Otto Group, an international online retailer based in Germany, is entering into a long-term strategic partnership with Covariant, a leading AI Robotics company. Covariant has announced that its AI-powered robots will be used to automate a wide range of manual fulfilment activities that require hand-eye coordination and object manipulation at Otto Group fulfillment centers, to enhance services for the group's customers.
The Otto Group will deploy Covariant robots to increase operational efficiency, build resilience against labor market challenges, and improve the overall quality of work within its fulfilment centers, Covariant explained. The investment is expected to create new work profiles and attractive jobs while enhancing overall facility performance and ensuring more reliable delivery times, especially during periods of high or fluctuating demand.
"Logistics faces the challenge of being as cost-efficient as possible. The use of a generalist AI allows us to rethink processes that were not possible before and provides an answer to the massive shortage of workers. In times when handling is often outsourced to cheaper locations, we are especially happy to continue to be close to our customers and strengthen the European, and especially German business location. The use of AI will be a key success factor in logistics in the future," said Kay Schiebur, Member of the Executive Board, Services, Otto Group.
Covariant offers a broad portfolio of robotic picking, placing, and sorting solutions, powered by its AI platform known as the Covariant Brain. The vision of the partnership with Otto Group is to have Covariant’s AI-powered robotic solutions installed across all of Otto Group's fulfilment centers. The companies are starting this year in Germany by deploying robots at the Haldensleben and Altenkunstadt facilities.
The initial plan is to have the first eight robots installed in the Haldensleben logistics center and two in Altenkunstadt by October of this year, and then to deploy a total of 120 of the AI-powered robots in all of the Otto Group's fulfillment centers over the next four years, according to Covariant. The initial focus is on small item picking focused predominantly on the Otto Group brands that sell apparel, including oversized items such as sweaters. Otto Group is exploring other pick and place use cases under the partnership, including decanting, sorter induction, and packing machine induction.
"This is a huge step forward for the automation of Europe’s ecommerce market as it represents one of the largest investments in a foundation model for robotics to date. We're honoured that Kay and team recognize the importance of developing a universal AI for robot learning and we look forward to delivering the operational improvements that will help maintain Otto Group’s market-leading position for years to come," said Peter Chen, Chief Executive Officer, Covariant.
“In times of a challenging market environment, it is essential that future investments do not fall by the wayside,” Schiebur added. “We invest here and now in our future viability to strengthen our position as a market leader in Europe”.
Founded in 1949 in Germany, the Otto Group is today a globally operating e-commerce and service Group with around 43,000 employees in 30 significant corporate groups, primarily present in the three economic areas of Germany, the rest of Europe, and the USA.
Founded in 2017 by leading AI Robotics research scientists, Covariant has customers in 15 countries and nearly 300 robots powered by the Covariant Brain, its AI Robotics platform.