When it comes to retail, it’s Amazon versus the world. That’s been true for a long time and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Plenty of factors have contributed to the company’s position as a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut. Among them is Amazon’s canny decision to buy and build fulfillment centers around the world. By last count, it operates 305 in the U.S. alone, with an average of 800,000 square feet.
Localized warehouses are a big part of the reason the company has been able to set the standard for same- and next-day delivery. It’s now more rule than exception in the industry, and if your company can’t match it, you’re in trouble. Warehouse-as-a-service (WaaS) and 3PL offerings present a way to potentially remain competitive on that front without having to own and operate these sorts of structures. Very few — if any — companies have Amazon’s resources on that front.
SoftBank Group today announced GreenBox Systems LLC, a joint venture with Symbotic that offers a WaaS solution to companies looking to branch out into warehouse but don’t have the money to buy them outright. Nimble announced similar plans to launch its own outsourced automated warehouses back in March.
GreenBox will order Symbotic’s systems over a six-year period commencing in fiscal year 2024, to be implemented across its warehouse network in larger-scale deployments than Symbotic’s current installed base systems. Symbotic expects in excess of $500 million in annual recurring software, parts and services revenue from GreenBox once all systems are operational. Symbotic systems typically become fully operational within 24 months of project design approval.
The purchase of Symbotic robots will amount to around $7.5 billion over the contract’s life.
“GreenBox taps into the powerful potential of A.I. and other enabling technologies in supply chains, while also making the benefits of automation accessible to more businesses through an ‘as-a-service’ offering,” SoftBank’s Vikas J. Parekh said in a release. “In partnership with Symbotic, GreenBox will equip customers with more intelligent, streamlined, and scalable warehousing solutions while eliminating the burden of major capital expenditures.”
SoftBank owns 65% of the company to Symbotic’s 35%. The news also arrives as SoftBank announced that it has purchased 17.8 million shares of Symbotic. The Massachusetts-based firm is far from the biggest name in warehouse robotics, but the company has already drummed up some high-profile deals. Last May, Walmart announced that it was deploying Symbotic systems in its centers across the U.S.
The company employs a multi-facets approach to warehouse automation, including Kiva-like autonomous mobile robots, coupled with arms that can pick, place and depalletize. With SoftBank’s help, it went public via SPAC in June 2022.