Boxbot, a startup that pivoted from autonomous vehicle technology to automated parcel storage and retrieval for last-mile delivery applications, announced a $12 million Series A round that will help the company deploy its “three-dimensional conveyor belt” that handles sequenced sortation.
The round was led by Playground Global, with participation from Maersk Growth (which has also partnered with AS/RS provider Fabric), Toyota Ventures, Pear Ventures and Artiman Ventures, bringing total funding to $29.5 million. Richard Peretz, a partner at Playground Global and the retired CFO of UPS, will join the Boxbot board.
“With (founder and CEO Austin Oehlerking) and Boxbot, we saw a team that used their knowledge and relationships to identify an opportunity at the last mile where there was technology that could solve a real problem,” Peretz said. “Boxbot can solve an expensive manual process for parcel companies through an automated solution that solves for the existing infrastructure of hundreds of existing warehouses.”
Oehlerking said his firm’s technology differs from traditional goods-to-person automated storage and retrieval (AS/RS) providers like AutoStore, Opex and Fabric in that it’s designed to process parcels, not bins with multiple items for picking, packing and shipping. Storage density is maximized by dynamically adapting the space required for each payload in real time.
“We have called our solution a three-dimensional conveyor belt because it is the only product that can rapidly store and retrieve a diverse set of parcel types and sizes,” Oehlerking said. “It does so without any human interaction while using a very small amount of floor space by ‘Tetris-ing’ the packages together.”
In Boxbot’s system, parcels arrive via conveyor and are placed on different sized trays, then sorted and stored in the cube according to size. “Functionally, holding one package per tray enables our system to perform sequenced sortation in a last-mile delivery operation, which enables rapid vehicle loading and wave-based dispatch,” Oehlerking said. “We can also unlock merge-in-transit operations and improve the delivery density of last-mile routes.”
Boxbot spent the last couple years developing its core AS/RS platform, piloting the technology with customers in different use cases and environments.
“The same base modules can be deployed in last-mile delivery centers, bonded storage warehouses for customs control and customer pickup locations,” Oehlerking said. “Our roadmap for the next year includes deploying production-level systems into real-world operating environments across each of these applications, at sites already identified. From there, we plan to scale across multiple facilities and additional customers.”
He said Boxbot is engaged with “several leading companies in the parcel delivery industry,” and is running pilots in preparation for larger-scale deployments next year. The company has 20 employees and has recruited senior-level engineers from places like Intrinsic, Plenty, Ripcord, Ready Robotics and Universal Robots since the round closed.