ForwardX Robotics is an award-winning developer of intelligent robotics with offices located globally. With a core focus on Artificial Intelligence and its successful application within Robotics, ForwardX offers the world’s only visual Autonomous Mobile Robot fleet for use in a wide range of business scenarios. A globally recognized AMR leader, ForwardX solutions address a number of pain points across the supply chain from manufacturing to logistics functions.
ForwardX Robotics currently serves a number of Fortune 500 companies across a wide range of industries, such as SF DHL, ITOCHU Logistics, TCL, and more. Its solutions have delivered real value to each and every customer leading to 50% labor cost reductions, 200%-300% increases in productivity, and accuracy increases up to 99.5%. ForwardX Robotics currently possess over 160 pending patents with a team of 180 people, which includes 120 engineers of which 10 hold PhDs.
ForwardX is comprised of the world’s top computer vision scientists and robotics experts as shown by its award-winning work, such as two 1st-Place Prizes at TRECVID and a 1st Place Prize for IEEE’s VOT-RT.
Mission to Add Business Value
Founded in 2016, ForwardX is built on a vision of the future where intelligent robotics contribute more to the society, freeing people from menial tasks and allowing everyone to live more meaningful lives. Since its conception, ForwardX’s mission has been to add value to people’s lives and businesses’ operations through the development of cutting-edge automation technology.
Unlike many high-tech organizations, ForwardX’s prides itself on practically applying next generation technologies to areas where they really matters. ForwardX first received public attention through OVIS, the world’s only side-following suitcase, which crowdfunded over US$1 million and earned coverage in a number of leading publications, including Forbes, VentureBeat, TechCrunch, and more.
ForwardX’s technological capabilities also have a huge positive impact within the supply chain, where a number of external pressures are creating chaos for the manufacturing and logistics functions within large-scale enterprises and SMEs alike. While developing OVIS, ForwardX began to develop its automation platform, ForwardX Matrix, which combines fleets of visual Autonomous Mobile Robots, also known as vAMRs, with intelligent fleet management infrastructure to automate a number of labor-intensive tasks within warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing plants. To date, it has developed a number of different solutions for use across a wide range of scenarios; its current offering consists of the ForwardX FLEX and MAX solutions, each integrating a combination of its vAMR range and f(x) fleet management software for a comprehensive material handling solution.
A Global Technology Leader
Nicolas Chee, the Founder and CEO of ForwardX Robotics is considered a forward-thinking leader in the industry. Before beginning his postgraduate degree in Integrated Circuits from Beihang University, Nicolas competed in and won ABU’s Robocon, an international robotics competition that attracts the most talented students from programming, mechanical design, and electronic circuit design majors across Asia.
After completing his master’s degree, Nicolas joined SAP as a Project Manager and Senior Business Consultant, working there for close to 5 years before moving to Oracle to head up its SaaS division as a Regional VP. While at Oracle, Nicolas’s hard work resulted in a number of honors, from being recognized as a Global Top 100 Performer and China’s Top 10 to being awarded a Global President’s Club membership. However, it was after six successful years at Oracle that Nicolas conceived his vision of the future and, in April 2016, founded ForwardX Robotics committing himself to his vision.
Since its early beginnings, ForwardX has devoted itself to pushing the envelope technologically and putting new technologies to test. As a company with a clear technological advantage, Nicolas saw ForwardX as a pioneer of the automation industry with a responsibility to deliver mature solutions that could provide tangible benefits. Since founding the company, Nicolas has not shied away from his technical background nor his acute talent for leadership. Recruiting and collaborating with recognized experts, from computer vision scientists to technical project managers to supply chain professionals, Nicolas has been able to assemble and lead a team with his deep technical and industry knowledge.
While every startup’s voyage faces ups and downs, Nicolas has proven to be a worthy captain steering the ship with a level head and staying true to the company’s mission.
Developing the Best of Autonomous Technology
According to leading industry analysts, the United States and China combined are expected to account for nearly three-quarters of all Autonomous Mobile Robot revenues within three years while also representing half of the supplier market. These predictions show how important intelligent robotics already are and will to continue to be in the future of world-leading economies. As part of this exploding landscape, ForwardX stands as a visionary; while other vendors focus on more rudimentary technology, ForwardX puts the “intelligent” back into “intelligent automation”, with a clear focus on developing the best of autonomous technology.
Furthermore, with the fallout of COVID setting in, material handling automation has moved to the forefront of the supply chain priority list; accelerating e-commerce growth, rising high mix, low volume (HMLV) production, and a widening labor gap have proven to be the key drivers behind the overall trends towards intelligent automation. During this time, ForwardX and its solutions are proving to be indispensable for its global client base. With the flexibility of the Matrix platform, clients like SF DHL, ITOCHU Logistics, and TCL are able to make the best of ForwardX solutions to address general demand instability, spikes in e-commerce orders, and the need for health and safety initiatives. With production returning in the U.S. and the production in China all but recovered, its clients have seen industry-leading levels of resiliency in their operations within the four walls of their warehousing and manufacturing facilities.
