider. It and ForwardX and Hiocloud ultimately deployed seven ForwardX Max 600 AMRs to aid in the picking process and pallet movement across Hiocloud’s roughly 50,000-sq.-ft. warehouse.
“It’s been a pleasure getting our solution up and running at Hiocloud’s warehouse,” said Zhiyi Ye, on-site robotics engineer at ForwardX. “The first stage of the project was deployed in under a month.”
“Currently, we’re working on improving their productivity via our picking system consisting of the AMRs and our fleet management system,” he added. “Delivering customers with an efficient robotics solution that increases their UPH [units picked per hour] is key.”
ForwardX exhibits in Cincinnati
ForwardX Robotics also attended its first in-person event, exhibiting at the Package Fulfillment, Logistics & Delivery Expo in Cincinnati last month. The event catered to businesses looking for e-commerce fulfillment and shipping systems, parcel handling and sorting technology, and last-mile delivery innovations.
“The event in Cincinnati went really well,” said Jett Chitanand, North American vice president at ForwardX. “It was a focused event, so everyone in attendance was seriously considering adding automation.”
“It’s important for people to be able to see and interact with the robots in person,” he noted. “Videos can only help so much; people like to see the robots in action. Events like this will go a long way for our brand awareness, and it provides us with an opportunity to showcase our uniqueness.”
ForwardX presented its Flex 300 and Max 600L AMRs at the show. While a lot of attention has been given to how material handling can be automated for piece-load goods, applications at the case and pallet level have largely been neglected, claimed the company.
In addition, ForwardX showcased its ability to bring the swarming method of piece-picking to the larger and heavier items, cases, or pallets for e-commerce and distribution workflows.
“I believe, moving forward, that ForwardX is going to continue innovating and solving problems for customers using newer products and technology, tackling new use cases,” Chitanand said.
The company said it plans to present and exhibit at CSCMP Edge in Nashville in September, ProMat in Chicago in March 2023, and more.