Ocado’s £223m double acquisition bolsters robotics clout

Posted on November 2, 2020 by Alistair Hardaker

Kindred’s robotic arm

British online supermarket and tech group Ocado has acquired two robotics firms for a total of $287m (£223m) to bolster its automated warehouse offering. 

It has spent $262m on piece-picking robotics specialist Kindred Systems and $25m on robotic-arm designer and manufacturer Haddington Dynamics.

Kindred Systems is a robotic solutions company based in San Francisco and Toronto that designs, supplies and services sophisticated piece-picking robots for eCommerce and order fulfilment.

Haddington Dynamics is an advanced research and development company based in Las Vegas that specialises in the design and manufacture of low-cost, lightweight, highly dexterous, robotic arms.

Haddington Dynamics’ arm design and technology allows for the arm to be manufactured at a relatively low cost via 3D printing, with a corresponding positive impact on the financial returns of robot deployment. Current clients include NASA and DuPont.

The completion of the acquisition is subject to the satisfaction of closing conditions including US regulatory approvals and employee retention, and is expected to close during calendar year 2020.

The firm said the transaction will have no financial impact in the current financial year. It expects full year 2021 revenues to increase as a result of the two acquisitions by approximately £30m with a small negative impact on EBITDA.

Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado, commented: “We consider the opportunities for robotic manipulation solutions to be significant, both for Ocado Smart Platform clients and across the fast-growing online retail and logistics sectors.

“Ocado has made meaningful progress in developing the machine learning, computer vision and engineering systems required for the robotic picking solutions that are currently in production at our Customer Fulfilment Centre (“CFC”) in Erith.

“Given the market opportunity we want to accelerate the development of our systems, including improving their speed, accuracy, product range and economics.”

Marin Tchakarov, CEO of Kindred Systems, added: “I am proud to see Kindred Systems and our brilliant team recognised by Ocado as a leader in robotic pick and place manipulation, and we are extremely excited to realise our next chapter as part of them.

“Benefitting from Ocado’s excellence in research, technology, product development and partnering will give Kindred Systems the opportunity to continue to grow and stay at the forefront of AI and machine learning automation and workforce collaboration.”

Todd Enerson, President of Haddington Dynamics, said: “Our unique approach to highly dextrous robotic arms will provide meaningful benefits to delivering robotic manipulation in complex use cases like grocery. We look forward to joining the team.”

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