At Amazon’s warehouses, employees pack about four online orders a minute. If they stop for a few seconds outside the scheduled intervals, it penalizes their performance indicators. A frenetic pace that puts them at high risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. In fact, a 2019 study at an Amazon warehouse in New York revealed that 66% of workers surveyed felt physical pain when performing their usual tasks, and 42% said they continued to feel pain when they weren’t working.
In Toulouse, startup Illumo Robotics wants to automate the most repetitive and tedious steps in order preparation. The young company founded in 2019 has been developing a software solution and artificial intelligence algorithms for three years to control a robotic arm equipped with several cameras and capable of collecting and depositing products ordered online on its own.
The robot equipped with several cameras is capable of picking up and depositing products ordered online by itself. (Credits: Rémi Benoit)
” Today, if you buy a package of noodles online, for example, an order picker will be responsible for picking up your product in the warehouse aisles and putting it in a bin with hundreds of other orders, it can be clothes, other food products. This tank where all the articles are mixed is taken to an injection station. There, an operator must place each item one by one on a belt, that is, a belt that separates the products. This last step is very repetitive and does not add value, so we want to automate it. Our robot can take care of placing and depositing items one by one on the conveyor belt »explains Andrea Ingles.
A robot capable of adapting to millions of references
This Stake-educated Spanish engineer in Toulouse first worked in the industry as a robotics consultant before joining forces with Rémy Saintobert, a computer engineer to create Illumo robotics.
” The innovation is that the robot is capable of handling millions of products, items of any size and weighing from a few grams to about 5 kg. We are no longer in a use case of traditional robotics used, for example, in the automobile, where the robot always does the same task for twenty years with just an improvement of its program so that it is as accurate and adaptable as possible. »emphasizes Andrea Ingles.
The robot is capable of depositing articles of all formats. (Credits: Rémi Benoit)
Illumo Robotics’ solution is being tested at an e-retailer and a large supermarket chain. In addition to warehouses, the startup targets units in supermarkets. “In one unit, an employee is responsible for crossing the shelves to deposit the purchases of a dozen customers in the trash. By scanning the item’s barcode, our robot is able to deposit and sort each order”continues the president of Illumo Robotics.
The start-up set a long-term goal for the robot to be able to sort 600 items per hour. Enough to generate significant profitability gains for e-commerce players, but also to make their businesses more robust.
” Today, order preparation is done in part by temporary workers who can leave overnight. Either because they found a better paying job elsewhere, which is what we see, for example, in Paris, where there are many jobs in logistics, or because they perceive the tasks to be very difficult. It is very difficult to manage production in such an environment »highlight Andrea Inglés and Rémy Saintobert.
Large-scale testing at Daher
Prior to the ramp-up of its solution, Illumo Robotics received regional help to carry out large-scale trials at Daher’s new logistics innovation center, which opened this week near Toulouse. This one experimentation site open to startups is equipped with racks, containers and forklifts. ” We are currently carrying out the tests in our offices. There, we will be able to test the robot in a real warehouse, which will allow us to get closer to real conditions.”greets the businessman.
The startup will also benefit from a €50,000 support from Airbus Development to recruit during the start-up phase. Today, with five employees, the company will have about thirty jobs by 2025.