Warehouse automation may not be the most glamorous of fields, and its luminaries will likely never receive widespread acclaim. So the news that three innovators in the sector received some national recognition last month seemed particularly worthy of note.
In January, the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) announced its 2020 inductees—a group of 22 innovators whose inventions range from the hard hat to the sports bra to (wait for it) mobile robots for order fulfillment. The inventors honored for their work in mobile robotics were Mick Mountz, Peter Wurman, and Raffaello D'Andreas, the co-founders of Kiva Systems, a company known for its pioneering work in goods-to-person order fulfillment. In a release, NIHF described the Kiva technology as "a revolutionary warehouse order-fulfillment system that uses mobile robots and control software to bring inventory shelves to workers, dramatically improving all aspects of fulfillment operations."
Kiva Systems was acquired in 2012 by e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc., which promptly took the robotic technology private (and later rebranded it as Amazon Robotics). Although it no longer exists as a separate company, Kiva's pioneering approach inspired many other tech startups to launch their own robotic fulfillment systems, creating a whole new logistics tech market sector.
NIHF will honor the 2020 inductees at a May 7 ceremony in Washington, D.C. The ceremony will cap a two-day celebration of innovation organized by the Alexandria, Virginia-based nonprofit in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.