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ForwardX Robotics: Robotics Fulfillment for Warehousing and Material Handling

Jonathan Chang, Director, Global Expansion, ForwardX RoboticsJonathan Chang, Director, Global Expansion Even in the prepandemic world, warehousing and material handling was a robotically underserved domain. Today, with every passing day in the wake of intense labor shortages and workforce restrictions resulting from the pandemic, the need for warehousing robotics becomes all the more profound, something which the plethora of robotics solutions in the market couldn’t address satisfactorily. Except for fulfillment centers run by a few e-commerce giants, material handling in most warehouses and manufacturing shop floors continues to be laborintensive. Not to mention the robotics resources that reduce the manual workload overheads of e-commerce warehousing tend to be proprietary and unshared. Many purpose-built robotics solutions for warehousing and material handling are too attuned to function under very specific sets of circumstances, and this inhibits their capability to be multi-purpose even within the scope of material handling. Aligning them with even minor changes in operations or workflows can be an arduous affair. For instance, a QR code following robot—an evolutionary descendant of the line-following robot—isn’t the best fit for today’s omnichannel fulfillment practices, where multiple methods exist for collecting, sorting, storing, and processing and delivering inventories. An all-encompassing, multi-purpose robotics solution that can adapt to nuances of warehousing and material handling continues to be a pipe dream and a desperate need. This is where ForwardX Robotics is changing the narrative by bringing versatility to warehousing and material handling. By embracing a platform-based approach for product development, the company has positioned itself as one of the first movers in warehousing and material handling robotics. In many ways, they are pioneering in broadening the scope of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for warehousing and manufacturing industry needs.

A Unique Robotics Automation Platform

ForwardX Robotics has developed an automation platform for AMRs that focuses on e-commerce and the changing face of warehousing and manufacturing industry needs. “Our core value proposition is that our platform can easily be applied to new industries and workflows to cater to a variety of markets,” mentions Jonathan Chang, Director, Global Expansion, ForwardX.

The company’s robotics software platform is the foundation for developing solutions for various industries like logistics, retail, industrial production, and more. “Rather than creating discrete software to support different industries, we have developed a Platform-as-a-Service that includes robots, a fleet management system, and an integrated delivery platform for third parties to use and minimize development,” says Chang.

Based on its Platform-as-a-Service solution delivery model, ForwardX has built a fleet management system, f(x) Fleet Manager, built of two key parts that include f(x) Plus and f(x) Core. f(x) Plus is a warehouse management system focusing on strategy, data, and analytics. f(x) Core, on the other hand, is a control system responsible for mapping and path planning. ForwardX’s fleet management system can integrate with clients’ ERP systems to collect all the information to orchestrate a fleet of robots and human workers to complete a task.

The company also offers a range of AMRs, including Flex and Max. With Flex visual AMRs, clients can easily automate labor-heavy workflows in their warehouse or factory and replace heavy carts.


Our core value proposition is that our platform can easily be applied to new industries and workflows to cater to a variety of markets


Similarly, the Max solution enables clients to automate dangerous and heavy workloads to protect workers from unnecessary accidents in their facilities. The Max range goes from 300 kg payload capacity all the way up to 1200 kg payload capacity. To provides complete performance insights of AMRs to managers, the company offers its f(x) Dashboard, a web application that gives clients complete visibility into how the robots and their entire workforce is operating. Through the dashboard, users can check the performance of their AMRs, investigate any kinds of errors that need to be handled, and examine warehouse performance, including its heat maps. The software that powers ForwardX’s robots is one of the finest of its kind globally, working in perfect harmony with the hardware. All of the company’s robots are fully equipped with LiDAR scanners, 3D and 2D cameras, wheel encoders, and all of the typical sensors that would typically be found in any cutting-edge autonomous robot. This, augmented with the prowess of AI, allows the fleet of robots to work in tandem with real-time information exchange. The robots are therefore capable of breaking any information or process siloes in warehouse and shop floor environments.

