The hot warehouse automation trend is continuing, with more investor money flowing into the space and a possible new unicorn on the horizon.
Hai Robotics, a Chinese company that recently expanded into the U.S., is reportedly working on a $150 million fundraising round that would place the pre-money valuation of the company at $1.3 billion.
The Information was first to report the news.
Warehouse automation saw 50% growth in venture capital investment in 2020, and the global warehouse robotics sector is expected to reach $6.8 billion by 2025. Despite the increasing pressure for speed and accuracy that e-commerce has generated, 80% of warehouses are still manually operated with no supporting automation, according to DHL.
Exotec announced a $90 million fundraising round last fall, led by 83North with participation from Dell Technologies Capital and existing investors Iris Capital and Breega, and Geek+ just announced it has sold 20,000 of its robots across the globe. In June 2020, Geek+ announced the closing of a $200 million Series C investment round led by GGV Capital, D1 Capital Partners along with Warburg Pincus. Total funding in the company is $439.4 million across six rounds, according to Crunchbase.
Now Hai Robotics is getting into the act. According to The Information, Hai is in talks with Sequoia Capital China and others on a $150 million round. The round would triple its valuation since its last funding round in March. That round, led by 5Y Capital with participation from Source Code Capital and Walden International, was a $15.3 million Series B.
Hai specializes in autonomous case-handling robotic systems (ACR), launching its first such system, the HAIPICK, in 2015. The HAIPICK uses ACR to store and retrieve up to eight cases at a time in tall, narrow storage aisles. By condensing aisles, the Hai system is able to increase storage density between 80% and 130% while improving warehouse efficiency by as much as four times, the company said.
Once cases are retrieved, the robots work in a goods-to-person framework, moving inventory into position to fuel order fulfillment and other logistics processes.
In March, HAI announced a partnership with MHS, a material handling automation and software solutions provider, to bring its HAI systems to North America.
“With logistics facilities feeling pressure to accommodate growing SKU counts and order volumes, our robotic systems provide efficient, intelligent, flexible and customizable warehouse automation solutions to make more efficient use of available space,” Johnny Zhang, vice president of international sales for Hai Robotics, said at the time. “In order to expand our business in North America we need to find the right local integration partners. The experience, capability and strength of MHS in our target markets make them an ideal fit.”