The e-commerce market is continually growing. The bottleneck for companies is their logistics warehouses, which have trouble maintaining a large variety of products and meeting tight supply schedules. Israeli company Caja is taking advantage of the situation by offering a cloud-managed robot service capable of accomplishing real time optimization.
A short pitch: What does the company do?
A: Caja, a startup, turns any manual warehouse into an automated one in just a few hours.
A slightly more thorough explanation
A: Behind every delivery you order online is a warehouse with a limited inventory and times for picking out the item that are growing shorter by the year. Most warehouses, however, still operate according to the same principles as the physical retail sector: inflexible shelving, predetermined demand, and many orders for a single item. In a desperate effort to meet the demands and remain profitable, logistics companies are employing workers who walk an average of 18 kilometers during a shift, because the items are stored on shelves that are two meters high. The companies are setting targets of collecting an item every 30 seconds for 7.5 hours, while trying to optimize warehouse dimensions.
Caja is seeking to change the fundamental assumption of storage theory by completely adapting it to e-commerce. The company uses easy and elastic shelving that is variable at each point in time. Reliable robots are in action 24/7. An overall system on the cloud performs real time optimization. The brain of the system is based on 4D navigation, meaning that the robots do not move and respond according to sensors. They know in advance where on the warehouse map they should be at all times. When the time dimension was added, we achieved complete coordination between the robots, complete optimization of the warehouse, and the ability to supply goods in just a few minutes.
Q: How did you get the idea?
A: As software engineers and e-commerce website founders, we were very familiar with the manual warehouse problem. With the rapid growth in unknown demand, we realized that the weak link was on the logistics side, and decided to take up the challenge. We initially looked for automatic alternatives, but found solutions that were very expensive and solved only some of the critical problems. The more we looked, the more we understood the problems. We also saw an opportunity, and that’s how Caja (“box” in Spanish) was born.
Q: What stage have you reached?
A: We are currently in the final stages of stabilizing the system. We’re putting an initial system in place in Germany in two months at one of the world’s 10 largest logistics companies. They were very interested in us, and we signed an authorized distributor deal that will leverage the system’s sales potential.
Q: Who are your competitors?
A: Our competitors are in two categories: those that are imitating Kiva (as of now, Amazon.com) exactly by relying on the gray corners in their patent clauses, and those offering new solutions, such as AutoStore. The difference between the players is reflected in their concept of the warehouse, looking at factors like heavy or light infrastructure, setup costs, method of loading/collecting items, and the business model. Since there are many parameters and the market is a big one – $1.5 trillion – the critical parameters for the product’s success will be the system’s reliability and the business model.
Q: How do you plan to make money?
A: We’re selling our first two systems as a product with annual maintenance service. In the near future, we’ll bill the customers “according to the order line.” Just as software made a revolution by switching to SaaS, we will also make a revolution in the robot era. We’ll call it RaaS. It will make it easier for warehouses to install the system and switch to advanced technologies according to their needs and the rate of progress.
Q: Have you already received investments? How many? Who invested?
A: In the first year, the founders put their own money into the company. After that, we raised money from private investors, including Gigi Levy. We’re planning another financing round after we finish placing our first system in Germany.
Q: Who are the company founders?
A: There are six founders with complementary backgrounds: CEO Guy Glass, CFO Tami Ingber, CTO Reuven Della-Torre, Omer Einav, Danny Frishman, and Dr. Ilan Cohen.
Q: How many employees do you have? Where are your offices?
A: We have 10 employees and are busy recruiting more. Our offices are in Binyamina. We occupy an entire floor 12 meters high, two thirds of which is used as our trial laboratory and the other third for offices.
Caja Systems is taking part in the Startup Arena, Geektime’s startup competition taking place for the ninth consecutive year in the framework of the Geektime Conference. Past participants include companies such as Kaltura, Cyactive, and SalesPredict, among others. The 2016 Startup Arena competition this year is sponsored by Altshuler Shaham Benefits.