Robotic fulfillment vendor Kindred Inc. says the clothing retailer Gap Inc. has purchased 73 of its automated piece-picking robots in an effort to meet increasing demand for online orders and employee safety due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The deal boosts Gap’s fleet of Kindred bots to 106, following a pilot program launched in 2017 where Gap used Kindred’s “Sort” robotic piece-picking systems for secondary sortation points at its distribution centers in Tennessee, California, and New York.
Kindred’s piece-picking robots use the company’s “AutoGrasp” robotics intelligence platform that identifies and singulates items to pick and place into an automated putwall. According to the company, AutoGrasp combines vision, grasping, and manipulation algorithms to move clothing, poly bags, and other small items. By using artificial intelligence (AI) and human-in-the-loop data methodology, the system continuously improves robot capabilities so that picking becomes smarter, faster, and more accurate over time.
Statistics from the pilot show that Gap used the units to sort more than 13 million units of merchandise in the first quarter of 2020, running at an average sorting speed of 335 units per hour. Once the additional systems are deployed, Gap will have paired Sort robots with all the automated primary sortation systems in its distribution network, the company said.
“We’re pleased that our partnership with Kindred has grown from a test pilot to a full deployment of their Sort robots across our U.S. network – especially at a time when we’re trying to keep our employees safe,” Kevin Kuntz, senior vice president of Global Logistics Fulfillment at Gap, said in a release. “We look forward to working together with Kindred on cutting-edge automation.”
San Francisco-based Kindred has already deployed 20 of the new systems to Gap’s largest-volume distribution center in Columbus, Ohio, and 10 more to a DC near Nashville, Tennessee.
“Applying automation and artificial intelligence-based solutions to e-commerce logistics and fulfillment allows retailers to scale their operations predictability and efficiently,” said Pierre Lamond, Kindred’s chairman of the board and partner at Eclipse Ventures. “Furthermore, as we see in the current crisis, retailers with resilient operations outperform the competition in areas such as customer satisfaction, sales, and margins. We have digitized the commerce side of the retail equation, now we must modernize the rest of the value chain to meet increasing demand.”