November 10, 2011
Don’t miss the video.
A “startup kit” of robots would cost $1 million to $2 million, and a large warehouse operation with 1,000 robots costs $15 million to $20 million. Setting up the software and grid systems inside the warehouse requires six months of planning, simulated modeling and testing. Then logistics managers must be trained before handing them the keys to the operation.
The first few customers — including Staples– moved cautiously, setting aside a space the size of a basketball court for Kiva robots. Eventually, they moved to full-scale operations with hundreds of robots. “Like any technology, there were bugs, but we never had a crisis,” says Ralph of Staples, which has 1,000 robots working at two of its warehouses.
Today, Kiva Systems is profitable. Backed by $33 million from investors, the Boston company has 240 employees, a list of prominent customers and revenue of more than $100 million, according to Mountz. He says sales grew 130% last year, and that Kiva is hiring 20 to 30 people each quarter to keep up with demand.
Of course, the infiltration of robots translates to fewer new warehouse jobs.