Attabotics sues Canadian Tire over warehouse fire

Robotics supply chain startup alleges damages including loss of business opportunities.

Calgary-based 3D robotics supply chain firm Attabotics has filed a statement of claim against Canadian Tire over a March 15 warehouse fire at Canadian Tire’s distribution centre in Brampton, Ontario.

Attabotics alleges that as a result of Canadian Tire’s “alleged evasiveness and obstruction,” it has suffered and continues to suffer damages for which Canadian Tire is liable.

The Brampton distribution centre services Canadian Tire retail stores nationally and is one of its largest distribution centres in the country.

The startup alleges the damages include loss of reputation, business opportunities, goodwill, market share and/or loss of profit. Attabotics is also claiming damages for lost property, special and out-of-pocket damages, as well as damages for expenses and payments made to employees, consultants, and contractors.

Attabotics describes itself as “the world’s first 3D robotics supply chain system for modern commerce.”

In its statement of claim, Attabotics states, “The Warehouse Fire occurred as a direct result of the wrongful conduct, statutory breaches, breaches of contract, gross negligence, willful misconduct, negligence, and recklessness of Canadian Tire.” Attabotics did not expand on what that recklessness entailed.

The statement goes on to allege that the “Warehouse Fire was caused or contributed to by the employees, contractors, subcontractors, consultants, or other personnel controlled or directed by Canadian Tire and for which Canadian Tire is vicariously liable.”

It is not known whether Canadian Tire has yet filed a statement of defence against the claim. Canadian Tire told BetaKit in a statement: “We’re aware of the statement of claim filed by Attabotics yesterday afternoon. Their filing of the claim is premature given the cause of the fire is still under investigation. We will not comment further as the matter is now before the courts.”

Attabotics did not respond to BetaKit’s queries. Attabotics said in a statement it will not provide further comment on this matter at this time, as it is now before the courts.

The Brampton distribution centre services Canadian Tire retail stores nationally and is one of Canadian Tire Retail’s largest distribution centres in the country.

No cause was given for the fire, which cost Canadian Tire $67.7 million in the first quarter of 2023, according to its quarterly report released on May 11. The costs are related to lost inventory, building damage, and cleanup and repairs.

As well, Canadian Tire took a $20 million hit in lower income before income taxes due to a delay in shipments and supply chain inefficiencies because of the temporary suspension of operations at the facility.

Founded in 2015, Attabotics claims its ant colony-inspired automated fulfillment solution can increase the flexibility and speed of warehouse processes while also reducing warehouse needs by up to 85 percent. According to Attabotics, its system lets retailers place robot-run fulfillment centres closer to urban areas for faster deliveries.

RELATED: Attabotics secures $95 million CAD from EDC, Ontario Teachers’ to scale its warehouse robots

Attabotics replaces the rows and aisles of traditional, legacy fulfillment centers with its patented storage structure and robotics shuttles, which use both horizontal and vertical space. Major brands and retailers in the apparel, food and beverage, and home goods verticals have already adopted the startup’s technology, and installed it in warehouses across Canada and the United States.

Attabotics had been working with Canadian Tire as part of a project funded by Scale AI, Canada’s artificial intelligence, supply chain cluster. Scale AI announced in 2021 a $71 million investment to support 12 AI projects. As part of that funding, Attabotics received $7 million to reduce Canadian Tire’s warehouse needs by 85 percent and labour costs by 75 percent using its 3D robotic goods-to-person storage system. The latter offers automated retrieval and real-time order fulfillment.

Attabotics secured $95 million CAD ($71.7 million USD) in “Series C-1” funding in 2022 to scale up its technology.

To protect its intellectual property portfolio, Attabotics filed a patent infringement claim against one of its competitors, Boston-based Urbx, in August 2021. In June of this year, a US court partially rejected Urbx’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Gravelle said the suit remains ongoing but is “almost” settled.

Feature image courtesy Attabotics.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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