By Hiroko Sato
DEVENS — In Quiet Logistics’ giant warehouse in Devens, workers don’t walk to shelves.
The shelves come to them.
The trick behind this mobile-storage system is the 16-inch-tall, 25-inch-wide orange objects called Kiva robots. The device gets underneath a pile of crates filled with products or a rack with dresses hanging from it, lifts it up and brings it across the gleaming floor to workstations where employees pack products for shipping.
Quiet Logistics has used the warehouse-management systems it has developed on its own as well as the robots created by Kiva Systems of North Reading to grow from an Andover-based startup to an e-commerce distribution hub with facilities in Devens and Louisville, Ky., over the past three years.
And now the company is looking to create 210 additional jobs in Devens after receiving a $2.5 million low-interest loan from MassDevelopment toward the operational expansion.
“It assures a strong commitment on behalf of MassDevelopment trying to continue to grow and support Massachusetts companies,” said Al Dekin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Quiet Logistics.
MassDevelopment, the state’s quasi-public economic-development agency, granted the loan from the Emerging Technology Fund to Scenic Technology Corp., which does business as Quiet Logistics. The funding will allow the company to increase employment at Devens from the current 90 to 300 over the next few years.
Founded in January 2009, Quiet Logistics handles orders and shipments for such fashion brands as Gilt Groupe, Zara International and Maggy London. It began leasing a 200,000-square-foot distribution center at 66 Saratoga Blvd. last May. Dekin said the company chose Devens because of the reasonable rent and availability of room to grow as well as the central location that helps draw workers from the eastern and western sides of the state.
“As the agency managing Devens, MassDevelopment proudly welcomed Quiet Logistics last year as a tenant,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones said in a prepared statement. “We are even more pleased to finance the company’s expansion through the Emerging Technology Fund and add jobs in the Nashoba Valley.”
The Emerging Technology Fund is intended to help technology companies that are starting up or expanding manufacturing by loaning up to $2.5 million apiece. In order to receive a loan under the program, participants must have “strong management teams, demonstrated technical feasibility, market demand for their products, and a proven fundraising record,” according to MassDevelopment’s website.
MassDevelopment spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese declined to disclose the specifics of the agency’s decision to provide the maximum amount of loan allowed under the program, saying it pertains to confidential financial information about the company. But in the press release, Quiet Logistics CEO and Chairman Bruce Welty described the business as a “rapidly growing company” that caters to fashion and lifestyle online retailers.
Quiet Logistics’ Devens facility takes care of thousands of orders a day, many of which are shoes and accessories, according to Dekin. The robots helps fill orders fast and accurately. Each shelving unit has a bar code, and the central computer system knows exactly where the ordered products are located. The robots retrieving the products move at a pace similar to a person walking fast.
The company also focuses on the presentation of the products. Workers use quality boxes and tissue paper to make the products look elegant and worthy of money the customers spend on them, Dekin said.
The company will now use the loan to buy additional equipment and hire workers to make use of the entire 200,000-square-foot building, Dekin said.