MELONEE WISE Steve Jennings Getty Images

Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Melonee Wise

CEO, Fetch Robotics

The pandemic has forced manufacturers to rethink operations to ensure the safety of their staff, including finding ways to keep employees at least six feet apart. One way they're doing that is through greater use of robots in factories, and Fetch Robotics is helping to pave the way.

Fetch’s products are operating on roughly 150 sites across 22 countries. It counts corporations like Ryder, DHL, and W. W. Grainger as customers. And leading the company through one of the busiest times in its five-year history is CEO Melonee Wise, a University of Illinois graduate who has spent more than a decade helping to pioneer the field of robotics.

Its robots can assist with everything from moving carts around a factory floor to transporting heavy pallets autonomously. And since their AI systems are cloud-based, the robots can be deployed without a Fetch engineer ever having to set foot in the building — a feature that came in handy during the outbreak when on-site visits were impossible.

Wise says other robots on the market are “one-trick ponies” and can only fulfill one of several necessary functions, while Fetch’s can help with manufacturing, distribution, and omni-channel fulfillment. That’s because hardware partners can easily build on top of the company’s base models.

“That makes us unique because not only do we support one type of robot, we support multiple configurations and types of robots on our software platform,” she says.

Wise was one of the earliest employees of Willow Garage, an influential robotics development lab. She eventually rose to become the manager of robot development before founding Fetch in 2014.

The company has raised $94 million in outside funding, according to PitchBook, and is valued at $221 million.