6 River Systems FAQ
The 6 River Systems solution is powered by robots (we call them Chucks) and cloud-based software. Chuck communicates with the software to coordinate all the work on your floor. The result? A fleet of Chucks working seamlessly and collaboratively with your associates to boost three key warehouse operations: induct, picking and takeoff. Here’s how:
The process starts at induct. During induct, Chuck talks to software that intelligently groups orders to minimize walking and increase productivity. Your associate badges into Chuck and loads Chuck up with work. The work can be picks, replens or putaway tasks with empty totes or shipping containers. The induct operator is instructed by the screen on Chuck. Once loaded, Chuck travels on his own to the picking area, where associates fill those empty containers with picks. Your induct associate stays where they are, ready to load up the next empty Chuck in the queue.
Chuck travels to the pick area at a designated meeting point. This is where your picker badges into Chuck. Once badged in, Chuck leads associates through a group of tasks (put-away, picking, counting, replenishment and sorting). Work is prioritized and assigned to associates through intelligent algorithms that maximize productivity and utilization by minimizing the steps in between tasks — like Google Maps for your warehouse. Chuck collaborates with associates by showing important task information — item image, description, quantity, location, etc. — on a display the size of a tablet. Chuck lights up to indicate which side of the aisle to pick from and which order container to place the item into. Chuck’s image based scanner captures all necessary product information, including real-time validation of lot and serial number, in a single scan — allowing operators to pick hands-free. Different types of work can be placed onto the Chuck. As an example, a Chuck can have putaway tasks for a tote full of seasonal returns and pick tasks for new orders to be shipped. This interleaving improves your operator’s utilization, decreases congestion in aisles and increases throughput in the building.
Once fully loaded, Chuck informs your picker where to find the next Chuck, and then travels autonomously to the next destination. The destination can be take-off for packing, a separate pick zone or an exception area to remove problem orders. Once Chuck arrives at takeoff, your associate unloads Chuck and prepares the picked orders for shipment. The now-empty Chuck heads back to induct, where the cycle begins again.
Our autonomous mobile robot Chuck may look like a small cart, but Chuck is actually 2x to 3x more efficient than manual carts.
There are three areas of benefit we deliver:
1. Eliminate the long walk. By bringing work to the operators in the active area and then delivering fully loaded Chucks to take-off points, we help eliminate all the long walking that your operators did between induct, pick and take-off areas. Depending on your warehouse layout, this can generate a 20-40% benefit on it’s own.
2. Reduce the in-aisle walk. Our cloud-based services quickly identify the right work to assign to Chuck in real-time, while also identifying opportunities for consolidation (batching) and interleaving (pick and replen) on a single Chuck. This decreases the steps your associates complete in between picks, speeding them up. In typical cart picking operations we see a 30-40% reduction in walking using our work assignment algorithms.
3. Speed up the task. Our patented approach makes all the steps in cart picking faster. By having a fixed scanner, leading associates to the right location and appropriate workflow and eliminating the need to push a cart, Chuck can often reduce task times down by 20-40%.
No. Associates only follow Chuck in the active area. Chuck travels autonomously, without an associate, from induct to active, active to takeoff and takeoff back to induct.
None, which is one of the biggest appeals of our solution. We offer a drop-in replacement to your cart picking operation.
It depends on the size and layout of your warehouse, how many employees you’ve got on staff, the type of product you are shipping and your current workflow. The best way to find out how many Chucks you’d need is to give our Solutions team a ring: (866)-60-CHUCK
Yes. Chuck is capable of allocating to containers of all sizes and types. We can even cartonize your existing orders and batches to best fit the right container.
Nuts and Bolts
Yes. We integrate to any type of WMS. We have completed implementations with leading providers and many custom systems, We offer a standard API using JSON and HTTPS or a set of adapters that allow us to interface with just about any type of message format (CSV, fixed width, XML) and transport (file, SFTP, HTTP, sockets). To get started, we only need task (picks or replen) and product information, but we offer a number of different messages to meet your requirement. Our systems integration experts will help you define the right specifications for your installation.
