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Employing a self-driven multicultural team

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Sabine Elsässer
Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

Fizyr provides cutting-edge robotic picking solutions for the logistics industry

Please introduce yourself and your startup Fizyr to our readers

I am Herbert ten Have, and I have over three decades of experience in building high-tech products and services. Today, as CEO of Fizyr, along with my team, I aim to design the best vision software product that provides cutting-edge robotic picking solutions for the logistics industry.

Fizyr designs, builds, and installs a standardized computer vision software to enable robots to pick items and parcels varying in shape, color, size, material, surface, and how they are stacked. The system integrators license our software product to build pick-and-place robotic cells for the end users in logistics. Just as the camera and gripper are the eyes and arms of a robot, the vision software is the brain that collates data from millions of images and directs the robot to move accordingly. Our cutting-edge software is a ‘plug and play’ modular product providing picking and placing solutions in harsh logistics environments.

 How did you get the idea of Fizyr?

Delft Robotics (now, Fizyr) was founded as a TU-Delft university spin-off in 2014 by Professor Martijn Wisse. In 2016, Delft Robotics participated as a robotics integrator and won both competitions of the Amazon Picking challenge, mainly due to its track record in applying deep learning. After achieving this milestone, the company pivoted towards a deep-learning computer vision software-only product and re-branded to Fizyr in 2017, when I joined the company. Thereon, the idea was to specialize in the computer vision software product for picking applications in logistics, enabling system integrators to provide the best robotic picking cells to the end-users.


Why did you decide to start with Fizyr?

Fizyr came into life in 2017 after shifting the focus from a robotics integrator company to a computer-vision software product. My team and I observed that many companies were trying to cope with object variations in logistics, thus, heavily relying on manual labour to perform repetitive tasks. I was well-connected with computer vision experts who could deliver the right solution, so my expertise in building connections and providing them access to the market came in handy. As many companies in the logistics industry faced a similar challenge, we decided to specialize in “computer vision software product for picking applications in logistics”.

What is the vision behind Fizyr?

Fizyr’s vision is to automate repetitive tasks in logistics by developing high-quality computer vision software for pick-and-place applications. Managing customer orders, picking and placing in e-fulfilment centres, and delivering items, all depended on human workers. Not only that, but the parcel handlers, such as DHL, UPS, and FedEx, were under a great deal of pressure to manage parcels and returns on a daily basis. If an employee is a picker in an e-fulfillment centre, they are expected to pick up 400 items per hour, picking each item every seven seconds. Relying on manual pickers to do the repetitive job of picking and placing items can be time-consuming, expensive, and affect the quality of warehouse working conditions. Fizyr steps in to ensure the warehouse staff focuses on ergonomically-friendly activities, whilst our computer-vision software product enables robots to do the monotonous job of picking, placing, and stacking.


How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?

In the beginning, finding the right clients who were keen to co-develop a unique solution was the biggest challenge. Innovative logistics companies are usually ideal for co-developing a robotic picking cell to support automated picking operations. Finding the sweet spot on where to start, develop, and focus, were also the questions we needed to answer.

As we progressed through these challenges, we realized the scope of opportunities in store for us. We grew successfully bootstrapped till early 2020. Despite having no funding at that stage, we continued to create value for our clients thus, remaining dedicated to developing cutting-edge logistics solutions for the end users.

 Who is your target audience?

We target robotic integrators, system integrators and end users in online retail, warehousing, and parcel industries. Our software is applied by over 20 leading system integrators and end users to automate picking and placing applications.

Thanks to our expertise of over 7 years, we also provide consulting and share our knowledge with individuals and companies that can learn from our experience and benefit from our advice.


What is the USP of your scaleup?

In a complex logistics environment, the items and parcels have a huge variation in attributes that traditional logistics systems cannot account for. In e-commerce, there are millions of SKU (Stock Keeping Units) variations, thousands of which cannot be programmed. To pick various items with ease, Fizyr’s neural network is trained to classify an item, determine the pressure required to pick the object, and propose the best possible grasp pose to singulate the item from the bulk. Automating such processes with a cutting-edge software product can ensure ease in conducting tasks on time, with almost 100% pick rate, around the clock.

 Can you describe your typical workday?

I am an early bird, so on a typical day, I start at 6.30 am. Our clients are across the globe, so conference calls, virtual meetings, planned or unplanned appointments start as early as 7.15 am. I also connect, provide leadership and expertise to my software, computer vision, and commercial team throughout the day. Other than that, I prefer to squeeze in an hour for evening runs. 


Where do you see yourself and your scaleup Fizyr in five years?

According to the recent Pitney Bowes report, parcel volume will likely double by 2026 across 13 of the world’s major markets. Due to this, the need for robotic automation technologies will soar to meet the fast market pace and high productivity levels. Notably, Fizyr’s AI-driven software product will continue to support the logistics industry by scaling operations and resolving challenging situations. We aim to automate repetitive tasks, ramp up picking operations for the end users to meet growing consumer demands, and curtail unnecessary operating costs.

 What 3 tips would you give to founders?

Employing a self-driven multicultural team would expose the organization to various perspectives, experiences, and creative avenues. I believe if a company invests in its human resources, it can be relatively prepared to tackle any challenges that come their way.

Understanding the ins and outs of the product might take longer than expected, but this phase can either make or break the organization. The key is to not let the spirit of introducing a unique product in the market die down. Instead, this authenticity must ramp up improvement processes and create a ripple effect of creating change in the industry.

Keeping an eye out for the challenges faced by the audiences and providing a relevant, timely solution can add significant value. Working collaboratively and strengthening relations with the clients would help solve real-time challenges and open avenues for growth.

Picture: Credits Fred Leeflang

Thank you Herbert ten Have for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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