How Fox Robotics is meeting the soaring demand for warehouse automation July 7, 2023
Fox Robotics has built the “One Bot to Lift Them All,” writes Eric Peterson in a profile of the start-up for CompanyWeek. Now, with the growing need for automation in the warehousing sector, Fox is tackling how to scale production to meet mounting demand.
Filling a crucial gap in the market
Warehouse automation isn’t new, but while many autonomous solutions move products on the warehouse floor, Fox has taken on the challenge of automating operations in the “more crowded, more chaotic area” of the warehouse: The loading dock.
Automation at the loading dock fills a crucial gap in the market, but building a robot that can navigate in and out of trailers with real-time vision is no easy feat, Fox Robotics Co-Founder and CTO Peter Anderson-Sprecher tells Peterson. “You’re not operating in a flat world. [Trailers] come in all shapes and sizes and can be highly unlevel.”
Anderson-Sprecher credits recent advances in computer vision, as well as novel perception systems to identify pallets, with helping make the FoxBot Autonomous Forklift a reality.
Scaling the FoxBot manufacturing process
Fox Robotics CEO Marin Tchakarov emphasizes to Peterson that Fox Robotics is undoubtedly a software company, though the company currently manufactures the FoxBot in house. “We’re a software company disguised as a hardware company,” he explains.
The technology is so new that to create a full-stack solution for customers, all manufacturing and testing must be done at the Fox warehouse in Austin, TX. In the future, Fox will likely collaborate with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to handle the hardware and develop autonomous solutions or product lines, Tchakarov adds.
Additionally, Tchakarov’s goal is for the technology to be brand agnostic and compatible with various forklift models, not just the model we retrofit at our Austin warehouse.
A brand-agnostic tech stack aligns well with Fox’s agnostic business model. To further support growth and scalability, Fox Robotics allows customers to purchase the robots with a maintenance contract and software license or lease the robots through a Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) model, depending on their needs.
Meeting Soaring Demand
For Fox Robotics, business is booming thanks to persisting labor shortages, Tchakarov notes. Automation is “the evolution of human resources vis-a-vis technology,” he adds, meaning the demand for autonomous solutions globally is high—and growing.
Though the FoxBot was the first autonomous unloading forklift to market, Fox Robotics doesn’t aim to expand the FoxBot’s use to automate all pallet movement within the warehouse. Instead, Tchakarov recognizes the immense market potential in owning all autonomous processes at the warehouse dock. After all, automating the shipping and receiving dock is a $62 billion-plus market in North America alone.
Looking further ahead, Tchakarov sees an opportunity for Fox to capture the global market, which mirrors the North American market in terms of pain points and demand. Additionally, Tchakarov says the startup is looking at adjacent verticals, like manufacturing, to capitalize on the vast opportunities beyond 3PL and CPG companies.
However, soaring demand comes with its own set of challenges. Tchakarov acknowledges the need to hire and retain talented individuals to support the company’s growth. “I’d like to clone the team,” he tells Peterson, not only to keep up with Fox’s 50% year-over-year growth, but also to aid in attracting capital.