Cyber Monday 2019 is here! For this year’s cyber Monday I had the pleasure to visit Locus Robotics who is a driving force behind many companies increasing their capacity during the current busy season to meet demand. You may remember Locus from our very first episode with Bruce Welty who is one of the co-founders and also from part 4 of the ProMat series where I visited the Locus booth to get a demo and talk to CMO Karen Leavitt. On this episode I connected with Karen again to catch up with what Locus has been up to and get some more in depth insights into their robots as a service model and how they are helping companies attack this year’s peak season.
Robots as a Service
One of the most impressive things that I learned in my discussion with Karen was that Locus operates as a Robots as a Service business model. This means that an operation has a subscription to the robots. Due to this, it allows your operation to scale up and scale down on the amount of robots that you need in house at any time. You may remember Rufus from episode 25 who has a similar business model but for handheld RF devices. I believe that this model is a spectacular thing for our industry. It allows a lot more flexibility than having to purchase these products outright. If you think about those times like peak season and how you have to scale up, there is always the discussion of having to purchase more equipment. With the ability to call in additional LocusBots as needed you never have to worry about being over invested in equipment that sits for a large period of time. This allows you to increase capacity when needed and scale down capacity when needed as well helping you to become more efficienct. It also gives the benefit of being able to swap out when there might be some type of issue with the equipment. A really great benefit when looking at how to handle peak season and also getting your feet wet with robotics for a minimal investment.
Ease of Training and Use
The LocusBot helps to increase productivity dramatically and in most cases at least doubles it. This is a great improvement for your operation but especially critical during your peak season. Above I mentioned that their Robots as a Service model can help you scale up on LocusBots during your peak season but it is also incredibly important to touch on the ease of use of the platform that can help you quickly train new hires or temps. There are two factors that allow training to be incredibly easy with the LocusBot. The first, is the very simple user interface that is incredibly specific on where to pick, what to pick and where to place the pick on the robot. You can see this in the below video where I got a demo of the picking process with the LocusBot. The second factor is that the LocusBot is based on a zone pick operation meaning that pickers are only responsible to pick from certain zones. The picker only has to learn the locations in their zone and pick items from their zone. This helps to reduce the amount of time a new hire or temp takes to get accustomed to their area and what they need to pick.
You can also see how easily the interface is through how it reacts to an incorrect pick or a stock shortage. A demo of this is in the below video.
Along with my discussion with Karen, I was also given a tour of their facility. It is a remarkable facility. When you first enter it feels like you are right inside a distribution center as they have a demo area setup just a few feet away from the entrance. You are able to see the LocusBots actively working and going through their pick paths. Once you walk through the demo area you quickly understand that there is no harm in being close to the bots as they stop when they see you and navigate around you or other obstacles that are placed in their way.
At this facility they are also storing all of their surge bots as well as assembling units. The operation is really quite impressive and I was able to see how the bots themselves come together and are then tested. In this area they also have a custom print shop where they print skins for different LocusBots depending on what company they are going to allowing for a personalized touch.
I was also able to see the control center where they monitor different customer sites to see how LocusBots in the field are performing. What was most impressive about this was that you are able to see the map of the facility and exactly where the bots were in that facility. You could also see where the human pickers were based on their last interaction with a bot. These are the same screens that on site managers can view as well which gives incredible visibility to them.
Below are some photos from around the facility and of some LocusBot features.
The demo space when you walk in the entrance
From left to right are the first to current iterations of the LocusBot
The LocusBot will find its way back to this charging station when needed. Similar to a Roomba.
One of multiple ways the LocusBot determines its current location
The pick screen a picker will see when the LocusBot arrives in their zone
Listen to the episode below featuring Karen and let us know how you prepare for cyber week in the comments.
At the end of the episode I reference a LinkedIn post from Locus that asks the question of how many units will LocusBots help to pick this cyber week. My guess is 2.8 million but after talking to Karen I think it will be much higher. I encourage you to submit your guess in the comments. You can find the post below and also on LinkedIn here.
Locus Next Year?
Thinking that you might need LocusBots for your operations next peak season? With an easy and short implementation it is something that you should definitely look into. For more information on how companies have benefited from Locus you can view the Forrester Total Economic Impact Study below.