When people ask Lauren Ziccardi what she does for a living, she half-jokingly says that she “helps people move boxes.” But in reality, being vice president of solutions development at MHI member inVia Robotics is a lot more complicated than that.
inVia Robotics provides robotics as a service to warehouses and distribution centers using autonomous mobile robots, optimization software and dedicated support teams.
The startup has tripled in size to about 90 employees since Ziccardi came aboard in October 2018. Last summer, inVia Robotics announced that it had raised $30 million to fund its rapid expansion, with the list of investors headed by Microsoft’s M12 Ventures, Qualcomm and Hitachi. inVia said the funding will allow it to adopt Qualcomm’s Robotics RB5 Platform and draw on expertise in artificial intelligence from Hitachi and Microsoft.
inVia’s growth spurt has been accelerated by the pandemic, which fueled widespread adoption of online shopping and exacerbated the labor shortage in the supply chain. Goods-to-person automated solutions like inVia’s system are one way e-commerce companies can respond to rising order volume amid a manpower shortfall, Ziccardi said.
“In a warehouse, there’s so much time and so many resources that are wasted,” she said. “We really focus on optimizing all of the tasks for people and for the robots. A resource can be anything. We’re trying to improve the overall fulfillment process for companies and expose all of the statistics and key performance indicators to the company so that they can make better decisions.”
Ziccardi joined inVia as director of solutions and was promoted to senior director of solutions less than a year later. In those roles, she frequently traveled to clients’ facilities to assess and scope the implementation of the inVia system. She now supervises a team of four solutions engineers, with plans to hire several more early in 2022.
Ziccardi said automation can improve working conditions since goods-to-person systems allow workers to stay in one place instead of walking several miles each shift to pick orders. Automation reduces the physical toll on workers and frees them up to perform less repetitive and boring tasks, she said.
Prior to joining inVia, Ziccardi spent more than four years at MHI member Bastian Solutions, a Toyota Advanced Logistics company specializing in supply chain systems integration. There, she worked as a logistics consultant for three years, helping to develop warehouse management, execution and control software, before being promoted to national account manager. Ziccardi, 29, earned her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. When the pandemic struck, she made the most of the shutdown, enrolling at the University of Southern California to earn a master’s degree in global supply chain management.
“I just graduated two weeks ago,” she said in early December. “It was kind of a pandemic project. I’m really glad I did it because I’ve expanded my knowledge beyond the four walls of a warehouse, and I feel like I can have a lot more meaningful conversations about what executives want for their business—how they want to position their company strategically in the supply chain.”
Ziccardi said she was “extremely grateful” to have won a scholarship for the 2021-22 school year from Material Handling Education Foundation Inc., which has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships and grants since its inception in 1976.
The Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc. (MHEFI) is an independent charitable organization dedicated to supporting the study of material handling, logistics and supply chain, exposing students to the many opportunities in the industry. More than 1,000 students and educators have benefitted from MHEFI support, and for the 2021-22 academic year, the organization awarded 38 scholarships totaling $137,600.
Ziccardi said that in addition to the financial support, the scholarship “makes you grateful to be recognized by an organization that’s so relevant.”
A native of Southern California now living in Los Angeles, Ziccardi is married to Tom Ziccardi, who sells medical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators for Abbott. She enjoys traveling, gardening and cooking.