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Kindred Announces Strategic Partnership with VARGO for Mutual Client E-Commerce Fulfillment Solutions

The cameras in the Kindred SORT system look at the items in the bin to compare them to tens of thousands of images it already has stored in its memory. Using AI, SORT matches what it sees to those existing images to recognize the merchandise and where one item starts and the other one stops. After the cameras identify where each item is, the robotic arm in the middle of the circular system picks up an object using Kindred’s propriety Autograsp technology – a combination of pinching, grasping and suction. As the robotic arm holds the item in its gripper, it quickly swings it around to expose any possible area where the bar code could be to one of four cameras inside the system. As soon as one of the cameras scans the item, the arm matches that item to the appropriate order and drops it into the corresponding cubby.

Kindred announced a partnership agreement with VARGO to incorporate its artificial intelligence (AI) pick and place robotic solutions with VARGO’s warehouse execution system (WES) to enhance both parties’ solutions for retail and e-commerce fulfillment. Kindred has been working with Hilliard, Ohio-based VARGO since 2017 and partnered on e-commerce fulfillment system design and integration for Gap Inc. Gap has deployed more than 100 Kindred SORT robotic systems in combination with VARGO’s WES.

“This partnership between VARGO and Kindred further demonstrates the commitment of both of our companies to bring strategic and innovative distribution solutions to the industry that solve real fulfillment challenges brought about by limited labor availability and, most recently, COVID-19 social distancing requirements,” said Bart J. Cera, president and COO of VARGO. “The marriage of these application-based technologies, like Kindred’s pick and place robots, teamed with the appropriate distribution center design, equipment and execution software, provides our customers with highly efficient and industry-leading distribution solutions. We look forward to continuing to partner with Kindred in bringing the latest technologies to our customers.”

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To create a safe working environment for its employees amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Kindred and VARGO customers use SORT AI-powered warehouse robots to increase social distancing measures. Rather than standing side-by-side with co-workers to conduct pick and place operations, one employee can manage three to four Kindred SORT robots simultaneously, keeping up with e-commerce fulfillment while maintaining social distancing.

VARGO’s Continuous Order Fulfillment Engine (COFE) – a waveless warehouse execution system (WES) – is the power behind the e-commerce fulfillment revolution and is pulling the industry into its advanced waveless order fulfillment system. COFE is a WES software that synchronizes and sequences all processes and resources – people and equipment – within a fulfillment center and responds instantaneously to dynamically changing environments. COFE’s waveless process continuously assigns new orders to a revolving batch of work and eliminates downtime created in wave-based environments. By creating a continuous flow of work, COFE provides a true, lean order fulfillment solution.

“We have been working side-by-side with VARGO as a valued partner since our market launch in 2017,” said Marin Tchakarov, CEO of Kindred. “We certainly value their technology as well as their collaboration in helping to build the warehouse of the future, powered by intelligent machines that ultimately augments the human workforce.”

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Kindred’s AI data shows retailers are facing dramatic peaks in online orders since the COVID-19 pandemic forced retailers to close a number of brick and mortar stores. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, the number of units SORT picking robots process per day has increased by 45% across the installed base.

SORT pick-and-place robots utilize AutoGrasp, a robotics artificial intelligence platform that identifies items to pick, place and sort into complete end-customer orders. AutoGrasp combines AI-powered machine vision, grasping and manipulation algorithms that handle a range of merchandise, including deformable items such as polybagged items.

Kindred uses cutting-edge AI research and human-in-the-loop data methodology to continuously improve robot capabilities so that picking becomes smarter, faster and more accurate over time. Kindred SORT robots have picked more than 100 million units in production to date.

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