Warehouse Robots Help Deliver the Goods

French Startup Has Secured More Than a Dozen Customers in US
Exotec warehouse robots
Skypod robots are seen in the service room of Exotec's headquarters in Atlanta. (Arvin Temkar/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Tribune Content Agency)

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Dozens of robots scurry about a warehouse in Atlanta in a choreographed dance to organize products among rows of identical bins.

Each robot acts as a worker bee within a larger hive, scuttling along concrete floors and scaling racks of storage containers while its queen — a human supervisor — oversees the operation from afar.

The technology has led Exotec, a French robotics company, to quickly build out its Atlanta office, its North American headquarters. The company has about 60 employees in Atlanta and expects to nearly double that number by 2024 as it ships, services and oversees hundreds of autonomous robots across the country at a time when logistics and warehouse demand remains red-hot.

“As labor shortages and economic volatility persist, we continue to see a strong demand for powerful and elegant robotic solutions,” said Romain Moulin, CEO and co-founder of Exotec.

Founded in 2015, the startup set up shop in Atlanta last December. Moulin said the company was staking its growth in Atlanta. He said he expects 40% of his company’s global business to come from North America.

Exotec’s products center around its battery-powered Skypod robots, which can each deliver about 66 pounds of goods throughout a storage system that can include robotic pickers, conveyor belts and 39-foot-tall racks of bins. Andy Williams, executive vice president of sales and operations, said customers are able to customize how they want their system to look and operate.

“It is a very dense system, which adds to our high performance and flexibility,” he said.

The company has more than a dozen customers in the United States, with industries varying from retail to grocery stores to healthcare. Exotec’s headquarters in Atlanta, France and Japan monitor each region’s robots and offer assistance when a worker bee experiences a glitch or desyncs from its guiding network of sensors.

Storage units in Exotec's demonstration room

Storage units in Exotec's demonstration room. Autonomous robots move inventory around the warehouse. (Arvin Temkar/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Tribune Content Agency)

“Sometimes a robot gets lost — it happens to the best of us,” said Beau Martin, Exotec’s service center manager in Atlanta. “But we can often fix that remotely.”

While roughly 95% of technical issues are software issues that can be addressed from a control center, each customer gets an on-site supervisor for maintenance and technical support.

Exotec’s largest American customers have more than 100 robots at their disposal, while foreign users have operations surpassing 600 robots, Martin said. The company has more than 550 employees worldwide and works with multiple brands, including Gap, Geodis and Ariat.

Demonstration room at Exotec

Damian Nolazco oversees robotic operations in the demonstration room of Exotec's headquarters in Atlanta. (Arvin Temkar/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Tribune Content Agency)

The industrial market remains in high demand, especially in metro Atlanta. The region’s industrial vacancy rate was 4.5% at the end of March, a near-record low, according to real estate services firm CBRE. In addition, more than 37 million square feet of new industrial space was in the construction pipeline at the end of this year’s first quarter.

Exotec recently built its 5,000th robot and raised $335 million in Series D funding at a $2 billion evaluation. The company was named in the 2023 CNBC Disruptor 50 list among other startups expected to spark change within their respective industries.

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