WHERE HAVE ALL
THE WORKERS GONE?
Finding, training, retaining workers is the logistics industry’s greatest challenge. Keeping them injury free is challenge number two.
Black-I Robotics, located in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, has developed a patented, revolutionary AI-based Fullscope Mobile Heavy Lift Arm that replaces at least two worker shifts per 24 hours while eliminating a large proportion of injuries common to jobs requiring lifting, pushing, pulling loads all day long.
The robotic arm lifts twice the payload of any other heavy lift robotic arm, picking and placing objects within a warehouse, manufacturing plant and similar workplaces while eliminating the need for dumb, expensive, stationary robots at the end of each production line.
The arm integrates a number of emerging technologies, including sophisticated software designed by our colleagues from MIT, and multiple 2D and 3D cameras with live data streams that enable the robot to plan an optimum path to shelving, avoid any objects that may be in its way and precisely pick and then place designated items. The savings in greatly enhanced productivity, avoiding injuries and worker compensation claims, and reducing capital expenditures can easily run into the millions of dollars annually.
One of the country’s largest food distributors is testing Black-I’s robotic arms with the intention of deploying them at plants in the midwest and northeast and eventually throughout the country. We’re also working with other well-known companies that are enthusiastic about working with us to resolve their worker issues.
Labor problems are the logistics industry’s worst nightmare. Black-I Robotics’ revolutionary robotic arm, which replaces a minimum of two workers per 24-hour shift, greatly enhances productivity and shop floor safety while significantly reducing workman compensation claims and capital expenditures. The arm, which integrates a range of emerging technologies and breakthrough software, can easily save millions of dollars annually. Black-I is involved with a score of companies interested in putting the arm to work, including one of the country’s largest food distributors
Check out The Arm in Action
THE LOGISTICS INDUSTRY
Black-I Robotics, which has been in the robotics industry since 2008, originally developed the robotic arm for the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and then improved and adapted the original arm to the commercial market.
The robotic arm is controlled by Facilities Managers and operations staff with little training required, and functions without alteration to existing infrastructure.
Leveraging its extensive work for government and universities, Black-I developed a unique robotic arm that provides Facility Managers and staff a range of new and valuable management tools, including a Management Dashboard that generates critical real-time feedback on performance while generating useful reports that for the first time give supervisors command of their operations.
The technology also incorporates another industry first, a range of easy-to-use management tools, including a Management Dashboard that generates real-time feedback on a range of critical performance criteria while automatically producing valuable reports. Facility Managers for the first time have full command over their environment, both the workplace and the workforce.
The arm is available as an add-on kit that converts autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) with 500KG capacity or higher into smart mobile “Robot Workers” that can precisely pick and place payloads of different shapes, sizes and weights. The arm leverages the extensive fixed investment companies have made in their AMR fleet, enabling the fleet to perform a wide range of new value-added functions. Initial applications will target tasks involving heavy lifting, which account for an outsized proportion of workers compensation claims.
A HISTORY OF ENHANCING
Black-I Robotics was founded in 2008 by a team of experienced inventors, engineers and business visionaries, led by Brian Hart, CEO. Brian and his team have developed a range of high tech products for numerous public, private and government organizations, focusing primarily on mobile robots and mobile robotic arms that improve labor availability and productivity.
Black-I has worked with MIT, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and other universities on a range of projects. We’ve also completed R&D projects for Raytheon and other defense contractors. Our work for the Defense Department over a dozen years facilitated our ability to produce increasingly intelligent mobile arms. We also partnered with Ascend Robotics and its brilliant MIT software experts to incorporate leading edge AI vision, sophisticated motion control and path planning as well as systems and management tools, enabling our arms to move around obstacles to place large objects precisely where needed. including heavy artillery shells. Black-I is acknowledged as one of the world’s most experienced companies for lifting large objects on mobile platforms, making us the perfect partner for companies looking to solve their labor problems and enhance their safety and efficiency.
Black-I is acknowledged as one of the world’s most experienced companies for lifting large objects on mobile platforms, making us the perfect partner for companies looking to solve their labor problems and enhance their safety and efficiency.
SAFELY PICK AND PLACE: Building off our years of government development work, we streamlined our robotic offering for the commercial market, in particular the logistics industry. It was the hit of this spring’s Modex materials handling industry show based on its lift capacity — twice existing arms — and AI vision capabilities that enable it to safely pick and place virtually any item in, say, a busy warehouse to assist and replace labor as necessary.
THE AUTOMATED WORKFORCE
Workers are scarce. Worse, their exhausting work makes them subject to injuries. That means lost days, medical bills, increased health premiums, and sometimes lawsuits.
Transitioning from the human workforce to the automated workforce saves a remarkable amount of money — millions of dollars a month depending on the size of the operation. Robots are available at all times, in all conditions, without complications, without injury.