On the conservative side, we double your pick rates. Manual cart performance usually yields a 50 to 100 UPH. 6 River Systems bumps that up to 120 to 240+ UPH.
Yes. Chuck can help with nearly all the work that must be done in your warehouse, including replens, picks and moves.
Chuck doesn’t get tired and can run 24/7 with the latest in battery technology for rapid recharging. When power is needed Chuck will find a power station and charge autonomously. A full charge lasts up to 16 hours, or approximately two shifts.
Yes. Many of our customers have multi-year rental agreements to support their business. If you are an existing customer, you can even rent additional Chucks during peak periods.
Our team is very experienced in robotics automation. The founders of our company came from Kiva Systems (now Amazon Robotics). Many of our engineers helped define and develop the goods-to-person solution technology that revolutionized warehouse robotics automation. Today, Amazon has deployed out over 150,000 of its mobile robots.
Our purpose and mission at 6 River Systems is to make fulfillment faster with innovative products that generate immediate and lasting value for our customers.
We formed in July 2015 and signed our first customers 2016. We’re based in Boston and proud of it. Chuck gets his name from the famous Charles River. And we even named the company after the fact that the Charles River is a six river system.
We are backed by top-tier venture capital firms and strategic investors, including Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Eclipse and iRobot. Menlo Ventures recently led our latest round of funding. Our Board of Directors includes representation from our investors. We also brought on Amy Villeneuve, former President and COO of Kiva Systems, to serve on our board.
By end of 2018, 6 River Systems will have more than 100 employees. Two-thirds of the company’s staff is made up of engineers: software, hardware, QA/DevOps, reliability and deployment.
In 2018, we’re concentrating on the U.S. We will be announcing general availability within Canada and Europe in early 2019. We’re planning to go into Asia and other markets in 2020.
6 River Systems was built from the very beginning to solve a real problem: helping warehouses do more with less in the fastest, most flexible way possible. Sites with 6RS in place achieve 80% of the productivity of a goods-to-person system at 20% percent of the cost. We applied a very basic approach to our design, using these rules even today as we think through new opportunities and functionality:
- Empower your associates. Develop a collaborative solution that gets the most out of your most valued resource. Solve the easy problems and let humans focus on the hard ones. It’s part of our core values.
- Focus on flexibility, then productivity. The cost of being inflexible in today’s fast-moving fulfillment market is much greater than the productivity you could squeeze out of the system if it were less flexible. By remaining flexible, we can enable your operations to be dynamic and respond to differences in product, order mix and even geography.
- No new infrastructure. This helps us reduce the cost of the system ($250K starter kit), speed up implementation (4-6 weeks) and simplify operations (training in minutes).
The 6 River Systems solution is different in many ways to other mobile robotics solutions available on the market. Here is a summary of alternatives:
Goods-to-person robots: Goods-to-person (Kiva-like, shuttle, others) warehouse robotics automation are designed to nearly eliminate walking by storing inventory on proprietary racking or totes and carrying or shuttling it to associates. This requires a lot of infrastructure, warehouse floor space and robots (10-15 per associate). You get high pick rates (300 uph) but it’s really expensive (upwards of $25 million).
Automated mobile robots (AMRs): Some automated mobile robots (AMRs) are used to transport goods from the end of the aisle to the packing area. These transport robots do provide some benefit by eliminating the long-walk that often adds no value in warehouse operations. But they fall short of really improving the pick rates or accuracy, because associates are still using your existing WMS.
Swarm-approach based robots: Finally, there are systems that swarm the floor with small mobile robots in a zone-pick operation. Robots wait by pick locations for associates. Meanwhile, associates are forced to hop from robot to robot in their zone. While this may appear productive, the high robot counts (4-8 per associate) and lack of directed workflow can lead to significant congestion in aisles and ultimately worse performance. In addition, the smaller form factor limits the types of products that can be picked and further drives up robot counts and costs.
No. In fact, they can be fully trained on Chuck in a matter of minutes. This allows you to potentially hire less experienced associates, or even those with disabilities, who may have been prevented from working with carts and RF guns.