Agility Robotics partners with leading WMS provider, cuts staff

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Agility Arc is a cloud-based platform for managing fleets of humanoids.

Agility Arc is a cloud-based platform for managing fleets of humanoids. Source: Agility Robotics

Agility Robotics made a couple of strategic moves this week as it continues to commercialize its Digit humanoid. Let’s start with the good news.

Agility is partnering with Manhattan Associates, a global leader in supply chain and omnichannel commerce. There are a lot of warehouse management systems (WMS) on the market, but as one source told The Robot Report, Manhattan Associates is “the standard bearer when it comes to large 3PL operations.”

Agility is joining the Manhattan Value Partner (MVP) program and the Manhattan Automation Network for warehouse automation providers. Manhattan and Agility will integrate Digit and Agility Arc, the company’s new fleet management software introduced at MODEX 2024, with the Manhattan Active Warehouse Management solution.

WMS integration an important step for Digit

Integrating new tools with existing systems can be challenging for warehouse operators. Ensuring compatibility with the industry-leading WMS is an important first step for Digit.

“Digit is already the world’s only bipedal robot currently delivering useful work for customers, increasing productivity and safety while helping workers with difficult and repetitive tasks in warehouse and manufacturing operations,” stated Peggy Johnson, CEO of Agility Robotics. “We’re thrilled to partner with Manhattan to streamline adoption of Agility’s solutions into existing best practices and bring Digit to more warehouses around the world.”

Manhattan Associates said Agility is the first humanoid to join both the MVP and the Manhattan Automation Network. Manhattan has similar partnerships with Exotec, a provider of automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) and Locus Robotics, the leading developer of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).

“Companies are under enormous pressure to deliver more products faster and more efficiently, while facing massive and growing labor shortages,” said Eric Lamphier, senior director of alliances for Manhattan Associates. “Innovative robotics solutions, like Digit, can help fill those gaps, connecting islands of automation and improving operational efficiency.”

“We’re proud to be the first WMS provider to partner with a humanoid robotics provider,” he added. “Together, Agility and Manhattan are making it easy for customers to integrate cutting-edge technology, like Digit and Agility Arc, into their warehouse workflows.”

Agility Arc is a new cloud-based platform designed to give customers better control and insight into their Digit humanoids. Users can monitor the status and performance of each Digit, create workcells and workflows, and assign new tasks to the robots.

Agility Robotics also now offers a few accessories for the Arc platform, including a charging dock, a control pendant, and a workcell that comes with guarding, e-stops, monitored entrances, and more. Since there are no safety standards yet for humanoids, these robots will need to be caged off as they initially make their way into the world.

Agility Robotics lays off staff

Now for the bad news. Agility laid off an unspecified number of employees yesterday. Now-former employees posted about the layoffs on social media, and The Robot Report confirmed the reduction in staff. The company sent the following statement:

“As part of Agility’s ongoing efforts to structure the company for success, we have parted ways with a small number of employees that were not central to core product development and commercialization. At the same time, we are focused on meeting the extraordinary demand for bipedal robots across industrial use cases. That means ramping up production of Digit while continuing to win top-tier global customers, and adding new roles that meet these goals. We believe today’s actions will allow us to focus on the areas that drive productization, commercialization, and production of Digit.”

Johnson was named CEO of Agility Robotics one month ago. The veteran technology leader most recently served as CEO of Magic Leap, which produces augmented reality headsets. She led the company’s shift from consumer to enterprise and helped recapitalize the company.

Before Magic Leap, Johnson spent six years as executive vice president of business development at Microsoft. She reported directly to CEO Satya Nadella and was responsible for driving strategic partnerships and transactions to accelerate growth for the company and its customers.

Agility Robotics co-founder Damion Shelton, who served as CEO since the company’s founding in 2015, is now the company’s president and part of Johnson’s leadership team.

Humanoid robot race continues to accelerate

As we’ve said repeatedly over the past year, the humanoid race is heating up. And moves like this partnership with Manhattan, coupled with its fleet management system, show that Agility is the humanoid developer most ready to take on real-world work. The company has piloted its Digit humanoid with Amazon and GXO Logistics.

There are several other humanoid developers entering early pilots with customers. Figure recently raised $675 million and is working with BMW. And Apptronik is working with Mercedes-Benz.

Of course, all these humanoids still need to prove their reliability. NVIDIA is trying to help with its new foundation model for humanoids, called GR00T, that is designed to bring robotics and embodied AI together.

Accenture is also getting in on the action. Last week, it announced a strategic investment in Sanctuary AI, which is developing the Phoenix humanoid. The amount of the funding was not disclosed.

“AI-powered humanoid robots are essential to reinventing work and supporting human workers as labor shortage is becoming an issue in many countries and industries,” said Accenture.

You can learn more about the state of humanoids at the Robotics Summit & Expo, which takes place May 1-2 in Boston and is produced by The Robot Report and parent company WTWH Media.

Jonathan Hurst, co-founder and chief robot officer of Agility Robotics, will deliver a keynote called “Humanoid Robots Get to Work.” It will explore the technological breakthroughs propelling humanoids like Digit into real-world use cases. Attendees can learn about the ongoing challenges and opportunities and will go inside Digit’s first pilots.

SITE AD for the 2024 Robotics Summit registration.Learn from Agility Robotics, Amazon, Disney, Teradyne and many more.

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