Founders: Mick Mountz, Peter Wurman, and Raffaello D’Andrea
Kiva uses hundreds of mobile robots and powerful control software to provide a complete fulfillment solution: storing, moving and sorting inventory. Instead of being stored in static shelving, flow racks or carousels, products are stored in inventory pods in the center of the warehouse while operators stand at inventory stations around the perimeter.
When an order is received, robotic drive units retrieve the appropriate pods and bring them to the worker, who picks out the appropriate item and places it in the carton. Completed orders are stored on separate pods, ready to get up and move to the loading dock when the truck arrives. A suite of sensors on the drive units and custom control software and algorithms allow the vehicles to safely navigate the warehouse. Coordination is aided by a hierarchical layer similar to what is used in air traffic control systems.
The drive units share information about their environment and use that knowledge to adapt. As a result, the performance of the vehicles, and hence the system, improves over time. In addition, adaptation and learning ensure that the system is robust to changes in the environment.
The idea behind Kiva Systems was conceived by Mick Mountz: His was the vision of why inventory should move. Peter Wurman was responsible for figuring out where the inventory should move: Storage, retrieval, and filling orders. Raffaello D’Andrea was responsible for figuring out how the inventory should move: Using hundreds of mobile robots that learn and adapt to their environment, in a provably safe way.