This article is part of the Logistics of the Future series looking at the best logistics startups today.
Robots, automation, computation, wearables: warehouses are no longer big storage spaces. Technology has invaded the warehouse to significantly improve efficiency and speed, and it was only a matter of time. Think about it: online spending is up 15.9 percent year-on-year. That is many more orders and fulfilments, and gigantic operations such as Amazon or DHL would simply not be possible without smart, tech-based techniques.
Warehousing is the act of storing goods that will be sold or distributed later, and several major elements of this important supply chain step can be disrupted by technology. The first obviously, is robotics. Along with humans, it is also robots roaming around distribution and fulfillment centers. Including automated conveyors and equipment that assists staff with faster fulfillment processes, robotics is fundamentally changing the way warehouses operate. The second big element is how the warehouse space is distributed – it should be easy for everyone to access it and this is where on-demand warehousing comes into play.
However, there are many more ways technology can improve the operations in warehouses. Machine vision, wearables, and smart platforms can enhance the work experience while also bringing safety and helping employees to take more proactive and data-driven actions.
Best Warehousing Startups
The following are some of the best and brightest warehousing startups that are focusing on efficiency, technology, and automation:
- 6 River Systems
- Locus Robotics
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Think of Seegrid as an Uber fleet within any factory or warehouse – except for the fact that they are driverless vehicles, operated entirely by machine vision and self-driving technologies. The company out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is in the business of producing cars which see the world just like humans do. The eyes of each vehicle capture and build a detailed, 360-degree map of the world around them.
Seegrid vehicles, which have hundreds of thousands of driverless miles under their belt, are infrastructure-free vision guided vehicles with fleet management software for a complete connected solution. In September, the company debuted a new driverless vehicle that can drive in reverse, hitch to carts, pick up and drop off materials in a warehouse or factory setting automatically. In fact, the company’s tech has already gained the attention of General Motors, Whirlpool, Daimler and Jaguar.
Founders: Hans Moravec
Headquarters: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Learn More About Seegrid:
- Seegrid Launches New Self-Driving Vehicle, Data Analytics Platform – Robotics Business Revies
- Seegrid Announces 1 Million Accident-Free Miles for Its Self-Driving Vehicles – Modern Materials Handling
A simple, but a genius concept: Flexe is the marketplace for warehouse space. Think of it as an Airbnb for warehousing. The startup, born in Seattle, Washington, connects retailers and brands who need warehousing and fulfillment services with warehouse operators who have it. There are no long-term contracts, no fixed-fees, and no complicated technology integration – just space on-demand.
E-commerce continues to boom and Flexe caters to those businesses, both big and small, who simply want space as the need arises. The business counts hundreds of warehouse partners across the United States to list itself as one of the country’s most comprehensive network of on-demand warehouses. Business is dynamic, shouldn’t warehouses be as well?
Founders: Karl Siebrecht, Edmon Yue, Francis Duong
Headquarters: Seattle, Washington.
Learn More About Flexe:
- Seattle startup Flexe opens the doors to on-demand warehousing – American Journal of Transportation
- Innovator of the Year: Flexe – Supply Chain Dive
The unfortunate truth about working in a warehouse is the physicality of the labor. Picking and sorting packages, all day and every day, is inherently manual work. That is where Kinetic comes in. The startup is producing wearable technology that reduces workplace injuries for the industrial workforce. Their solution is to equip employees with industrial wearables which automatically detects unsafe postures and provides workers with feedback whenever a high-risk motion occurs. Over time, workers can use the tech to improve their biomechanics, resulting in less long-term injuries and an overall improvement to well-being.
The tech contributes to an overall healthier, and happier, workplace. Safety managers can view risk data on the Kinetic dashboard, which can be used to make targeted changes to workplace processes and further reduce injury risks.
