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Warehouse automation provider receives $20m funding to build more robots for firms like Rakuten

Warehouse automation provider inVia Robotics has received $20m (£15.3m) worth of investment to boost its production of robots and fulfil the growing demand in the e-commerce sector

Robots have already helped a warehouse automation supplier to quadruple efficiency at depots for online stores like Rakuten and Hollar – now it has secured $20m (£15.3m) in funding to reach the next stage of its expansion.

inVia Robitics will use the money to boost commercial deployment of its Picker robots and cloud-based Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) management system for companies seeking warehouse automation solutions.

The Series B round was led by venture capitalists Point72 Ventures, Upfront Ventures and Embark Ventures, and brings the company’s total funding up to $29m (£22m) to date.

Founder and CEO of inVia Robotics Lior Elazary said: “To compete with behemoths like Amazon, warehouse automation is critical for e-commerce companies; but the overhead cost of purchasing a fleet of robots is often beyond reach.

“We’re excited to have this funding to fuel the growth of our subscription-based RaaS technology to optimise warehouse performance and increase productivity for our customers.”

inVia’s warehouse automation to ease the load on human employees

The inVia Picker robots will “completely eliminate” the need for human operators to walk warehouses, allowing them to focus on tasks like picking and quality control and reducing their exposure to dangerous operations like forklifts.

It is unclear whether this will lead to job losses at companies that use the robots, however.

They automate the storage and retrieval process, which also allows e-commerce warehouses to accommodate growing consumer demand.

The subscription-based model is available to any company of any size and is able to integrate with any existing layout and software.

More than 100 inVia Picker robots are in use at the moment providing warehouses with an efficiency increase of between 300% and 400% at companies including Holler and Rakuten Super Logistics, the distribution arm of e-commerce giant Rakuten.

With the new funding, the company plans to double its employee numbers by the close of 2018 and boost its production in Los Angeles, California.

Daniel Gwak, co-head of AI investments at Point72 Ventures, said: “E-commerce industry growth is driving the need for more warehouse automation to fulfill demand, and AI-driven robots can deliver that automation with the flexibility to scale across varied workflows.

“Our investment in inVia Robotics reflects our conviction in AI as a key enabler for the supply chain industry.”

John Santagate, research director for commercial service robotics at research and analysis firm IDC, added: “Funding in robotics has been incredible over the past several years, and for good reason.

“The growth in funding is a function of a market that has become accepting of the technology, a technology area that has matured to meet market demands, and vision of the future that must include flexible automation technology.

“Products must move faster and more efficiently through the warehouse today to keep up with consumer demand and autonomous mobile robots offer a cost-effective way to deploy automation to enable speed, efficiency, and flexibility.”