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Home » Zebra Technologies to Buy Fetch Robotics in Warehouse Automation Tie-Up

Zebra Technologies to Buy Fetch Robotics in Warehouse Automation Tie-Up

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Zebra Technologies Corp.

is buying warehouse automation startup Fetch Robotics Inc. in a deal aimed at expanding the logistics-equipment provider’s services to help businesses manage supply-chain operations.

The companies said the acquisition would help them integrate technology to connect human workers, tools like hand-held scanners and self-navigating robots, and the software that directs the flow of distribution, manufacturing and retail operations.

“It’s about getting a more holistic picture of the warehouse,” said Fetch Chief Executive Melonee Wise. “For Fetch, it’s a faster way for us to connect to that virtual world…We’re building a connected ecosystem that comes all the way from the hand scanner to the robot.”

Zebra is an investor in San Jose, Calif.-based Fetch and the companies had been working together to integrate technologies for e-commerce fulfillment and other operations. The $290 million acquisition of the 95% of Fetch that Zebra doesn’t already own is expected to close in the fourth quarter, and would be funded by cash on hand, the companies said Thursday.

Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Zebra, named for the black and white stripes of the bar codes it prints, makes hand-held scanners and other mobile devices that companies use to track inventory, along with software and automation technology including robots that scan shelves to detect out-of-stock items.

Zebra liked Fetch’s range of robots, which include self-navigating units that can help workers fulfill e-commerce orders, replenish inventory or move pallets across warehouses, said Jim Lawton, Zebra’s vice president and general manager of robotics automation. “Customers don’t want different robot providers to cover what needs to get done,” Mr. Lawton said.

Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics.


David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

The companies are working in a logistics technology market drawing heightened interest over the past year as businesses have coped with pandemic-driven upheaval in supply chains and strong growth in online sales. Retailers and logistics providers are increasingly looking to automation to make warehousing operations more efficient in a tight labor market, including the use of so-called collaborative robots like those Fetch makes that work alongside humans.

The acquisition would be the latest Zebra has undertaken to expand the scope of its business. The company bought

Motorola Solutions Inc.’s

scanner business for $3.45 billion in 2014, and has acquired several software, analytics and computer-vision providers in recent years.

Fetch is among a growing field of logistics-focused automation providers that aim to increase efficiency by using robots to cut down on repetitive tasks for human workers, such as moving goods through warehouse aisles. In another deal for a warehouse automation provider, e-commerce company

Shopify Inc.

bought robot maker 6 River Systems in 2019.

Nearly every company across every industry is looking for new ways to minimize human contact, cut costs and address the labor crunch in repetitive and dangerous jobs. WSJ explores why many are looking to robots as the solution for all three. Photo: FedEx

Write to Jennifer Smith at [email protected]

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