Walmart announces multiyear agreement, investment with Fox Robotics

FoxBot ATL operating on a loading dock such as that of Walmart.
Walmart is operating the FoxBot ATL at its loading docks. Source: Fox Robotics

Walmart Inc. today announced that it has entered into a multiyear agreement with Fox Robotics Inc. In addition to an initial rollout of 19 FoxBot autonomous forklifts, Walmart has invested growth capital for a minority stake in Fox Robotics.

“At Walmart Distribution Center 6020 in Brooksville, Fla., we’re used to pioneering new technology,” wrote Maurice Gray, general manager for the Walmart distribution center, in a blog post. “In fact, 6020 was Walmart’s first high-tech DC. Once again, innovation is afoot in our facility, where associates have been working alongside a new autonomous forklift system that’s bolstering their skills and bettering their jobs while building our business.”

“After a 16-month proof of concept, I’m proud to announce Walmart is taking another step into the future, rolling 19 autonomous forklifts across four high-tech DCs, with the potential for more as we evaluate the benefits to our associates and operations,” he said. “As our facility has worked with Fox Robotics, the developer of autonomous forklifts, we’ve learned a lot. But I can sum it up easily: Automation isn’t just good for business – it’s good for our associates too.”

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart is the largest private employer in the U.S., according to Statista. The company has worked with other robotics suppliers, and it acquired grocery fulfillment provider Alert Innovation in 2022.

How Walmart uses FoxBots

When trucks arrive at the Brooksville distribution center, Fox Robotics’ automated forklifts use artificial intelligence, machine vision, and dynamic planning to safely and accurately unload pallets, said Gray. They then move the pallets to be inducted into an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS).

Gray likened the warehouse associates’ evolving role to playing Tetris. “Instead of unloading the pallets manually, associates become conductors – considering the best, most efficient way to unload trailers based on their own experience,” he said.

For example, Jose Molina, a 26-year associate, has received training to shift from unloading trucks to managing autonomous lifts and tripling productivity, added Gray.

Walmart said that it could roll out more systems from Fox Robotics, pending the continued performance of the FoxBots.

Fox Robotics pulls ahead in dock robot race

“As the leader in autonomous trailer loading and unloading, Fox Robotics is pleased to deepen its relationship with Walmart as a key customer and investor,” stated Marin Tchakarov, president and CEO of Fox Robotics. “We see this collaboration as the latest massive validation point of our technology and product capabilities, solidifying our leadership position in the warehouse shipping and receiving dock automation space.”

In January, Fox Robotics said its autonomous forklifts had autonomously pulled 2.5 million pallets. Founded in 2017, the company said at the time that its installed fleet had doubled in the prior 12 months and that its revenue nearly tripled between 2022 and 2023.

Austin, Texas-based Fox Robotics also has financial backing from BMW i Ventures and Zebra Technologies Corp., raising $20 million in 2022. Its customers include DHL Supply Chain.

“Fox Robotics has unlocked the final step of the fully end-to-end automated warehouse of the future with its FoxBot autonomous loader/unloader capabilities,” added Till Reuter, board member of Fox Robotics and former CEO of Kuka Robotics. “The logistics space is the single biggest market for automation for the next five to 10 years, and the shipping and receiving dock — the gateway to the warehouse — will see a disproportionate share of that growth due to its virtually entirely unautomated present state.”

Other companies working on automating loading-dock operations include Boston Dynamics, Dexterity, Gideon, Honeywell, Mujin, Pickle Robots, and 2024 RBR50 Robotics Innovation Award winner Slip Robotics. See the RBR50 honorees at the RBR50 pavilion and RBR50 Gala at the Robotics Summit & Expo.

SITE AD for the 2024 RoboBusiness registration now open. Register now and save..

Written by

Automated Warehouse Staff