Japanese robotics firm aims to launch warehouse revolution from Schaumburg
A Tokyo-based company seeking to revolutionize the efficiency of warehouses around the world through the assistance of skilled robots is taking its first steps in Schaumburg.
Rapyuta Robotics was founded in 2014 by two natives of Sri Lanka who received government scholarships to study in Japan.
Basing their company there, they have since expanded to Bangalore, India, and officially opened a sales office and demonstration site in Schaumburg on Wednesday.
With 76 patents and expertise in hardware, software and artificial intelligence, what makes Rapyuta Robotics distinct is that its clients don't have to make a lot of changes to their existing locations, co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Arudchelvan "Arul" Krishnamoorthy said.
Instead, the robots can adapt to their environment.
While other companies make robots that can traverse warehouse floors, Rapyuta designs robots that interact with people and each other in crowded spaces, said Director of Business Ryo Mori, who will be based in Schaumburg.
For example, after a robot helps a human employee load a shipment in the warehouse, it tells the person where to meet another robot to fill the next order before carrying its own away for shipment.
Without such robotic assistance, a typical warehouse worker can walk about 20 kilometers a day filling orders.
"We put the emphasis on return on investment and past success cases in Japan," Mori said.
Senior Business Development Manager Will Childress said that when someone expresses doubt about their own ability to interact with a robot, he asks them to take out their phone. If they produce a flip phone, he concedes that they may need a little more training. But if they have a smartphone, he tells them they're nearly there already.
One of the most important aspects of training, to ensure the efficiency that's promised, is getting employees to trust the robots to complete their task rather than following them to make sure they do, Childress said.
Attendees of Rapyuta Robotics' opening day ceremonies in Schaumburg included Mayor Tom Dailly, Economic Development Director Matt Frank, and Consul-General of Japan in Chicago Tajima Hiroshi.
Dailly, a retired IT professional, said he finds it fascinating how adaptable such technology is becoming with fewer and fewer infrastructure changes required for its work environment.
"It's exciting to have them here and show the future of what can be done with warehousing," he said.
Frank said the growth potential of a company like Rapyuta Robotics makes it a welcome addition to the village's business community.
Though already on its way to Schaumburg before the new seven-county Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership was announced earlier this month, Frank said it fulfills that partnership's goals by providing a regional benefit to the metropolitan area's economic growth.
Tajima said the company has found the right location from which to spread its emphasis on logistics and warehousing.
"There's no better place for such a focus than here in Schaumburg," he said.
A number of factors led to the choice of the Chicago area in general and Schaumburg in particular, Mori said. Among them are its central location, access to talent, labor costs, and availability of direct flights to and from Japan.
Future locations are being considered in Texas and Southern California but are contingent on the success in Schaumburg, he said.
Though opening with a team of five, the Schaumburg location is expected to have 20 by the end of the year. The overall company currently has 180 employees who hail from 25 countries.
Rapyuta Robotics is a spinoff of ETH Zurich, the alma mater of Albert Einstein and sort of a Swiss equivalent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mori said.