Urbx robotic inventory storage and retrieval system can handle multi-SKU orders

Urbx's TowerBots sitting at the top of racking raching for totes.
TowerBots navigate the grid’s upper layer to access totes. | Source: Urbx

Urbx today launched its robotic inventory storage and retrieval system. The company said its system can rapidly fulfill complex, multi-SKU orders. At the system’s core is Urbx’s TowerBots, which are designed to maximize space usage. 

The Urbx system builds on the principles of automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS). The company said it uses a combination of robotics, software, and storage racking and offers advantages in height, density, and scalability in goods-to-person order-fulfillment workflows. 

“We started Urbx to satisfy the demand for speed in retail order fulfillment that just wasn’t being met by existing solutions,” stated Lincoln Cavalieri, founder and CEO of Urbx. “We concepted, tested, and iterated on a system that really pushes the limits of what automation can do and, in turn, of what fulfillment operations can achieve.

“And that goes beyond revolutionizing warehouse environments,” he added. “Delivering inventory at such high rates also has the near-term potential to address the needs of grocery fulfillment and even consumer-facing retail applications.”

Urbx was founded in 2016 and provides custom systems to improve on-demand delivery for the e-commerce industry. The Boston-based company said its system can transform how grocery chains, factories, retailers, and distribution centers achieve on-demand order fulfillment.

TowerBots apply AI to automated storage 

Urbx fleet of proprietary TowerBots uses artificial intelligence to find the shortest 3D path through a dense storage grid. The robots move across the top of racking and drop down through strategically located columns to to retrieve totes and bring inventory to pick stations. 

Because the robots move along the top of the racking, the storage grid design requires no navigation aisles or digging to access totes below the top storage layers. This enables access to inventory at all levels, stacked up to 75 totes high, in seconds, said Urbx. 

Once the robots have retrieved the totes, the TowerBots move them through the same columns to built-in conveyor tiles for transportation to order fulfillment and consolidation. Urbx claimed that, in practice, its system is capable of fulfilling a 50-line order in less than 2.5 minutes.

To provide maximum possible density and capacity while still maintaining a small horizontal footprint, Urbx said its system offers double-deep storage and industry-leading heights. The company asserted that its space efficiency is a particularly strong fit for supply chains pushing to locate distribution points closer to consumers in urban centers. In these areas, high real estate costs incentivize building up, rather than out. 

The system can handle up to 100 lb. (45 kg) per tote. This means it can accommodate a broad range of inventory, including heavy, dense items. The company says it designed the system with the needs of integrators in mind. This is why it doesn’t include rigid software requirements and specialized hardware components.

A global network of material-handling automation systems and integrator sells and supports Urbx’s systems. The company also uses Beckhoff for standard controls and sources totes from Utz. 

Urbx settles patent dispute

In June 2023, Urbx and Attabotics amicably settled a legal dspute between them. In 2021, Attabotics had filed an intellectual property lawsuit against Urbx.

The ASRS provider claimed that Urbx’s current product, which consists of a dual-robot system, infringed on multiple patents held by Attabotics. It sought a permanent injunction and damages. The companies did not share many details on how they resolved the dispute.

“Out of respect for the confidentiality of the process and in compliance with the agreement reached, there will be no further public statements or disclosures regarding the specific terms of the agreement,” stated Urbx.

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Written by

Eugene Demaitre and Chris Vavra