Founders: Aditya Bansal, Haytham Elhawary
Headquarters: New York Area, U.S
Learn More About Kinetic:
- Kinetic Uses A.I. To Monitor Workplace Movement – But It Isn’t Aiming To Be Big Brother – Forbes
- Kinetic raises $4.5M to reduce workplace injuries for the industrial workforce – PR NewsWire
Leveraging new technologies is what warehousing startups are all about and one of the outstanding examples of such is Fizyr. The deep tech company, based in RoboValley Delft, enables the automation of human tasks in logistics by using AI. Their deep learning algorithm adds a layer of understanding, bringing autonomous decision-making to processes that involve identifying, quality control, counting, picking and manipulating.
Any pile of varied items or fully unknown parcels can be sorted using Fizyr’s combination of machine vision and world-class algorithms. The software can almost instantaneously perform quality control for applications in online retail, warehousing, logistics and parcel services. In October 2018, the company was named StartUp Innovation of the Year at PostalPitch’s annual competition.
Chief executive officer: Herbert ten Have
Headquarters: Delft, Netherlands.
Learn More About Fizyr:
- Fizyr wins startup innovation at this year’s PostalPitch Startup Competition – Postal and Parcel Technology International
- Logistics Startup of the Month: Fizyr – Transmetrics Blog
The robots aren’t coming, the robots are here. GreyOrange is a multinational technology company that designs, manufactures and deploys advanced robotics systems for supply chain automation in distribution and fulfillment centers. The Singaporean startup combines expertise in industrial hardware and enterprise software to deliver AI-powered robotics solutions across industries and geographies. The aim? To increase efficiency multi-fold.
The company counts more than 450 people as team members, and already has a number of warehouse solutions on the market. These include Butler, a goods-to-person device for inventory storage, picking and order consolidation, as well as and Linear Sorter, a modular system for automating sorting processes. These robots have been deployed in customer sites in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Founders: Akash Gupta, Samay Kohli, Wolfgang Hoeltgen
Learn More About GreyOrange:
- This company makes warehouse robots named Pickpal and the Butler to help retailers compete with Amazon – CNBC
- GreyOrange Prepares for the Holidays with New Sorters Across Asia – Post & Parcel
The times when only experts could handle supply chain analytics are over: welcome to the digital revolution with Log-hub. Based in Zug, Switzerland, Log-hub is a global team of passionate logistics experts with the aim of making supply chain planning as easy and efficient as possible. How? First, Log-hub offers a global on-demand warehouse marketplace which operates across 38 countries and offers more than 1 million pallet places. This marketplace matches businesses seeking flexible space and warehouse providers offering available capacity and related services.
Furthermore, Log-hub embeds the sophisticated technology of supply chain management with easy app workflows in its innovative app portfolio – From network design and transport optimization to advanced forecasting.
Founders: Marianus Papiernik, Dirk Reich
Headquarters: Zug, Switzerland
Learn More About Log-hub:
- Log-hub and 3SC Combine to Realise Cost Savings from New Indian Tax Regime – The Loadstar
- Logistics Startup of the Month: Log-hub – Transmetrics Blog
It’s pretty important to know the shape and size of packages in any warehouse, and this is where QubeVu comes in. The business has built its reputation over more than 10 years as one of the leaders in dimensioning. Their patented 3D technology offers the world’s fastest dimensioning for use in a range of situations, including inbound, outbound, warehouse and conveyable freight.
With an industry shift towards dimensional ratings, the technology put forward by QubeVu will help to offset any impacts. The team is also signaling new solutions on the horizon to include in-motion and “panopticon” technologies that integrate machine learning, blockchain, Internet of Things and AI to create truly disruptive solutions.
Founders: Michael Murphy, Elmar Toime
Headquarters: Fairfax, Virginia
Learn More About QubeVu:
- How to save cargo space and increase efficiency with dimensioning – JOC.com
- Cubing and Weighing Equipment: Measure Up – Modern Materials Handling
6 River Systems
Meet Chuck: a collaborative mobile robot changing the way things move inside the warehouse. The design from 6 River Systems, based out of Boston, uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to help your (human) employees work faster. Chuck is built from the same technology and sensors as autonomous vehicles and leads other employees through their work zones to help them minimize walking, stay on task and work more efficiently.
Chuck is part of the larger movement towards autonomous robots inside logistics warehouses, with the robot integrated into any warehouse management system to pick, count, replenish and sort – elements of warehouse work which could only be done manually in the past. Robots like Chuck are already here – and here to stay.