Strategic Partnerships Driving Innovative Solutions
ForwardX is a company founded on innovation and drive to push the world forward. This core axiom can be seen across every function of the company, from product management to R&D to marketing. The team at ForwardX prides itself on strong lateral thinking and a holistic outlook of the world. These competencies combined give them an ability to innovate and develop solutions with clear value and a strong product-market fit. Furthermore, operating in a relatively infantile market, ForwardX understands that many of the situations facing customers are being experienced for the very first time and, in many cases, the company is developing solutions to entirely new problems with very little established data. With this in mind, ForwardX sees tremendous value in its customers as a deep pool of knowledge to guide innovation.
ForwardX believes that, while the mobile robotics market is relatively young, automation itself is very much established due to Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) having penetrated a huge portion of the market already. Furthermore, with very complex value streams, supply chain activities will always require a number of different vendors contracted to automate different parts of the process. Because of this, the need for strong strategic partnerships is vital to ensure its solutions are not siloed within one piece of the process and that the data its solutions are able to gather can be used effectively across different platforms. With this in mind, ForwardX works with a number of hardware providers, related automation providers, and distributors to ensure continuous innovation and growth.
Valuable Feedbacks and Awards
ForwardX has received a number of awards for its work in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. It secured 1st place prizes for Pedestrian Detection at NIST’s TRECVID, 1st place prize for Multi-Object Tracking at IEEE’s VOT-RT, 95% accuracy and 65% first hit rate with Market-1501 and ViPER datasets respectively, Best Paper award at ACM Multimedia 2013, and a Gold Medal at TAAI 2017. Furthermore, the company has been recognized by the Zhongguancun Frontier Technology Innovation Contest as a leader in the fields of Smart Technology and Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT). As the developer of the world’s only visual AMR fleets, the ForwardX team is proud of its status as one of the most innovative robotics providers in the world.
With customer centricity as a core brand value, ForwardX has always aimed to deliver above and beyond the expectations of its customers. With customers who are results-driven multinational enterprises, ForwardX aims to deliver substantial productivity increases and cost reductions that make its solutions a truly valuable asset to its customer’s operations. The company’s aspiration to overdeliver has helped it to develop deep relationships with all of its customers, who value determination and focus when it comes to ensuring that the solutions offered to them are in the best position to succeed.
Transforming Challenges to Opportunities
Like most startups, especially within a new market, the company faces new challenges every day. It asserts that, every startup will face challenges from their culture, recruiting and retaining talent, product development, marketing, etc. and these challenges are to be expected for the most part.
For ForwardX, its strength has always been in its technology and its technical expertise. But, with disruptive technologies, it is all about entering existing markets and trying to address complex, nuanced problems that have been problems for a long time.
The company believes that, as a startup, it is approaching these problems with a fresh approach to try to reimagine the problem and apply technical expertise to a new solution. The main challenge with this is truly understanding the problem, the people experiencing the problem, and all of the complexities that come with that. For example, in a traditional industry like the logistics industry, there are some set “rules” that are followed across the industry, but every operation will have its own way of doing things. This makes attaining a deep understanding impossible without speaking directly to countless sources and experts on the subject. ForwardX has managed to make the best of this challenge through strategic partnerships and some great hires.
Other than that, like most other startups developing a disruptive technology, ForwardX has faced challenges in trying to convince traditional enterprises who have always done things a certain way to change the way they do things. Particularly in the case of Autonomous Mobile Robots, there is always going to be some fear that robots will replace humans and create more unemployment. ForwardX, however, believes that robots are a complement to humans and that solutions will actually serve to create more jobs and elevate society to new levels of productivity. The company reasons that the level of automation in the world is at its highest and yet, until COVID, unemployment had not been negatively affected at all. As time goes on, ForwardX is starting to see fewer and fewer worries around that subject and more of a focus on how enterprises can reskill workforces, increase worker satisfaction, and, ultimately, get the best out of their workers.
Promising Future Ahead
Looking at the industry as a whole, ForwardX believes that the next five years are set to be transformative for those in the robotics industry. By now, everyone has seen the plethora of research reports predicting huge growth in the robotics industry but, particularly in the AGV/AMR market, widespread adoption is expected over the next three years.
In supply chain functions particularly, with the outbreak of COVID, the amplified need for intelligent automation across logistics, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare environments can be seen. As a result, there is more willingness to adopt next-gen technologies due to major shifts in mindset and a lot of age-old beliefs being thrown out of the window; a key example of this is the belief that one can be productive or flexible but not both. It’s long been thought that achieving high levels of productivity and flexibility was impossible. Companies were forced to choose between the two and, with the rarity of major disruptions and the temporal distance between those events, most tended to choose a highly productive but rigid operation. But, in doing so, they left themselves entirely susceptible to an event like COVID.
Supply chains are starting to understand that they cannot afford to sacrifice agility and flexibility anymore. As a result, many companies are starting to look for solutions that can offer equally productive and flexible operations. ForwardX believes that technological advancement, and particularly robotics advancement, will present opportunities for companies to achieve both. An obvious example can be seen in autonomous robotics where supply chains can implement highly flexible and scalable solutions that increase productivity and efficiency almost immediately.
The robotics industry will act as a point of convergence for a lot of advanced technologies. Furthermore, ForwardX expects to see robotics go through a phase of interoperability development where robotics developers unify and use their individual strengths to develop complete solutions. Through robotics, traditional industries will be able to apply the latest and greatest technologies to areas of their operations that have previously been unsuitable for automation. Through its mission to add value where it matters, ForwardX aims to continue to develop and deliver robust next-gen solutions that achieve positive bottom-line results.
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