Founded in Waltham, Mass. in 2015, 6 River Systems is a leading collaborative mobile robotics fulfilment solution and part of global commerce company Shopify. Founders Jerome Dubois and Rylan Hamilton were previously executives at Kiva Systems (now Amazon Robotics). The 6 River Systems solution is operating in more than 20 facilities in the U.S., Canada and Europe, fulfilling millions of units each week for companies including Lockheed Martin, CSAT Solutions, ACT Fulfillment, DHL, XPO Logistics, and Office Depot. To learn more, visit www.6river.com.
Fergal Glynn, VP of Marketing, at 6 River Systems, Inc. speaks to Warehouse & Logistics News.
What are your best-known products/solutions/services?
We are best known for “Chuck” – an automated mobile robot. Powered by AI, Chuck increases pick rates by 2-3X, eliminates “long walks,” requires minimal training and is quickly implemented with no additional infrastructure.
We also recently introduced an all-in-one sorting solution, Mobile Sort, which partners with associates and Chuck to sort batches into discrete orders. It is flexible by design and easy to implement, allowing it to be moved throughout a warehouse or implemented during peak seasons.
Which industry sectors are your customers in and which ones are growing fastest?
We support distribution warehouses, fulfillment centers, and 3PLs across many different sectors. Our fastest growing sector is with DCs fulfilling e-commerce orders. Consumers expect same-day and next-day shipping and our solutions enable DCs to meet those expectations.
What are your most recent product innovations?
We recently launched two products: Fast Lane and Packout.
Fast Lane, launched in partnership with Soft Robotics, fully automates high-velocity SKU fulfillment. It seamlessly merges into the manual picking process with Chuck without requiring major changes to infrastructure.
Packout optimizes order packing to achieve the greatest pick-to-pack throughput possible. We also partnered with Accutech Packaging to integrate auto-bagging with Packout.
What are the major trends and developments affecting your category and your customers, and how are you responding?
Our customers face staffing issues and the rising expectation for fast order fulfillment.
Warehouse technology should empower associates. Chuck is an autonomous vehicle, it removes the manual pushing and long walks of traditional pick-to-cart work. Chuck removes language barriers by guiding associates to bins using lights and symbols. Chuck increases safety in the warehouse, significantly reducing work injuries.
Our continued growth in the United States, Canada and Europe gives us the opportunity to help global brands create a frictionless fulfillment process.
Can you tell us about any recent customer contracts and how you helped the customer meet their challenges?
We doubled our deployed robots this year, adding new sites with Legend Valve, Bodybuilding.com, Distribution Management and many others. We expanded our presence in the UK, including a DC for XPO Logistics in England.
One of our customers, ACT Fulfillment, tripled picking rates and decreased in-aisle walking by 50% in just three months. They decreased picking errors by 90% and saw a significant increase in productivity and employee morale. MD Logistics increased picking efficiency from an average of 55 LPH to around 70 on a daily basis.
How does business in 2019 compare to previous years? What’s your strategy for succeeding in the current climate?
In October 2019 we were acquired by Shopify, and we are now part of the Shopify Fulfillment Network. Shopify CEO, Tobi Lutke recently affirmed, “We will continue to operate, build and sell the 6 River Systems solution.” We look forward to an exciting 2020 as we continue to be a leader in our space.
What’s the latest news from your company?
We are very proud of our customers’ performance during the peak holiday season. We prepared with them for months in advance and staffed sites with 6RS engineers and managers throughout peak to assist with challenges as they arose.
60% of our customer sites experienced a holiday peak in 2019, some fulfilling volumes 5x their daily average. Many sites rented Chucks for peak, doubling the size of their fleets. We designed solutions to increase throughput: utilizing Mobile Sort walls and Packout stations with autobaggers to support high-volume sites utilizing batch picking strategies. Our sites shipped orders to all 50 States and 10 Canadian Provinces.
Can you tell us about any areas where you’re currently making technical advances?
The safety of our products is our number-one priority. Chuck is ANSI/ITSDF B56.5 and CE certified.
We invest significantly in our AI and Machine Learning to ensure products are safe. We want employees to feel safe working with Chucks. For example, a Chuck is programmed to move differently when near a box compared to a human.
Are you investing in staff training and skills development?
Our staff are our most important asset. We provide a comprehensive corporate and function onboarding program for new hires. We offer a manager training program to ensure that our staff feel comfortable and confident as they progress into leadership and mentor roles. We encourage staff to attend industry conferences and join professional organizations like MHI and CSCMP.
A highlight of the year is our “Hydropower” hackathon where employees spend 24 hours working on any project they believe will help the organization. This enables employees to express creative thinking, develop new skill sets, and collaborate across teams to find impactful solutions.
Are you taking part in any major trade shows? Can you tell us what you’ll be exhibiting there?
We’ll be at LogiMat (Halle 1 K37) and 3PL & Supply Chain Summit: Europe. We’ll run a “Pick to Win” competition where attendees can pick with Chuck. We’ll also exhibit our full end-to-end solution. We invite everyone to stop by!
6 River Systems, Inc.