Company: 6 River Systems
Founders: Christopher Cacioppo, Jerome Dubois, Rylan Hamilton
Headquarters: Boston, U.S
Learn More About 6 River Systems:
- 6 River Systems Raises $25 Million for Warehouse Robots – TechCrunch
- 6 River Systems Demonstrates Collaborative Robotics Solution – Logistics Viewpoints
It isn’t only robots who are getting the opportunity to see the world like never before – but human employees too. Atheer is a startup which offers workers the opportunity to see the world around them with brand new eyes through Augmented Interactive Reality. The Californian technology company offers glasses and other solutions which allow employees to interact with their workplace in a digital, responsive way. The tech has been proven to improve productivity across manufacturing, retail, medical, energy, and field services.
One example is the use of augmented reality in the car industry. The company realized that across the manufacturing, service and operations elements of the automotive sector, AR could make a difference by helping reduce downtime, cut “time to repair” and improve overall safety and efficiency in operations. Porsche Cars North America integrated the Atheer solution into their operations – and reported that service resolution times were cut by 40 percent.
Founders: Soulaiman Itani
Headquarters: Mountain View, California
Learn More About Atheer:
- Atheer brings enterprise AR platform to Toshiba smart glasses – Internet of Business
- Atheer Announces the World’s First Augmented Reality Management Platform, Creating New Enterprise Software Category – PR Newswire
Wouldn’t it be handy if all available warehousing space were searchable in one place? This is what Stord aims to do – breaking down free warehousing space based on industry and location across the United States in one dashboard. Their solution is two-fold: to bring technology and new revenue opportunities to local warehouse partners and small business operators that allow them to grow their businesses.
The Stord solution uses proprietary technology to bind together a network of independent, third-party warehouses that handle product for any customer. The startup, out of Atlanta, Georgia, has run full-scale distribution and pilots for Fortune 1000 clients with a mission to build a global distribution network that brings cost savings and technology to the $163 billion warehousing industry.
Founders: Jacob Boudreau, Sean Henry
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
Learn More About Stord:
- A Startup, Stord, Is Building An On-Demand Warehouse Service For Companies Competing With Amazon – Forbes
- On-demand warehousing startup Stord provides improved supply chain optimization – FreightWaves
Scandit wants to present a new reality for workers of modern enterprises – an augmented reality. The Swiss startup is in the business of integrating real-time data, which is captured from barcodes, text, objects and other visual identifiers, to inform employees via headsets. The tech seeks to change the way enterprises and customers change how they interact with everyday objects to augment the physical world including the world of warehousing.
Founded in 2009 by a group of researchers from MIT, ETH Zurich, and IBM Research, Scandit offers a cloud-based enterprise mobility and data capture platform for smart devices built on proprietary computer vision, machine learning and augmented reality.
Founders: Christian Floerkemeier, Christof Roduner, Samuel Mueller
Headquarters: Zurich, Switzerland
Learn More About Scandit:
- Scandit Report Explores AR And Computer Vision Benefits For Post And Parcel Providers – VR Focus
- GV leads $30 million investment in Scandit to bring AR and computer vision to mobile barcode scanning – VentureBeat
It’s picking – but with more robots. The team at Locus Robotics are in the business of creating autonomous products which make life easier for their human counterparts in the warehouse. Their multi-bot picking system triples worker efficiency simply by letting them pick faster and more accurately.
The principal product from the Massachusetts startup is the LocusBot. These robots work collaboratively and safely alongside workers to cut down their walking within the warehouse. Since LocusBots transport the items, workers don’t have to push carts or carry bins, making them more productive and less fatigued.
Company: Locus Robotics
Founders: Bruce Welty
Headquarters: Wilmington, Massachusetts
Learn More About Locus Robotics:
- Locus Robotics Named Leading Warehouse Robotics Company for 3rd Consecutive Year – PR Newswire
- Locus Robotics releases Third Generation of Its Advanced Navigation System – Robotics and Automation News
Do you know any other outstanding Warehousing Startups that did not make it to the article? Let us know in the comments!