Ocado to Acquire Fulfilment Robotics Provider 6 River Systems From Shopify

6 River Systems' Chuck mobile robots are already assisting human pickers for 70 companies worldwide.


6 River Systems makes the Chuck collaborative mobile robots.
Ocado Group said it plans to acquire collaborative mobile robot provider 6 River Systems from Shopify, which is also selling its logistics unit, as the e-commerce industry shifts.

Ocado Group PLC today announced that it has agreed to acquire mobile robot provider 6 River Systems LLC from Shopify Inc. The companies did not disclose the financial terms.

“We are delighted to welcome new colleagues to the Ocado family,” said James Matthews, CEO of Ocado Technology, in a brief press release. “6 River Systems brings exciting new IP and possibilities to the wider Ocado technology estate, as well as valuable commercial and R&D expertise in non-grocery retail segments.”

Hatfield, U.K.-based Ocado Group provides e-commerce order-fulfilment systems to large grocery retailers worldwide. For the past two decades, the company said it has developed robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, simulation, forecasting, and edge intelligence technologies.

Ocado Group holds a 50% share of Ocado Retail Ltd. in the U.K. in a joint venture with Marks & Spencer, and it acquired materials handling robot startup Myrmex Inc. for €10.2 miliion ($11.26 million U.S.) last year.

Shopify to also shed logistics unit

Omnichannel retail provider Shopify acquired 6 River Systems in 2019 for $450 million. The Ottowa, Ontario-based company today announced that it is reducing its workforce by 20% and selling its logistics unit as it refocuses its mission.

“We are changing the shape of Shopify significantly today to pay unshared attention to our mission,” posted Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify. There are a number of consequences to this, and I don’t want to bury the lede: after today Shopify will be smaller by about 20% and Flexport will buy Shopify Logistics; this means some of you will leave Shopify today. I recognize the crushing impact this decision has on some of you, and did not make this decision lightly.”

While e-commerce spending as a share of total consumer spending rose from 10.3% in 2019 to 14.9% at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it fell to 12.2% in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund. As a result, both online retailers and robotics suppliers have had to diversify income sources.

6 River Systems welcomes new owner Ocado

Founded in 2015, 6 River Systems (6RS) has developed the Chuck autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that work with human pickers in warehouses. The Waltham, Mass.-based company provides its collaborative AMRs and software to the logistics and non-grocery retail sectors.

“Ocado has been delivering innovative solutions for over two decades and shares 6RS’s passion for our industry and customers,” stated 6 River Systems. “With over 2,500 technologists dedicated to designing and delivering unique fulfillment solutions to some of the world’s leading retailers, Ocado Group is a perfect home for the next phase of our evolution.

“This partnership enables 6 River Systems to combine our products and services with Ocado’s operations, while also allowing us to focus on building and improving our Chuck-based offerings in use in over 100 warehouses by over 70 customers around the world,” the company added.

6 River Systems recently released a mobile fulfillment app to enable associates to pick items even without a Chuck robot.

In this demonstration video, we will walk through how to process returns and case replenishment with the 6 River Systems' autonomous mobile robot, Chuck. With system directed workflows, Chuck will optimize the path to the returns location, minimizing walking time and increasing productivity. Chuck directs associates through the entire returns or case replenishment process to increase accuracy and throughput.

About the Author

Eugene Demaitre's avatar
Eugene Demaitre
Eugene Demaitre was 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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6 River Systems makes the Chuck collaborative mobile robots.

Robot Technologies