SHOCKING THE BOTTOM LINE: The Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Department (OSHA) has an online tool that estimates both the direct and indirect costs of injuries and their impact on a company’s profits. The findings are shocking! A fracture, for example, costs a company on average $54,856, part of which would be covered by workers’ compensation policy. Much more significant are the indirect costs of such an injury, approximately $60,341, according to OSHA. That cost would be the employer’s complete responsibility. That means that a company operating at a three percent profit margin would have to make an additional $2,011,360 in sales to cover the indirect costs, and $3,839,900 to cover both direct and indirect costs. Wow!
A worker who breaks a leg in a warehouse or manufacturing plant costs his company tens of thousands of dollars. According to the U. S. Department of Labor, a corporation operating at a three percent profit margin would have to make an additional $3,839,900 to cover both direct and indirect costs of the injury. Black-I’s Fullscope mobile arm is the solution to these outrageous costs.
REPLACING MULTIPLE WORKERS: No matter the injury, the work has to get done. That’s where automation — the modern non-human worker — comes to the rescue.
The Black-I arm can replace two or more full time equivalents per day over multiple shifts, saving literally millions of dollars a year. Workers who now pick, place, pull and push all day can be assigned to functions where brains rather than brawn are required. The improvement in worker health, safety and morale are matched by an increase in productivity and a dramatic cut in operating costs. There’s also the option to pay for the arm via your operating or capital budget.
Our Fullscope Mobile Heavy Lift Arm mounted on traditional AMRs enables users to:
THE BLACK-I DIFFERENCE
There’s a vast difference between Black-I’s Fullscope Mobile Heavy Lift Robot and other bots:
FROM THE GROUND UP: Integrating numerous technologies that “see” and “think” into a single but complex robot that automatically picks, lifts, maneuvers and places large objects is an enormous challenge. Our team — consisting of mechanical engineers, robotic control experts, vision and software specialists — started with a basic robotic arm that we developed for the Defense Department’s leading technology agencies, and then modified it specifically for the logistics industry. It’s taken three years of intensive work to develop the unique Fullscope arm, and we have been granted patents on the product and other intellectual property.
STRONG AND BALANCED:The balance between weight, strength and speed with a heavy lift pick and place arm working within, say, a dynamic warehouse, is critical. Safety was our priority, but the quality, durability and cost of component parts also were critical factors in the design and building of the Fullscope arm, particularly the three joints that enable our unique arm to lift 100 pounds, twice other arms. The arm needed to meet the needs of facility managers, but at a reasonable overall cost, which we accomplished.
20-20 VISION:Warehouses, manufacturing floors and similar workplaces are full of machines, shelving, boxes, cartons, instruments, pallets, and, most notably, people. Many factories use space, cameras, cages and other safeguards to protect their workers. Our goal at Black-I was to develop vision capabilities that eliminated the need for clumsy and expensive safeguards and help management optimize their infrastructure. As experts in machine vision, our team developed the critical “brains” of the coordinated control and task centered UI for the Fullscope arm. The result: a revolutionary configuration!
FITTING CUSTOMER INFRASTRUCTURE:From the start, our engineers insisted that our Fullscope arm had to fit into and work with a customer’s existing infrastructure, and adapt to any change in the infrastructure down the road. Our coordinated system control and task centered IU was designed specifically for Facilities Managers. It is easy to use, provides management autonomy and readily integrates with WMS and MES systems.
DATA AT YOUR FINGERTIPS!: Facilities Managers will be excited about many innovations represented by the Fullscope arm, but what they will find among the most valuable innovations is Black-I’s breakthrough Management Dashboard. The dashboard enables operations and facilities staff to view in real time a range of critical information — including system and performance data — collected by the arm, a first for most companies in the logistics industry.
Over the past 15 years, Black-I Robotics’ team has developed unmanned ground vehicles and other robots for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and a dozen universities, including work involving biologic and chemical agents. It has rolled out telehealth and tele-pharmacy related automation products in the U.S. and globally, and established service and support teams for technical implementation over a wide geographic area.
Brian Hart, Founder, CEO and COB of Black-I Robotics, Inc., lost his 20-year-old son John in Iraq, which led to an important role as a civilian advocate in armoring up American troops sent into combat. Working with government agencies helped refine his technological skills and led to his leading role in the robotics industry, where he is an acknowledged expert. Brian also spent a decade in remote healthcare and pharmacy automation as Founder and CEO of a technology company that was sold to one of the country’s largest drug distributors. He has been Assistant Treasurer of Boston University managing a portion of its private equity portfolio, and CFO of a regional wireless company, which was later acquired. Brian has a BA and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Paul Pescatore, CFO of Black-I Robotics for over a decade, was a senior executive vice president for finance and operations with a biotech company. He has held senior positions in technology, healthcare, medical equipment manufacturing and software firms. He is a graduate of Boston College and served with the U. S. Army in Europe.
Sean Sullivan, marketing consultant and investor, began his career as a journalist on daily newspapers on the East and West Coasts, including The Wall Street Journal. Sean spent 10 years with IBM in California and New York before serving as Vice President of Marketing for several computer hardware and software companies. He went on to found a variety of companies, including an airline, a medical device company and an advertising agency, the latter two of which were acquired by larger firms. Mr. Sullivan also served with the Peace Corps in Africa for five years. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and earned an M.S. from Fairfield University. He has been involved with Black-I Robotics since 2008.
