Fox Robotics autonomous fork trucks

Fox Robotics closes a $20 million funding round

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Fox Robotics Autonomous Fork Trucks

Fox Robotics manufactures automated forklift trucks that unload tractor trailers independently in the warehouse. | Credit: Fox Robotics

Fox Robotics announced the closing of a $20 million financing round led by BMW i Ventures. Additional new investors include Zebra Technologies, Japan Airlines, Translink Innovation Fund and Foothill Ventures. Existing investors Menlo Ventures, ENIAC Ventures and SignalFire also participated in the round. Coinciding with the conclusion of the tour, Til Reuter, former CEO of KUKA, and David Fuller, former CTO of KUKA and current CEO of Artificial, will join the company as independent directors to the Board of Directors.

The company was founded in 2018 and has raised a total of $38 million to date (Source: Crunchbase).

The Holy Grail Problem

We often talk about “holy grail” applications in robotics – those applications that are difficult to solve, and therefore require additional invention, investment and time to mature. Tractor and trailer unloading is one of the holy grail applications. Many companies have previously tried to solve this problem and failed. The problem arises from the difficulty of organizing the successive unloading of trailers at the destination.

Fox Robotics has deployed its autonomous forklifts at dozens of customer locations today, including one of the world’s most demanding environments in the DHL supply chain. Another noteworthy competitor to robotics in this field is Boston Dynamics Stretch Robot that we covered earlier. Both solutions have a long trading path.

However, Fox Robotics and Boston Dynamics are designed for different types of dump scenarios. Fox Robotics solutions work with trailers where items are loaded onto pallets. Boston Dynamics’ solution works only with trailers that are loaded with boxes and not on pallets.

In North America it is difficult to operate automated forklifts to “stab” a pallet, since there is no standard pallet design in the industry. Companies in Europe have simplified the process by adopting a Standard Euro Billet Design. Euro pallet columns are interlocked with the ground, which makes it easy to get the pallet independently.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, supply chain resilience is critical,” said Peter Anderson Sprecher, Fox Robotics co-founder and CEO. “We have the ability to deploy our solutions to clients and get them up and running in less than one hour, which has been key to our success as it allows us to work closely with our clients/partners and learn quickly in a live production environment.”

DHL is one of the first customers

DHL Supply Chain, the leading global and North American contract logistics company within the Deutsche Post DHL Group, was the first Fox customer and rapidly deployed its technology across its warehouse network.

“In the DHL supply chain, the main focus has been an accelerated digitization strategy that seeks to nurture and deploy innovative technology solutions at scale. For this program to be successful, it is important that we create strategic partnerships with companies like Fox where we can collaborate to develop solutions that address the unique challenges of the industry. logistics,” he said. Sally Miller, CIO, DHL North America Supply Chain. “Over the past three years, we’ve worked closely with Fox testing and sharing operational knowledge that has resulted in a product that delivers real value to both our customers and warehouse partners.”

Fox designed their solution so that each forklift can be delivered and installed in less than an hour, compared to the weeks or months it takes typical automated guided vehicles to integrate.

“Fox is performing today on one of David’s major insights [Fuller] And I’ve always wanted to deliver with KUKA – automating the material handling job. At KUKA, we’ve really improved the production side with robots, and now Fox is well positioned to do the same with pallet movement,” added Til Reuter, KUKA’s former CEO, and incoming director of Fox’s board. Even when you see them running right in front of you.”

Autonomous vehicles are used commercially in warehouses, but they are not yet ready for public roads. Fox modifies an ordinary forklift with sensors and software for independent material handling with precise hopping and robust pallet picking and moving. Deep learning systems use onboard cameras and LiDAR sensors to recognize pallets, boxes and other obstacles in real time, allowing forklifts to retrieve pallets from trucks they’ve never seen before.

Zebra Technologies Senior Partner

Zebra Technologies, the global leader in enterprise automation solutions, is investing in Fox. The company purchased the vendor of independent mobile robots Get Robotics in 2021 for $290MBut Fetch doesn’t have a standalone forklift in its portfolio.

“Zebra Technologies has been an active investor and solution provider helping companies globally digitize and automate their supply chains and increase frontline workers,” said Tony Balczek, Managing Director, Zebra Ventures, Zebra Technologies. “Fox has demonstrated its ability to increase flexibility, security, and deliver a measurable return on investment, and we look forward to working together with Fox in this next phase of growth.”

Fox’s goal is to deploy its forklifts to warehouses and production environments around the world and to create new independent capabilities to expand use cases. It plans to increase production, invest in talent, and expand globally with new financial resources.

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