Plus One Robotics raises $50M Series C for parcel robotics vision tech

By Iris Gonzalez
A Yaskawa robot using PLus One Robotics computer vision tech picks packages at a mail faciilty, courtesy image

Plus One Robotics, a San Antonio-based leading provider of advanced AI vision software and solutions for robotic parcel handling, closed a $50 million Series C funding round Tuesday. Scale Venture Partners led the round, with participation from Top Tier Capital Partners, Tyche Partners, and ROBO Global Ventures, along with previous investors.

The funding will support Plus One’s ongoing expansion in the U.S. and Europe and product development driven by the global boom in e-commerce. The Series C brings the San Antonio-based startup’s total funding up to $94 million to date, which includes their $33 million Series B funding in 2021.

Plus One co-founders Nieves, Shaun Edwards, and Paul Hvass have combined several advanced technologies to automate warehouse operations for e-commerce companies.

Founders of Plus One Robotics from left Erik Nieves, Shaun Edwards, Paul Hvass, courtesy photo
Founders of Plus One Robotics from left Erik Nieves, Shaun Edwards, Paul Hvass, courtesy photo.

Warehouse logistics involves repetitive tasks like picking and packing, inventory management, transportation, and sorting packages that can be easily automated using robots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. 

The robotics startup developed software that trains three-dimensional camera-equipped robots using machine learning to teach them how to see and pick up items on an assembly line. Plus One’s three-dimensional and artificial intelligence or AI-powered vision software called Pick One works with any robot or gripper, which gives the internet-connected industrial robots the ability to deliver precise hand-eye coordination for various warehouse tasks.

Yonder, Plus One’s supervisory software, allows human robot “supervisors” to teach robots how to handle atypical items moving from the dock to the door. One human acting as a robot crew chief can oversee 50 robots remotely, allowing companies to meet the round-the-clock consumer demands for goods.

The pandemic accelerated the need for automation in warehouse logistics as e-commerce sales have surged, putting pressure on warehouses to process more orders quickly and efficiently. These market forces helped propel fundraising for Plus One’s expansion into overseas markets as more industries search for solutions to what Erik Nieves, CEO and co-founder of Plus One Robotics, calls “labor insecurity,” the phenomenon of having the least amount of labor available when it’s needed the most to keep the supply chain functioning.

“The pandemic, consumer surges, and stay-at-home orders for workers adds up to a huge labor insecurity problem for companies. How do I ship product if we have another outbreak?” Nieves said. “The need for resilience in the supply chain is driving investors to move quickly in this space.”

With over 80% of warehouses using manual labor, and as demand grows for shipping, there is a projected million-plus new jobs to fill by 2025 despite the shrinking of available labor sources. As labor costs increase (now at an average of $25 per hour) and continue to rise, market forces threaten supply chains and future e-commerce growth.

“The growth of e-commerce has placed tremendous pressure on shipping responsiveness and scalability that has significantly exacerbated labor and capacity issues,” Nieves said. “Automation is key, but keeping a human-in-the-loop is essential to running a business 24/7 with greater speed and fewer errors.”

Plus One-enabled robots handle over one million parcel picks daily in production and currently hold an industry-leading metric of more than half a billion parcel picks globally.

“The labor shortage is hitting the shipping industry hard, and parcel picking is an often overlooked yet essential part of the process,” Scale Venture partner Rory O’Driscoll stated. “By automating the parcel handling piece, Plus One Robotics is rapidly modernizing an outdated system that’s no longer sustainable. It is stepping up and leading the way in a $128 billion market, with fundamentals that prove its value.”

Founded in 2016, the robotics company has over 80 employees and is growing. Most of Plus One’s workforce is based in the company’s San Antonio headquarters, with Boulder and Pittsburgh facilities and a subsidiary in the Netherlands. The company is hiring marketing, sales, operations, systems engineering, software developers, robot crew chiefs, and overseas-based system integration engineers and sales roles.

Since opening in October 2019 in an 11,000 square feet space at Port San Antonio, Plus One has expanded to 25,000 square feet within their facility.

“With the ongoing labor shortages, I believe we’ll see an increase in the adoption of Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) to lower capital expenditures and deploy automation on a subscription basis,” Nieves said. “This new funding will help us scale up and meet the need for these solutions.”

The featured image shows Plus One Robotics technology enabling an industrial robot to be human-assisted from anywhere in the world via cameras and the cloud. Courtesy photo.

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