Elementary Robotics raises $12.7 million to automate industrial inspections

Elementary Robotics, a robotics company developing tools to automate industrial tasks, today announced it has raised a $12.7 million round. The fresh capital will be used to deploy the Los Angeles-based startup’s automation products at scale, a spokesperson told VentureBeat.

McKinsey pegs the automation potential for production occupations at 79%, and the pandemic is likely to accelerate this shift. A report by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte found that 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next decade, and challenges brought on by physical distancing measures and a sustained uptick in ecommerce activity have stretched some logistics operations to the limit. The National Association of Manufacturers says 53.1% of manufacturers anticipate a change in operations due to the health crisis, with 35.5% saying they’re already facing supply chain disruptions.

Elementary asserts it’s prepared to address the industry’s challenges. The company, which has kept a low profile since its founding in 2017, offers products that automate industrial inspections using a combination of hardware, software, machine learning, and computer vision to identify defects — including those manufacturers might not be aware of. It enables manufacturers to set up inspections in the cloud so human inspectors can be kept in the loop and trace and train the systems over time.

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Elementary offers a “full stack” robotic solution, with everything from motor controls to an API that “enables machine learning from the ground up.” The company’s robots can learn to perform monotonous tasks and leverage RGB cameras, depth sensors, and AI to “perceive the world,” allowing them to learn from processes they observe.

CEO Arye Barnehama, who previously founded and sold wearable technology company Melon to Daqri, an industrial augmented reality startup that went on to raise $275 million, wasn’t willing to reveal much beyond the basics about Elementary’s solutions. But he believes the company is poised to become a “world leader” in assistive robotics, in part because of a proprietary vision stack with a lower bill of materials than many competing systems.

Elementary Robotics certainly has the talent to deliver on that vision. It counts graduates and employees from Qualcomm, Caltech, NASA JPL, SpaceX, and Art Center College of Design among its workforce, all of whom are working on “cutting-edge” robotic systems that will one day augment human workers by performing a range of complex tasks.

In a testament to its competitiveness, Elementary says it has inked deals with a number of manufacturing and logistics suppliers, including Toyota. Its customers have transitioned from sample-based inspection to 100% inspection and seen reduced scrap rates as workflows have become easier to standardize across factories and production lines.

Threshold Ventures led this week’s series A, with participation from existing backers Fika Ventures, Fathom Capital, and Toyota AI Ventures. The round brings Elementary’s total raised to over $15 million.

With the warehouse robotics market alone anticipated to be worth $4.44 billion by 2022, according to Markets and Markets, there’s no shortage of competition. Amazon acquired robotics company Kiva Systems for $775 million in March 2012, and last November DHL announced it would invest $300 million to modernize its warehouses in North America with internet of things sensors and robots. Elsewhere, Startups like Attabotics and CommonSense Robotics have raised tens of millions of dollars for compact automated fulfillment centers that can slot into tight spaces, like underground garages.

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