6 River Systems is a fulfilment solutions provider. 6 River Systems creates a work environment that attracts, trains and retains warehouse associates, while software enables managers to adapt to changes in demand. Founded in 2015, 6 River Systems is based in Massachusetts, USA, and is owned by Shopify.
Simon Jones, Head of UK and Ireland at 6 River Systems, speaks to Warehouse & Logistics News.
What are your best-known products/solutions/services?
Our best-known product is our collaborative picking robot Chuck. Chuck uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to help warehouse associates work faster while making their jobs less physically demanding. Chuck leads associates through their work zones to help them minimise walking, stay on task and work more efficiently. Chuck is a warehouse automation solution that can be used in all picking, counting, replenishment and sorting tasks.
Which industry sectors are your customers in and which ones are growing fastest?
Our customers are in a range of sectors including e-commerce, retail and medical equipment. We work with both third party logistics providers and retailers. Our fastest-growing segments are fashion and leisure goods.
What are your most recent product innovations?
We have been focusing on ensuring that our system excels in European-style warehouses as well as those in the US. This includes operating efficiently in narrow aisles and on mezzanine floors.
What are the major trends and developments affecting your category and your customers, and how are you responding?
Labour shortages across the supply chain are hitting the headlines. Our solution is designed to optimise productivity whilst making the job of warehouse picking easier. This helps firms widen the potential labour pool and attract and retain staff in a competitive market.
We have seen how unforecasted demand has hit fulfilment over the last two years. It has highlighted the importance for customers to ensure they build in flexibility into their warehouse operations. Old-style fixed automation has often not proved able to adapt to changing market conditions.
Can you tell us about any recent customer contracts and how you helped the customer meet their challenges?
We have recently won a contract with Crocs and were able to set up a whole new e-commerce fulfilment operation for them in less than three months, helping them to meet a sharp increase in demand.
How does business in 2021 compare to previous years? What’s your strategy for succeeding in the current climate?
Demand has grown significantly during the pandemic, which has reinforced the need for businesses to react nimbly to changing market conditions and implement flexible, low-cost technology solutions against a backdrop of labour shortages.
As a result of these shortages, more firms are taking advantage of robotic automation options that can be deployed rapidly without causing disruption to the ongoing operation.
What’s the latest news from your company?
We recently conducted a survey showing that collaborative robots could help tackle a looming labour shortage in UK warehouses by addressing the barriers deterring people from working in the sector.
The survey by 6 River Systems suggested that people are put off working in warehouses and fulfilment centres by the physical nature of the work, which often involves pushing a heavy trolley for miles each day to pick or pack items.
When asked whether they would welcome collaborative picking robots with artificial intelligence and machine learning to make the work less physical and reduce the amount of walking required by directing the worker to the shortest routes, 35 per cent of those currently or previously working in a warehouse said that this would help. This was either because the job was physical, their work left them very tired or because their employer was short-staffed.
Can you tell us about any areas where you’re currently making technical advances?
Our Chuck collaborative picking robot is inherently safe and has CE certification. By deploying Chuck, which makes the job of picking far less physically demanding, our customers have significantly improved safety for their employees.
6 River Systems