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This Startup Wants Robots in Every Warehouse Clearpath Robotics says its robots are fundamentally different from the ones Amazon uses.

By Marty Jerome

This story appears in the August 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Aaron Cobb
Simon Drexler on Clearpath’s Husky all-terrain robot.

Amazon's proprietary Kiva robots are state-of-the art inventory fetchers, saving humans from walking up to 11 miles per shift, some experts estimate. They've helped Amazon build some of the most efficient warehouses on the planet. Now Clearpath Robotics of Kitchener, Ontario, is looking to upend that dominance with its automated guided vehicles (AGVs), i.e., mobile robots.

It's a unique opportunity—and challenge. Direct human labor (picking, packing, sorting) remains one of the most expensive cost centers for e-commerce. The implications of easily automating such processes could be a game-changer for fulfillment centers and third-party logistics companies—a study from Janney Capital Markets estimates that robots could reduce fulfillment costs by 20 to 40 percent.

Humans still retain an edge; they can quickly identify objects and manipulate them with just the right amount of force. By comparison, machines are ham-handed, especially if an object is unfamiliar, awkwardly shaped or sitting on a dark shelf. Clearpath's bots are out to close that skills gap.

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