Online Grocer Ocado Acquires Robotics Companies To Drive Automation

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Ocado, a U.K.-based online grocery, is heightening its automation drive by acquiring two robotics companies.

Owning Kindred Systems of San Francisco and Haddington Dynamics of Las Vegas will help Ocado tackle “one of the world’s hardest challenges in robotics, the picking and packing of groceries,” the company said in a press release on Monday (Nov. 2).

“The robotic pick opportunity in online grocery is of huge value to us and our clients globally,” said Tim Steiner, Ocado CEO. Already, he said, Ocado has “made meaningful progress in developing the machine learning, computer vision and engineering systems required for the robotic picking.”

This has meant doubling “the pick and pack speeds” of robotic arms at five sites in the U.K. The release said the acquisition will enable Ocado to “accelerate the delivery of robotic picking” for its partners around the world and will boost Kindred’s growth with existing customers.

“The capability of handling 60,000-plus products in eCommerce grocery fulfilment is that ultimate nirvana,” said Marin Tchakarov, CEO of Kindred Systems. He said that the companies’ “joining forces together will effectively create the foundations for probably the best robotics team in the world.”

According to the companies, Ocado has agreed to buy Kindred Systems for $262 million in cash and Haddington Dynamics for $25 million in cash and shares.

The news release said that Kindred designs, supplies and services piece-picking robots for eCommerce and order fulfillment. Kindred’s “robotic picking solution is proven, currently live for customers within the general merchandise and logistics sectors. This represents a large and fast-growing new segment for Ocado,” the release said.

Monday’s announcement enhances Ocado Group’s existing capabilities, enabling it to “accelerate the delivery” of robotics for its partners around the world while supporting Kindred’s growth with its existing customers, the release said.

Ocado is embroiled in a patent lawsuit over robotically operated warehouse technology with AutoStore. That robotics company claims that Ocado, a customer since 2012, is using a storage system based on AutoStore’s setups.

Although Ocado only claims 1.7 percent of the British grocery market, it has used its robotic technology to spur partnership deals with supermarkets around the world. Ocado also benefited from the pandemic’s switch to digital shopping, and has seen its shares more than double this year. The company was founded in 2000 by three former Goldman Sachs bankers.

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