Heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has acquired Marble Robot Inc., pushing forward its automation and autonomy strategy.
Marble, which was founded in 2015, is a San Francisco based technology company which aims to re-engineer logistics and supply chains by utilizing autonomous robots to tackle the challenges of delivery.
Marble’s robots aim to make supply chains more agile and provide a more efficient, sustainable way to transport goods. The company initially focused on food delivery, however, it has since had broader ambitions, including groceries, prescriptions and package delivery.
The company’s robots utilize a hybrid-autonomy system, advanced sensors and high-resolution 3D city maps to efficiently navigate busy urban environments, enabling businesses to deliver their products safely and securely. These features would also be beneficial within the key industries and markets that Caterpillar caters to.
On 24 April 2018, Marble closed a $10 million Series A funding round. The round involved the likes of Tencent, Lemnos, Crunchfund and Maven and brought the start-up’s total funding to $15 million.
Despite Marble’s previous focus on delivery, Caterpillar aims to utilize the expertise of the new team to bring scalable solutions within the construction, quarry, industrial and waste industries.
Marble acquisition will promote Caterpillar’s automation ambitions
Caterpillar is already a market leader in terms of automation, therefore the acquisition of Marble will further consolidate its mission to meet the changing needs of the construction industry.
Caterpillar has always placed strong emphasis on product-oriented research and development (R&D) relating to the development of new or improved machines, engines and major components, backed by its strong R&D capabilities.
In May 2020, Caterpillar announced that it had doubled its autonomous haulage figures in under two years, after recording two billion tones hauled with the autonomous trucks system.
Cat 793F mining trucks with Cat Command for Hauling are fully autonomous and are able to manoeuvre through traffic, navigate to dump sites and even stop for fuel and service without operator intervention. Currently, more than 180 fully autonomous Cat mining trucks at work around the world have moved 1.1 billion tons of earth and driven 40 million kilometres.
Acquisition shows confidence
The continued spread of the Covid-19 pandemic is starting to impact Caterpillar’s supply chain, a possibility the company disclosed in its risk factors included in the company’s Form 10-K filed on 19 February, 2020.
On 26 March, Caterpillar reported that it would be temporarily suspending operations at certain facilities due to uncertain economic conditions resulting in weaker demand, potential supply constraints and the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and related government actions.
Despite the challenges currently facing the company, the acquisition illustrates Caterpillar’s confidence in the future and its commitment to automation.