ForwardX Technology Co. yesterday announced that Richmond Rolling Solutions will be the exclusive distributor of its autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, across Australia and New Zealand.
“Our exclusive partnership with ForwardX represents a unique opportunity for businesses to invest in the latest equipment to improve their processes and transform the way they operate,” said Breon Winslow-Moore, CEO of Richmond Rolling Solutions, in a release. “It's an exciting time for our team, and we can't wait to deliver these AMR products to companies throughout Australia and New Zealand.”
Richmond Wheel & Castor Co. has been a leading provider of materials handling systems since 1958. The Winnellie, Australia-based company said it offers equipment including robots for all industries and operational needs.
Australian, New Zealand supply chains to 'future-proof' with AMRs
The combination of ForwardX Robotics' innovative products and Richmond Rolling Solutions' regional support will help “future-proof” businesses in Australia and New Zealand, claimed the strategic partners.
“By joining forces, we are combining Richmond's extensive local support, knowledge, and engineering expertise with our state-of-the-art robotics technology,” stated Nicolas Chee, founder and CEO of ForwardX. “It's a significant step forward in advancing the capabilities of materials handling solutions in Australia and New Zealand.”
As part of the partnership, Richmond Rolling Solutions said it plans to establish “Australia's first fully functioning demonstration center” in Melbourne. The facility will allow key decision makers to explore the capabilities and benefits of AMRs firsthand in a risk-free experience, it said.
ForwardX continues global expansion
ForwardX Robotics said it can help businesses improve efficiency and reduce costs within their supply chain operations. The Beijing-based company's team includes more than 250 computer vision scientists and robotics specialists.
The company said its global customers include DHL, TCL, and Uniqlo, and more than 3,000 of its AMRs are operating across four continents. ForwardX announced expanded U.S. operations last year and has opened offices in San Diego and Phoenix.
Yaxin Guan, chief operations officer at ForwardX, spoke with Robotics 24/7 about the company's global growth.
How is ForwardX different from other AMR providers?
Guan: Our founders came from an autonomous vehicle background and then wanted to focus on indoor applications in the warehouse. ForwardX's team has expertise in deep learning and sensor fusion.
We're also different in that our autonomous forklifts work with our AMRs. Case picking and palletization are all managed under our own fleet management software.
Where else is the company expanding?
Guan: We already have three sites up in Japan and are looking at Europe and South Korea. Most of our customers are already global entities. ForwardX is working with Walmart China, helping prepare orders for delivery within 42 hours.
Post-COVID, we're seeing more “buy online, pick up in store,” shifting distribution. Some operators are looking to turn stores into large warehouses, increasing efficiency without increasing staff. We're expanding in the U.S. to address widespread labor shortages.
What mobile robots has ForwardX displayed at recent trade shows?
Guan: At ProMat, we showed three types of AMRs. The smaller Flex has capacity up to 661 lb. for piece picking.
The Max is a pallet-size AMR with 1,322-lb. capacity. Other robots can only handle small unit picking, but the majority of warehouses need case picking for things like food and beverage or electronics.
The heavy-duty Lynx [launched at Automate 2023] is designed for automotive manufacturing, is configurable with other equipment, and has a 3,306-lb. payload.
We also offered live demonstrations of the Apex counterbalanced forklifts. Each pallet could have different SKUs, and the vision-based autonomous forklift can then pick it up.
IKEA uses our f(x) fleet manager for case and piece picking. It handles order groupings and dispatch for 40 AMRs in 300 shelves.
How interoperable are your systems with other robots, inventory software, and warehouse management systems (WMS)?
Guan: With sensor fusion, not only can our AMRs sense other robots or humans, but the neural network can also understand doors. If an AMR sees a lift truck, it knows when to stop.
Our robot-agnostic fleet manager integrates with WMS and TMS [transportation management systems] if customers have one, and they help us to dispatch orders of higher or lower priority.
Our fleet manager collaborates with human pickers and works like Uber—it tells pickers where to go next through PDAs [personal digital assistants].
How much localization have you had to do coming to the U.S. or Australia and New Zealand?
Guan: We found it interesting. In China, we have a lot of U.S. brands, and the warehouse aisles and layout are similar. The main thing to change is the language interface, which not only includes English, but also Spanish in the U.S.
We're moving to being a global solutions provider serving clients locally. Our demonstration centers will open in Melbourne and Chicago, and we'll have remote operations along with marketing and solutions and development engineers.
ForwardX demonstrated its product line at ProMat 2023.
About the Author
Eugene DemaitreEugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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ForwardX exhibited its robotics product line at ProMat 2023 as part of its global expansion.