Amy Yin, Co-founder, VP of Engineering, Ascend Robotics, led the effort to develop the core coordinated system control and the task centered UI for the Black-I Fullscope mobile arm. The system is designed specifically for Facilities Managers, with focus on ease of operation, autonomy, and ready integration with WMS and MES systems. Amy also leads development of the breakthrough Management Dashboard for Black-I’s robots. Previously, Amy led teams at Charles River Development, delivering multiple products (Enterprise Data Management, Data Integrations) from conception through multiple releases for Wall Street customers, and an early-stage distributed cloud storage startup. Earlier, Amy managed award-winning technology development and AI applications for a leading machine vision company. She holds an MS and Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering with focus on Human-Machine Systems from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
David Askey is the co-founder and CEO of Ascend Robotics. David and his team tailored Ascend’s world-class parts handling robot systems to the needs of Black-I’s customer base within the warehouse and manufacturing industries. The system retrieves components, provides production line supply, and automates kitting. Ascend’s AI and robotics technologies also have been deployed in the construction space, including robot control and perception for autonomous painting of buildings and infrastructure structures. David, who has extensive experience in AI, perception, and robotics, has held senior positions managing engineering teams, leading technology strategy, and directing R&D at technology and imaging companies both in the U.S. and Europe. David has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Q & A
Black-I Robotics CEO Brian Hart recently answered questions about how and why he founded the company and what the future holds.
A. Sales of heavy lift arms continue to grow rapidly because companies simply can’t find enough workers. We are experiencing the demand first hand! When we introduced the Fullscope arm at a trade show earlier this year, our booth became a magnet for many of the best known corporations in the country. Some talked about investing in Black-I. Most wanted to know when they could test the robot. Right now our robot is being evaluated in the robotics lab of one of the country’s largest companies. We anticipate that once the test is completed, we’ll be awarded a contract for a number of our bots to handle pallets and other payloads in one of the company’s busiest factories. That’s one company, but there are many others with household names that also want to partner with us.
A. Demand for technology solutions to organizational problems is nothing new, but the Covid pandemic accelerated the need. Corporations — particularly those in the logistics business — face a severe shortage of workers. That’s compounded by the difficulties that workers face on the job — injuries! It’s tough work pushing, pulling, lifting heavy boxes, cartons, pallets day in, day out. Our robotic arm resolves those problems, and then some. We’re the perfect fit for repetitive jobs that call for muscle every minute of the day. Robots are more economical than human workers, don’t ask for raises, don’t get injured, and are available 24×7.
A. Ascend Robotics is a world leader in robotic arm software controls and user interfaces. We partnered with them to accelerate time to market for the Fullscope product. Founders David Askey and Amy Yin, both out of MIT, have in their 20 years in the business pushed the boundaries of robotics applications, including AI and machine vision, which are critical — and unique — to our Fullscope arm. Ascend has enabled us to deliver a range of applications that the logistics industry has wanted for years, including a Management Dashboard that offers visibility into the performance of a firm’s workforce, among others of high value. When we say our Fullscope Mobile Heavy Lift Arm is revolutionary, we do not exaggerate.
A. This is the perfect environment for Black-I and other companies that enable their customers to become more efficient. The days of easy money, low interest rates and a compliant Federal Reserve that led to record corporate profits the past 12 years are over. Corporations understand now that the path to higher profits is through increases in productivity. Helping companies become more efficient, more profitable is Black-I’s mission.
A. Our proprietary arm’s payload is two times other arms. It was designed specifically for the logistics industry, integrating new and powerful technologies that keep operating costs low and productivity values high. Its exceptional vision capabilities enable it to move around a very busy workplace without banging into shelves, machinery, and, best of all, humans. It can reach high and low, our customized grippers lifting objects of different weights and shapes, placing them precisely where needed. If things change on the factory floor or on the shelves, the typical stationary arm needs to be taken off line or moved, with costly infrastructure changes. That’s expensive, and a blow to operations. Our arm is vastly more flexible and inherently mobile, and will easily save our customers millions of dollars a year — and lots of headaches!
Yes, our arm can be mounted on a wide variety of chassis, including AMRs and AGVs. The entire supply chain, particularly warehousing and manufacturing facilities, increasingly are incorporating AMRs into their operations, and we anticipate they’ll drive new revenue opportunities for AMR vendors integrating our arm. My thought is, if we autonomously pick and palletize with a mobile unit and add it to automated warehouse systems (AWS), it is possible to fully automate door to door logistics. The labor issue plaguing the supply chain, including huge variations in seasonal demand and customer expectations for faster, cheaper delivery, will only make the problem worse. We are the solution.
A. Absolutely. We designed our arm from the start to readily fit on a wide range of available AMRs with 500 kg payload capacity or higher. AMR companies and systems integrators are teaming up with us because they understand that adding a versatile, safe heavy lift arm to their platform greatly expands their revenue opportunities. We’re their perfect partner.