Shopify buys warehouse automation company 6 River Systems

The deal is meant to help Shopify build out and support its AI-powered fulfillment network.

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Shopify is buying 6 River Systems, six-year-old warehouse automation, and industrial robotics startup, for $450 million, the company announced on Monday. The deal is meant to help Shopify build-out and support its AI-powered fulfillment network which launched in June. 

The core product from 6 River Systems is its collaborative mobile robot called Chuck, which speeds up warehouse operations by helping on-site workers pick, sort, pack and replenish inventory. The system is operating in more than 20 warehouse facilities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, for customers including Lockheed Martin, CSAT Solutions, ACT Fulfillment, DHL, XPO Logistics, and Office Depot.

Shopify said the 6 River Systems team includes software and robotics experts, including former leaders from Kiva Systems, which Amazon bought in 2012 for $775 million to bring warehouse robotics in-house. 

"Shopify is taking on fulfillment the same way we've approached other commerce challenges, by bringing together the best technology to help everyone compete," said Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke. "With 6 River Systems, we will bring technology and operational efficiencies to companies of all sizes around the world."

With its own fulfillment network, Shopify is aiming to offer merchants lower-cost shipping that's managed through the Shopify system. Speaking to ZDNet before the fulfillment network launch, Shopify CTO Jean-Michel Lemieux said the network includes a mix of Shopify-owned and shared distribution centers. At launch, the Shopify fulfillment network targeted small and medium-sized businesses, but by adding 6 River Systems to its arsenal, Shopify will be able to ramp up its plans to support larger merchants with more complex fulfillment needs.  

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