I’ve spent a good bit of time talking about inventory on these pages. I’m always happy to spend a couple of paragraphs discussing far and away my least favorite part of working retail. The job is, in essence, data collection. As such, it’s a prime candidate for automation — and there are no shortage of startups vying for a space in that conversation.
U.K.-based Dexory today announced plans to expand into the North American market. When I spoke with the startup last year at a robotics event in Chicago, their hardware solution piqued my interest. There is, after all, a big difference between retail and warehouse inventory (thankfully, I’ve never had to do the latter), including — perhaps most importantly — height.
Warehouses stack things vertically — something that is constrained by the height of the average consumer in the front of house. (Unless, of course, you are Costco and can get away with whatever you want because of $1.50 hot dogs.) In the warehouse or fulfillment center, however, things are really only limited by how high up your forklift can reach.
This issue has led to a range of different solutions. A number of robotics startups, for instance, are better than indoor drones and are the key to inventorying high shelves. On the other end of the spectrum are automated storage and retrieval systems — effectively robotic shelving systems that are unwieldy and expensive.
Front of house systems like Simbe, which have been cruising around supermarkets and the like for some time, simply can’t reach. In a lot of ways, DexoryView shares more common DNA than the other solutions. It uses scanning to build a 3D model of the shelving units in front of it. For higher shelves, a large, collapsing tower emerges from the top.
I suspect this is the kind of solution a lot of startups wrote off over feelings of it being altogether unwieldy. The firm has already found success in its native U.K. In June, it announced a $19 million Series A to bring the robot to the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands.
“Following successful customer deployments in Europe, we have seen an increased demand from the North American market,” co-founder and CEO Andrei Danescu says. “Organizations across the globe are getting to grips with the challenging demands of modern supply chains, and DexoryView allows businesses to gain rapid insights into their operations and make informed decisions that drive better efficiencies across their businesses.”
Former Zebra Technologies director of robotics product management Todd Boone will be heading up the efforts on this continent.