Expert Insight

By Scott Friedman

Seegrid Corporation

Date: November 18, 2010

Supply Chain Comment: 2010 Automation Roundup: Robotic Industrial Trucks Break Cover

Reduce Operating Costs With Two Distinct Directions Or Product Categories

In this tough economic year, all of the established mobile automation vendors saw increasing rates of growth and growing sales, and even a few new vendors appeared. Why is that?  Horizontal transport is the last large opportunity facility managers and industrial engineers have for significantly reducing material handling operating costs within the four walls of their facilities. In these tough economic times, reducing operating costs and adding cash to the bottom line of the business is a competitive necessity—and mobile automation makes it happen.


While all these vendors have in common that they reduce operating costs, how they achieve this is evolving in 2 distinct directions or product categories.

Solution Providers

Both old and new automated guided vehicle providers are extending their product lines to be fuller material handling solutions.  One of the older vendors is Elettric80, an AGV provider for over 30 years that has extended its basic AGV offerings into a full end of line solution for manufactures, including MES and TMS software integration components.  One of the newer vendors is Kiva Systems, that uses small AGVs as part of a goods to man pick/pack/ship solution for internet retailers.  While these products are very different, all of the vendors have most things in common.  First, they all design their own proprietary equipment, and second they all sell, service, maintain, and support their solutions themselves.   In fact, the business model is very similar to traditional systems integrators.  And the big names in the system integrator business are scrambling to create these new integrated offerings:  Dematic recently purchased HK Systems, and Daifuku recently purchased Jervis Webb.  For customers, all the offerings are similar in that the offerings typically have ROIs from 3-5 years, substantial mandatory service and maintenance contracts for the entire life of the solution, and system changes require the vendor to reengineer the system often at considerable cost.

Robotic Industrial Trucks

The industrial truck industry has evolved it’s own offerings for mobile automation as well; robotic versions of it’s industrial trucks.  Currently my company, Seegrid, is the leader in this product category.  But others are on the horizon, and will be entering the market shortly.  Robotic industrial trucks are robotic versions of standard, proven, well-engineered industrial trucks, whose categories are defined by the Industrial Truck Association. Robotic Industrial Trucks are sold, supported, serviced and maintained through the mature, industrial truck channel of dealers and distributors.  The products are simple, and flexible; performing in most ways exactly like industrial trucks, yet they are also automated to provide significant cost savings.  Seegrid’s own products make pallet deliveries as just 10% of the cost of manned deliveries.  Simply put, robotic industrial trucks are a product category evolved from the classic industrial truck, which has moved products from point A to B in warehouses for over 7 decades.  For customers, the offerings are similar in that they typically have ROIs from 5 months to 1.5 years, are supported by a range of local or in house industrial truck technicians already servicing the customer, and deployment changes are done by the customers themselves at no additional cost.

Final Thoughts

For more information about Robotic Industrial Trucks, please visit our website at:


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About the Author

Scott Friedman is Chief Executive Officer of Seegrid, the world’s leader in robotic industrial trucks. As CEO, Scott oversees all aspects of the company’s long-term strategy and direction.

Prior to co-founding Seegrid with Hans Moravec, Scott served as President and CEO of CareFlow|Net, an enterprise medical software company.

Scott is a Bachelor of Arts graduate from the Honors College at the University of Michigan and holds a medical degree from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.


Friedman Says:

Horizontal transport is the last large opportunity facility managers and industrial engineers have for significantly reducing material handling operating costs within the four walls of their facilities.

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