French robotics firm Exotec, which lists Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo as a major client, has raised $90 million in a Series C round to power its global growth in ecommerce fulfillment.
The funding round was led by London-based VC firm 83North, with participation from Dell Technologies Capital and existing investors Iris Capital and Breega. Exotec’s total funding raised to date is $111.2 million.
Exotec, founded in 2015, is built on a goods-to-person model with its Skypod bots which uses laser guidance to navigate a fulfillment center. They can handle both inbound storage and outbound order traffic, and fetch bins located as high as 36 feet up in a grid-like storage system. It can be used for both micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) handling e-grocery orders as well as in large ecommerce FCs.
Rudi Lueg, managing director of Exotec North America, said the ability of Skypods to fetch bins at any level at any time is what distinguishes it from similar goods-to-person robotic systems, whose robots work from the top of the grid to free up bins located in the levels below. The picking workstations are also part of the Exotec system, along with the software that optimizes the flow of bots and orders.
“Even if there’s only one Skypod in use, you don’t have to wait more than 90 seconds before the item shows up,” Lueg said. “The size of the system doesn’t matter, it’s very fast in terms of both put away and presenting items to a picker because of the continuous flow through the pick station. Other systems don’t allow random access to the entire inventory.”
Lueg said all the motors, sensors and photo eyes are in the robots, with none in the rack system like traditional automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) that move totes on conveyors, shuttles and lifts. The bots can move at 800 feet per minute on the ground and 400 feet per minute vertically.
Lueg said the funding will be used to grow the company in the U.S., Germany, the UK and Canada, and also for R&D. “We’ve been very successful in France, Belgium, Italy and Spain,” he said.
Exotec has contract with three midsized system integrators in the U.S., with a demonstration system set to go live soon in Cincinnati. “They’re buying systems to deploy in existing accounts,” Lueg said.