Taking a look at the current state of robotics

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I will never forget ProMat 2007. That’s the first industry event where I saw what we now call autonomous mobile robots (AMR); more importantly, these were robots targeting warehousing and distribution. The exhibitors were Kiva Systems, now part of Amazon; RMT Robotics, now part of Cimcorp; and Seegrid. Each had relatively small booths where their vehicles moved around the space on their own like over-sized toys. While ProMat 2005 was all about RFID, AMRs were the hit of the 2007 show. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

“In 2007, RMT Robotics, Kiva Systems and Seegrid introduced mobile robots to the industry. They were to AGVs what go-karts are to Formula 1 race cars: small vehicles designed to move small loads. But what really distinguished them is that they had unique guidance systems that didn’t require fixed paths, such as magnetic tape on the floor or reflectors and lasers, to find their way around the facility. Instead, they could learn to find their way to almost any spot in a facility. Like ATLs (autonomous truck loading vehicles), they were the buzz of the show, even if no one quite knew what to do with them.”

Well, someone knew what to do with them. In 2010, RMT was acquired by Cimcorp. Then, in 2012, Amazon broke the bank, paying nearly $800 million for Kiva Systems, what I described at the time as “dot.com money.”

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock

Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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