Do you ever drive around town and see a sign for a business or something else and ask
yourself, “I wonder what they do there?” Some businesses are pretty obvious, Sunoco
Gas, CVS – got it. Cambridge Savings Bank, got it. But what about some of the others?
Our mission is to answer the question – What do they do there anyway?
Next up: Berkshire Grey ~ 140 South Road
On South road, just past the intersection of Loomis Street near the bike path a new company has taken over the old WE Andrews Printing building. Berkshire Grey has moved in and made Bedford their corporate headquarters. So who is Berkshire Grey and what do they do there anyway?
Berkshire Grey, an interesting name. Is it a clothing maker? Law Firm? Actually, it is an A.I. (artificial intelligence) robotics company; more on the name later. Here’s how they describe themselves on their web page “Berkshire Grey is a pioneer in transformative, AI-enabled robotic solutions to automate online order fulfillment and store replenishment operations for leading retail, 3PL, grocery, and eCommerce companies”. Imagine yourself at a grocery store with a large list: instead of roaming the aisles searching, picking, checking out, boxing, a robot, or series of robots will do the leg work. In a very simplistic way that is what the Berkshire Grey technology is all about, but on a much bigger scale. Their technology is able to pick specific items from a warehouse and collect them into a finished “cart,” much like a grocery cart. The technology to do that is impressive. To find, identify, grab, and place multiple sizes and shapes in a single place is really something out of Sci-Fi. They recently announced major contracts with FedEx to help with small packages and also with an unnamed grocery chain.
Picking with a Purpose
During the pandemic, Berkshire Grey used their technology in cooperation with the New York City-based City Harvest and The Greater Boston Food Bank — helping to feed thousands of families during the holidays. With Covid-19 and all the shutdowns and job losses, people were struggling to get enough food. Demand at local food banks increased by up to 60%. At the same time, due to the pandemic, volunteers became nervous about going out to help. Volunteer rates dropped as much as 50%. With demand at food banks high and volunteers staying at home Berkshire Grey saw their technology as a solution. Berkshire Grey partnered with the Greater Boston Food Bank to use their technology to help prepare the packages to be distributed to the hungry. There is a nice story on them on NBC Boston below:
Their picking technology has many applications in these situations and they are looking to greatly expand their Picking with Purpose program working with food banks and grocery stores around the country to help with food distribution to the hungry.
I reached out to them about Bedford, specifically, and here’s what they had to say:
How long have you been in Bedford?
“In September of 2020, we moved our Global Headquarters to Bedford, MA. This location allows us to take advantage of the strong talent pool in AI and robotics in the area. This past July, we also officially unveiled our Robotics Innovation Center in the Bedford facility. The new center supports technical activities and complements other design and test facilities we have in the region, while also serving as a robotics showroom for customers, partners, and prospects. Berkshire Grey has US offices in Bedford, MA; Lexington, MA; and Pittsburgh, PA. Internationally, Berkshire Grey’s EMEA headquarters is in Reading, UK. The company also has subsidiaries in Canada and Japan.”
How many people work here in Bedford?
“Berkshire Grey has approximately 400 employees globally, with over 250 of our team members — including our CEO and executive team — based in Bedford.”
Bedford is becoming a sort of mini-hub for robotics, with iRobot and some of the other smaller companies in town. Is this just by coincidence or is there anything particular to Bedford?
“Bedford is in a great location for Berkshire Grey. With its close proximity to top engineering schools, this area is a hot spot for robotic and AI technology and allows us to draw talent from across a broad spectrum of backgrounds, ages, and demographics. Bedford has great access to and allows for relatively easy commutes from Boston, New Hampshire, and even the South Shore, so it gives us a great base to recruit and attract a diverse employee base. We also have a large contingent of avid cyclists, so the bike path next to our Bedford location has been a great selling point for attracting talent as well. Additionally, proximity to Hanscom Field is a nice benefit for our Fortune 50 customers, international partners and board members from across the globe who visit our labs on a regular basis.”
You are growing very fast; do you plan on staying in Bedford for the foreseeable future?
“Bedford is our global headquarters. We have operations in Pittsburgh, the UK, and Japan. We will open additional offices and operations as we grow, but we plan to keep our headquarters in Bedford for years to come. The location offers a lot of benefits, and we see us growing our business from Bedford into the future.”
Berkshire Grey recently debuted on the public market. Tell us what that means for the future of the company.
“We’ve always wanted to go public as part of a commitment to our customers that we’ll be there for them as a major player in the robotic automation industry for the long run. On the heels of our continued growth and momentum, we also recently participated in an official Nasdaq bell-ringing ceremony in New York as a team. Not only was it an exciting and rewarding experience, it was yet another strong and decisive step into the next phase of business at Berkshire Grey as a public company.”
Berkshire Grey? An interesting name for a robotics company, is there a story?
“Good question, we actually answered that in a blog post. First, we are based in the Boston area and proud of our New England roots. The Berkshire region really resonates as a special place for a lot of our team, so it grounds us.
“Secondly, the “Grey” is short for “grey matter.” The secret sauce to everything we do is intelligence. Our robotic systems are intelligent, they are constantly learning and continuously improving.”
So that’s what they do. Let us know if there are other companies you’re curious about.