Double roll cage robots to transform UK grocery logistics


iFollow has arrived in the UK intralogistics market to offer premium autonomous mobile robots that will transform order picking and heavy load transport in warehouses and logistics operations. The company designs and manufactures its own AMRs – making them ‘100% Made in France’ – and has already secured a contract with a major UK grocery retailer.

iFollow robots are covered by five international patents and stand out due to their ability to handle two roll cages at once as well as being able to operate in temperatures from -25° C to +40°C without degradation of battery life. The robust AMRs are built to withstand traveling on rough floors, and being just 17cm high – approximately half as tall as of other AMRs – gives the iFollow robot a further advantage in reducing overall height when carrying roll cages. All of these advantages combine to make iFollow robots ideal for improving productivity in grocery retail operations.

Using the classic combination of camera and QR-code navigation, the AMRs can transport loads of up to 1000 kg for applications such as goods receiving, despatch and order picking. Crucially, they can perform these functions in coldstores. A robot has a battery life of 16 hours and uses opportune charging to maximize uptime. A full charge from 10% to 100% requires 1.5 hours.

The compact robots offer easy movement in cramped or refrigerated environments and have the flexibility to transport different storage units such as pallets, trolleys and roll cages, contributing to an increase in operational productivity of between 28% and 42.5%.

Frazer Watson, UK – Ireland Country Manager at iFollow, said: “With labour shortages being a major challenge, the ability of iFollow robots to transport two roll cages at once will clearly transform the operational performance of grocery DCs. Designing and manufacturing our own robots and using our own software allows us to tailor solutions to meet the needs of individual applications.”

He continued: “Intelligent robots offer a flexible solution that can be easily adapted to changing needs, which makes iFollow’s technology ideal for supporting post-covid era grocery warehouse operations, which are facing demands for ever-shorter delivery times from growing e-commerce channels as well as store orders.”

Founded in March 2017 by Vincent Jacquemart (CEO) and Nicolas Menigoz (CTO), iFollow has raised €7.5 million in funding led by Supernova Invest, alongside Socadif – taking over from historical seed investors Axeleo Capital and NCI Waterstart, all with the support of BPI France.

The latest round of funding allows iFollow to expand its assembly line, currently based in Gentilly, France. Production is planned to increase tenfold to reach 1500 robots manufactured per year. With over 100 robots already operational, iFollow is aiming to deliver at least 500 new AMRs in 2022.

The iFollow team, which was previously focused on R&D, comprises about 40 employees. The team will be gradually strengthened to reach 80 employees within 18 months with new strategic areas to include: deployment, maintenance, logistics, and marketing.

Nicolas Menigoz, iFollow’s General Manager, underlined the commitment of his entire team. “This new round of financing marks a major milestone for the company, as our objective for 2022 is to scale up existing installations at several major French customers in the industrial and logistics sectors. Our ambition is to duplicate these well-established robotisation models in order to rapidly become a world leader in this significant market (€10 billion in 2023).”

David Hansen, Investment Director at Supernova Invest, said: “We are very impressed with iFollow’s value proposition, based on cutting-edge technology that offers significant benefits over existing solutions, including the absence of dedicated infrastructure, the thinness of the robots to fit under any surface, a payload of up to one tonne and the ability to operate in extremely cold environments. We are therefore delighted to become a leading partner of iFollow and to accompany them in their future successes.”

Samya Glangetas, Investment Director at Socadif Capital Investissement, concluded: “We are delighted to join the founders of iFollow in this industrial endeavour which should lead them to become one of the world leaders in AMRs for logistics players. We were attracted as much by the technological advancements of the proposed solutions as by the quality and enthusiasm of the entire team.”