Irish women's retail robots to start in Denmark

Irish women’s retail robots to start in Denmark

Clionadh Martin builds its mobile robots for supermarkets from the Robotics Center in Odense.

Cleonad Martin is clear about what characterizes her work, Integration of mobile robots (CM-Robotics), apart from others in this transformational technology sector.

“The majority of robotics companies develop a robotics platform and then look for industries in which to sell their products,” she said. “But we’ve focused our mobile robot development on the retail industry since the company’s inception.

“This means that we have been constantly able to focus our development on need rather than imagination.”

With this focus, her goal is to see Coalescent Mobile Robotics become the “go technology for the retail industry.”

“Odense ecosystem consists of more than 130 robotics-related companies in the same city”
– Clayonade Martin

Martin is putting a decade of working with mobile robots to good use as CEO, CTO, and founder of her startup.

After obtaining degrees in both mechanical engineering and robotics in Ireland, she went on to pursue a European master’s degree in advanced robotics which took her to Italy, France and Japan. She then moved to the United Kingdom to work on developing navigation systems for automated guided vehicles.

Then Martin found herself in Denmark working on floor-cleaning robots before discovering the entrepreneurship bug in 2018. This helped her settle into “one of the go-to places for robots.”

Odense, Denmark’s third largest city, is “a great place to start a company, especially one focused on robotics,” according to Martin. The ecosystem there consists of more than 130 robotics-related companies in the same city. It’s a very flat culture based on trust, and the private sector, the public sector and research have done a great job working together.”

Denmark also provided Coalescent Mobile Robotics with its first principal partner. The Saling Group, Denmark’s largest retailer and owner of a number of chain stores, is currently deploying 10 of the start-up’s mobile robots to one of its supermarkets. These bots are designed to support BilkaToGo’s clicking and collecting service in Bilka supermarkets. Martin calls it “process optimization” with bots.

From her research, she found that 40% of department store employees’ time is spent roaming the store “performing tasks such as pushing 180kg carts for restocking and filling online orders for click-and-collect service”. With our technological advances, a robot can be equipped to perform these tasks. While this sounds a lot like “robots take our jobs,” Martin sees them as bots that fill labor shortages and improve the quality of work for others.

“No one wants to work in low-paying labour-intensive jobs anymore, or the people who do those jobs are usually the most vulnerable in society or the students who are only there for a short time,” she said. “These mobile robots also reduce the need for people to push and pull heavy carts, which greatly increases work standards and frees up employees’ time to focus on what is most important which is good customer service.”

There are other ways bots can support better customer service as well. With product discovery and tracking functionality, retail bots can help guide customers in finding what they came for and also ensure that shelves are always stocked with what they need.

“Currently supermarkets only have the ability to know what products are being delivered to the supermarket, and what is checked when customers buy them,” Martin said. “There is very little consistent knowledge of what happens to a product when it’s in the store, and that also leads to a higher level of food waste.”

Of course, Martin sees robots as the answer. “Mobile robots offer the potential to address all of these issues, by automating trolley transfers to meet the store’s transportation needs, and collecting data to make sure shelves are always stocked and stores can track where products are at all times reducing food waste.”

“We have good momentum at the moment, and we’re not looking to slow down”
– Clayonade Martin

And while Martin’s robots move into the real-world retail environment, CM-Robotics is on the right track.

“We have good momentum at the moment, and he’s not looking to slow down,” she said. “In October of last year we closed our €1.7 million introductory round and now we have just opened the next funding round to help us expand into other European chains in 2023 and 2024, building a network of partners for publishing and servicing. We are looking forward to closing it in March 2023.”

Martin also plans to double its 15-year workforce next year, and already has a roadmap for the next steps.

“Once we establish our presence in the European Union and the United States with our hardware and software, we will offer product tracking and data analytics capabilities from the data collected by sensors in all robots,” she said.

It also thinks sustainably for future development. “We look forward to understanding our carbon footprint and since we haven’t finished our entire product, we will be looking at using different environmentally friendly materials and manufacturing processes,” she said.

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