Holistically Customer-centric

ForwardX embraces a client-centric approach in regard to helping clients deploy their solutions. For delivering the apt robotics solution for any warehouse or manufacturing floor, ForwardX conducts site surveys and interviews through which they identify the clients’ operational workflows, pain points, and objectives. The clients can get a clear picture on how the robotics-augmented workflows would be carried out in their premises. “We will then move into calculating serious return on investment with the customer, to understand how quickly our solution can pay back,” adds Chang. Rolling out the customized robots entails ForwardX testing and optimizing the robotics process. This is followed by the company delivering in-depth training sessions for all different user roles that they’d identify within a facility. In addition to training the users on interacting with the robot, they would also be taught how to best customize dashboards and analyze the data that the system collects. The company also brings to the table several after service options—from remote support to full priority on field support—depending on the customers’ needs and how mission-critical their operations are. Further, being a Chinese company, ForwardX is well resourced and positioned to deliver its solutions at lower price points.

The success story of one of their clients best exemplifies ForwardX’s value proposition. They recently worked with a B2B warehouse client that serves retail stores across Beijing.

  • We have developed a Platformas-a-Service that includes robots, a fleet management system, and an integrated delivery platform for third parties to use and minimize development


The client had a complicated workflow where multiple orders poured in throughout the day, and pickers had to pick, pack, and sort the orders on time, or the retail stores would end up remaining

From Humble Beginnings to Customer-propelled Growth

The factors that spurred the conception of ForwardX are, in many ways, as enticing as the value proposition that they deliver. Early on in his career, Nicholas Chee, the Founder, and CEO of ForwardX found himself at the intersection of robotics, automation, and supply chain industries. From his role in Microsoft as an algorithm engineer, followed by a senior leadership role in SAP, to serving as the Regional VP at Oracle—where he was the company’s youngest-ever VP—Chee recognized how intelligent robotics and computer vision could augment the supply chain industry. In light of his experience, ForwardX has always nurtured a vision to use the ‘latest and greatest’ technologies to influence people’s lives, as Chang terms. “We developed some consumer products to perfect the use of computer vision in robotics to apply to our main focus: robotics for material handling.”

Through a series of pilot projects by working in close partnership with companies like DHL, ForwardX was able to zero in on the nuances of robotics for material handling. The company acquired a clear understanding of aspects like the kind of environments that robots work in, the types of payloads they interact with, and the ideal shape and dimensions for the robots. The rest, as they say, is history. Now ForwardX has seen success with a leading Chinese e-commerce giant, bringing its productivity to an absurd 500 UPH.

Continuing to script success stories—where, at times, they have brought ROI time frames as short as two years even in regions where labor costs are relatively cheap—ForwardX leaves no stone unturned in their quest to democratize the value proposition of their holistic warehousing robotics solution. The company is constantly developing new business models aimed at making the cost of their robots even cheaper, such as their SaaS (Software as a Service) model that allows investment to be pushed to operational expenditure (OPEX) as opposed to capital expenditure (CAPEX) through leasing the technology. ForwardX is determined to provide its stellar AMR abilities across markets and geographies. The company aims to cover all continents of the world either through its regional offices or through partnerships. “We are already the only AMR company in the world with customers in retail, manufacturing, and logistics environments. We will continue developing new products for new markets to grow our client base,” mentions Chang. Be it an MNC or an SMB, everybody deserves the chance to leverage cutting-edge robots. In that accordance, ForwardX continues to explore and improve its technology, pricing, and purchase models. The company is evidently at the forefront of revolutionizing warehousing and material handling domains with the prowess of robotics.

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Top 10 Logistics Tech Startup - 2021
ForwardX Robotics

Company
ForwardX Robotics

Headquarters
Beijing, China

Management
Jonathan Chang, Director, Global Expansion

Description
The company’s robotics software platform acts as the foundation to develop solutions for various industries like logistics, retail, industrial production, and more. Based on its Platform-as-a-Service solution delivery model, ForwardX has built a fleet management system, f(x) Fleet Manager, built of two key parts that include f(x) Plus and f(x) Core. f(x) Plus is a warehouse management system focusing on strategy, data, and analytics. f(x) Core, on the other hand, is a control system responsible for mapping and path planning. ForwardX’s fleet management system can integrate with clients’ ERP systems to collect all the information to orchestrate a fleet of robots and human workers to complete a task. The company also offers a range of AMRs, including Flex and Max. With Flex visual AMRs, clients can easily automate labor-heavy workflows in their warehouse or factory and replace heavy carts