Estonia has a reputation for friendly people, right?
So it should follow that its robots are friendly, too. Or at least that’s the perception around Cleveron’s courier delivery robots — set to make their way onto Europe’s road ways en masse in coming years. The aptly named Cleveron, led by CEO Arno Kutt and cofounder Peep Kuld, is already piloting predictably cute, rotund, grocery-delivery robots in European markets.
The company could solve one big opportunity in front of Amazon, Walmart, Target, Carrefour, Tesco, and a raft of other big-box and e-commerce retailers with its “last mile” courier service. And it might be a way to cut costs without pulling medical benefits and facing the awkward media attention that (equally predictably follows such moves). Too soon?
To get the latest details on last-mile robots, Grit Daily spoke with Cleveron CEO Arno Kutt.
Grit Daily: You had a few of your own ventures before Cleveron. Share those.
Arno Kutt: I’ve had several ventures which all have grown out of each other in a logical manner. There was a problem that we needed to solve, so we found a solution. In the nineties, I had a furniture company and we needed to grow our sales. At one trade show I saw how a man photographed one of our products with a digital camera, emailed the picture to his wife and the wife told him to buy it. We had made a sale without actually meeting the buyer. I realised that selling furniture online would widen our business enormously. So we founded ON24, which quickly became the largest online furniture store in Estonia.
As an online store, we used several logistics partners, but they didn’t offer the service level we were looking for. Therefore, we established our own logistics department. Since our service was better than in other companies — the vans had two people who carried the furniture to the room the customer wanted — other companies soon wanted to use our service as well.
The logistics department turned into a logistics company SmartPOST. Soon we realized that delivering small items with a courier is not an efficient delivery method but we couldn’t find a parcel locker which would suit our needs. We decided to develop our parcel locker and established the first state-wide parcel locker network in Estonia. This was more than 10 years ago. Today, parcel lockers are self-evident in Estonia. They are so convenient that 80% of people prefer to pick up their parcels from the lockers.
After creating parcel lockers, we saw that developing innovative last mile solutions is what we really wanted to do. We sold the parcel locker network and the brand name to Finnish Post (today is known as Itella SmartPOST), took the name Cleveron and the rest, as they say, is history.
GD: What’s behind the Cleveron name?
AK: We used to be ON24 and SmartPOST. And we create innovative, clever solutions. So “clever” is derived from “smart” and “on” from ON24. And together it is Cleveron.
GD: In which scenarios would consumers interact with your products?
AK: Our clients are the world’s most successful retailers and logistics companies who use our products to hand over their online orders. And the most important goal with all our products is that they must save consumers time. If you order from Walmart’s online store, you can go to the store, scan your order code at the 5-meters tall Pickup Tower (Cleveron 401) and the parcel robot will issue your parcel in just seconds.
If you make a purchase at Zara.com and choose the automated in-store collection point (Cleveron 402) as a delivery method, you can go to the store, scan your order code and receive your order from the robot in 20 seconds. You don’t have to queue in the store or wait for a courier at home to receive your order. With our newest product, the grocery robot Cleveron 501, we see that you can order your groceries online and pick them up from the most convenient grocery robot, which may be in the parking lot of your office building. You can just grab your groceries on your way home from work without having to drive to a grocery shop.
GD: What exactly makes them “robots?”
AK: The parcels are inserted and retrieved with the help of robotics-based technology. All the processes are done via one user console, where parcels are taken from the console to the storage or taken to the console to be retrieved by a customer. This makes parcel handling convenient and fast. All parcels are also measured when inserted and stored accordingly to their actual height, not in fixed slots like it would be with parcel lockers.
This ensures the effective use of storage space. Our 400-series robots also have the fast loading capability – the parcels are placed in the first convenient space when inserted, but when the robot is not in use, the parcels are relocated accordingly to their size. This makes the loading process fast and still ensures that space is used in an optimal way.
GD: Who are your closest competitors?
AK: There are a lot of other companies that produce parcel lockers but not so many, who can develop robotics-based solutions which already have proven their value and quality, like our Cleveron 401 which is also known as the Pickup Tower.
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