Gap acquires more warehouse picking robots

Gap Inc has purchased 73 new robots for use in its US warehouses, to support picking and sorting.

The group, which owns the eponymous fashion brand, as well as Banana Republic, Athleta, Old Navy, Intermix, Hill City, and Janie & Jack, will have a total fleet of 106 sorting robots in its distribution centres (DC) once the additional systems have been deployed.

The latest investment does not cover the retail group’s UK operations, but the business has not ruled out using the technology in its international divisions. The introduction of new robots is to help pick eCommerce orders, which have grown year-on-year, and accelerated while stores have been closed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Kindred is the supplier of the SORT robotics tech, and Gap has been working with the company since 2017. Giving an indication of the artificial intelligence-enabled system’s capability, Kindred said the robots picked 13 million units of Gap Inc merchandise between 1 January and 30 April alone this year, at an average sorting speed of 335 units per hour.

Once the additional systems are in place, Gap will have paired the robot platform with all the automated primary sortation systems within its distribution network.

Ken McKean, senior director logistics at Gap Inc, said: “Our employees here have really embraced the robots – they all enjoy them, they are like part of the team.

“The Kindred SORT robots have given us the opportunity to teach our associates new technology. I think that’s important – it gives them an opportunity to learn something new.”

Commenting on the training process for using the robots, he said it “probably only takes one to two hours for an associate to get up to speed”.

Kindred has described SORT as having “human-like capabilities”, with the equipment able to separate multi-SKU batches into individual customer orders. The robots are currently operational in Gap’s Tennessee, California, New York, and Ohio DCs, and the latest acquisition comes as the business has put new health and safety processes in place in its warehouses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A Gap spokesperson told Essential Retail: “We’re pleased that our partnership with Kindred has grown from a test pilot to a full deployment of their SORT robots across our US network – especially at a time when we’re trying to keep our employees safe. We look forward to working together on cutting-edge fulfilment automation.”

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