SVT Robotics expands SOFTBOT, offers single dashboard to monitor warehouse systems

SOFTBOT provides system-neutral alerts. Source: SVT Robotics
SOFTBOT provides alerts and orchestration across technologies. Source: SVT Robotics

SVT Robotics Inc. today announced that it has expanded its SOFTBOT Platform to include real-time monitoring capabilities. The software for integrating, monitoring, and scaling automation now includes a single dashboard for maximizing uptime across systems.

“Our customers know how important it is to reduce downtime when something goes wrong,” said A.K. Schultz, co-founder and CEO of SVT Robotics, in a release. “By automatically detecting issues and alerting individuals in real time, the SOFTBOT Platform helps teams quickly identify the root cause of a system failure — which is critical to maximizing uptime and minimizing the financial impact of an incident.”

Such visibility traditionally required custom coding and integration, but SOFTBOT now provides insights for automated warehouse operators to take immediate actions, such as reallocating labor or optimizing facility operations, said SVT Robotics. The technology-agnostic platform also provides data to other stakeholders to support improved resource planning, said the Norfolk, Va.-based company.

“IT teams tell us that they lack the resources and visibility to onboard, support, and maintain new technologies at the rate their businesses demand,” said Nick Leonard, senior vice president of products at SVT Robotics. “The enhanced SOFTBOT Platform changes the game for our customers, giving them a way to proactively support systems with multi-site monitoring and real-time alerting.”

SOFTBOT uses data for real-time management

Even after an automated system goes live, operators need tools to troubleshoot between the warehouse management system (WMS), robots, and IT infrastructure such as single sign-on security, said SVT Robotics. Businesses typically spend an average of 45 minutes triaging, diagnosing, and resolving an incident, resulting in both initial downtime and a recovery backlog for the facility, it said.

SOFTBOT provides prebuilt, reusable and self-documenting integrations to accelerate automation deployment and troubleshooting, the company claimed.

AK Schultz, SVT Robotics
A.K. Schultz, SVT Robotics

With the right data, the platform can provide alerts and significantly reduce the time to diagnose and fix problems, Schultz told Mobile Robot Guide. He cited the example of an airport that had suffered a sorter error. By the time the operator learned of the failure, it had already been identified and recovered.

“I think one of the biggest pain points is that everyone is gathering data and dumping it into these big data lakes, but they’re largely untouched,” asserted Schultz. “It just sits there, polluting the world with energy usage. Most companies get nothing out of it because the data is not normalized. It’s a chore to crawl through the data. Some will say that AI is going to solve that, but the problem with that is hallucinations.”

“We actually split our data, pushing it to two places — a real-time data highway, if you will, and a persistent layer where the data is kept and we can push it off to repositories and the like,” he said. “The capability to handle both real-time data as well as historical usage is a pretty exciting feature.”

“If you think about robots as your limbs and hands, you need a central nervous system,” Schultz explained. “Being able to transmit that data and also have veracity and insight … we’re excited about enabling AI. AI is on everyone’s radar, and there’s a need for it to be specialized and applied to existing and emerging data sets. Ultimately, good data is the basis for not just AI, but also simulation and more traditional software as well.”

SVT Robotics works with its customers to determine their connectivity, data, and orchestration needs, he said. SOFTBOT takes data from WMSes and equipment for true multi-agent orchestration, Schultz said.

“I was with the CIO of a large customer, who was a very technical guy,” recalled Schultz. “He wanted to see the orchestration for something like a replenishment scenario. I said, ‘Let’s ditch the PowerPoint slides, and let’s do the logic.’ In the course of 10 minutes, we had an 80% buildout, and the only thing really left was the IP address. He was just stoked, and it was fun to watch, because this is an Industry 4.0 thing that was promised a long time ago.”

Warehouses want automation, flexibility, says Schultz

While inflationary pressures are making chief financial officers more cautious about investing capital in robotics, adoption will increase because of ongoing labor shortages, noted Schultz.

“I talked with one 3PL [third-party logistics provider] that said 60% of its labor was involved with case picking,” he said. “That’s not each-picking labor, and that was mind-blowing. There isn’t even a clear leader in that space right now.”

“We have a lot of direct accounts and great traction in the 3PL market, and there’s a pretty big skills gap when it comes to automation,” Schultz added. “About half of our business now has been migration of existing interfaces. If you had asked me five years ago if that would be half my revenue, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy because no IT person is going to seek out more work.’ But you can’t just take an AMR for e-commerce and then drop it in for case picking. There’s a lot of nuances.”

Schultz added that many warehouse operators are interested in adding systems that work with existing pallets and shelving rather than automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), so he expects demands for flexible alternatives to grow.


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SVT Robotics works with integrators

“We’re deploying, like every 12 days with a relatively small team, so we’re excited to partner with integrators that we feel are really good,” Schultz said. “We can help integrators level up with tools that make life simpler.”

Last month, SVT Robotics partnered with Denver-based NetLogistik to resell SOFTBOT. The collaboration enables NetLogistik‘s customers using Blue Yonder to more easily deploy warehouse automation, said the companies.

“Our customers want to add automation to their warehouse environment, but it is not as simple as it sounds, given there are so many different automation types and technologies,” said Scott Zickert, managing partner of Netlogistik, in a release. “Once we integrate the Blue Yonder WMS into a client’s operation, we can quickly and easily add picking systems, robots, put-away systems, vision systems, and more through the SOFTBOT Platform. Customers improve operational efficiency and scalability for faster ROI [return on investment.”

Earlier this month, Contextant announced a strategic partnership with SVT Robotics. The Lake Forest, Ill.-based systems integrator will be a reseller of SOFTBOT and combine its expertise with scaling robotics and materials handling systems with SVT’s multi-agent orchestration.

“We have not found any other tech-agnostic platform that allows connecting and orchestrating multiple supply chain systems at scale, with the ability to easily customize specific solutions on top of the platform,” stated Scott Winston, business development director at Contextant. “This is what makes this product unique and allows us to add value for our customers.”

Eugene Demaitre
Written by

Eugene Demaitre

Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of the robotics group at WTWH Media. He was senior editor of The Robot Report from 2019 to 2020 and editorial director of Robotics 24/7 from 2020 to 2023. Prior to working at WTWH Media, Demaitre was an editor at BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, TechTarget, and Robotics Business Review.

Demaitre has participated in robotics webcasts, podcasts, and conferences worldwide. He has a master's from the George Washington University and lives in the Boston area.