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Lending a Hand: Robots are Filling Pandemic-Fueled Needs in Ecommerce, Health Care and More

February 10, 2021  |  Pittsburgh, PA

When Covid-19 took hold of the world, habits changed at an unprecedented pace. Weekly grocery shopping trips turned into choosing items on an app and waiting for groceries to be dropped off on front porches. Weekends spent browsing the aisles turned into more clicks online and packages delivered to homes. 

But what has been less apparent is what has gone on behind the scenes as companies scrambled to adapt to these changes -- and the role robots are playing in this era of one-click shopping and homebound living. 

EMarketer reported in October 2020 that the pandemic skyrocketed ecommerce growth to a level the U.S. was not previously projected to reach until at least 2022. The organization reported U.S. ecommerce sales were expected to reach $794.5 billion for the full year 2020, about 14.4% of all U.S. retail spending and a 32.4% increase from 2019. 

In response, companies have turned to robots. One company that has already benefited from the Covid-related push toward automation is Pittsburgh-based Seegrid Corp., which creates autonomous mobile robots for material handling in warehouses, such as for loading and unloading pallets or towing heavy materials to desired locations. 

The company, already on a growth trajectory, hired about 125 people last year and closed a $52 million financing round in September 2020. While it does not disclose revenue, it noted its year-over-year revenue in 2020 doubled for the second consecutive year, and its production fleet increased its autonomous miles driven at customer sites from 3 million to 4 million.

CEO Jim Rock said he anticipates similar growth in 2021. He noted the pandemic proved challenging for many businesses to keep up with demand, which accelerated the adoption of automated solutions.

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