Vecna Robotics’ Season of Giving

At Vecna Robotics we aim to bring holiday cheer to everyone, that is why we choose to support our community through a season of giving. The challenges of 2020 meant that more people are facing hardships and look for the support of others lend a hand.

Our season of giving kicked off with employee-led initiatives running up to the holidays. Vecna Robotics encouraged employees to embrace the season by generously donating to Toys for Tots, Cradles to Crayons, and The Middlesex Human Service Agency.

Toys For Tots requests new and unwrapped toys for underprivileged children to receive on Christmas. In this past year, The Marine Toys for Tots Program collected and distributed 19 million toys to 7.3 million children allowing them to experience the joy of Christmas and receive a message of hope that otherwise would not have been there. Since 2001 Toys for Tots has ranked as one of the top rated charities by “Philanthropy 400.” Our Team at Vecna Robotics supported Toys For Tots by filling a giant sized donation box to help fulfil their mission of spreading joy.

Cradles to Crayons aims to mitigate clothing insecurity by collecting everyday essentials for local children. The organization has served over 1,700,000 children since 2002. This year, our team supported Cradles to Crayons by collecting Outfit Packs comprised of 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and 1 sweater/sweatshirt, and Pajama Packs containing 1 pair of pajamas, 1 pack of underwear, and 1 pack of socks. These clothing packs are equivalent to about one weeks worth of clothing for a child. Vecna Robotics partnered with this organization and successfully collected 25 outfit packs and 25 pajama packs for local children.

The Middlesex Human Service Agency provides 13 shelter, recovery and nutrition programs in MA, primarily in the Waltham area. The mission of MHSA is to improve the quality of life and independent functioning of a wide variety of clients through the delivery of an extensive system of community-based substance abuse and social service programs. This year, Vecna Robotics partnered with MHSA and collected 2 giant sized boxes of nonperishable food and household items.

Our Season of Giving efforts were a success thanks to the hard work of all our great employees who led and organized theses initiatives and those who supported the programs through participation. Community service is a core value at Vecna Robotics and we will continue to support our employee-led initiatives in the new year.

Read about other successful service efforts we have supported in the past here.

Donated items at Vecna Robotics

Vecna Robotics Appoints AI Scientist Daniela Rus to Board of Directors

Robotics and AI Expert Brings Nearly Two Decades of Experience and Shared Vision for Improving Machine and Human Collaboration

Waltham, MA — July 1, 2020  — Vecna Robotics, the autonomous mobile robot and workflow orchestration company, today announced the appointment of Daniela Rus to its board of directors. With extensive experience in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and data science, Rus will provide deep technical knowledge and guidance to Vecna Robotics as the company accelerates the adoption of its world-class robotic platforms and orchestration software within the logistics market.

Rus is currently the director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She also serves on the board of MassRobotics alongside Vecna Robotics’ CEO, Daniel Theobald.

Daniela Rus, appointed to Vecna Robotics’ Board of Directors

“As a firm believer in the collaboration between robots and humans for improved productivity and well-being, I’m excited to join the Vecna Robotics board as we work together to make this shared vision a reality across the world,” said Rus. “I’m also honored to be part of a company that supports an inclusive and diverse workforce. I look forward to working closely with Vecna Robotics on cultivating its extraordinary talent to continue fostering creativity and innovation.”

Rus also serves as the associate director of MIT’s Quest for Intelligence Core and as director of the Toyota-CSAIL Joint Research Center, focusing on the advancement of AI research and its applications to intelligent vehicles. Her research addresses the gaps between where robots are today and the promise of future pervasive robots. Rus’ work focuses on creating tools for designing and fabricating new robots quickly and efficiently, and increasing the ability of machines to reason, learn, and adapt to complex tasks in human-centered environments.

“We share Daniela’s vision that machines provide invaluable support to human workers,” said Daniel Theobald, founder and CEO, Vecna Robotics. “Her distinguished background in robotics and AI will be instrumental to our leadership team as we continue to deliver on our software vision and scale to meet the massive opportunity to serve our customers.”

Rus holds a doctorate in computer science from Cornell University and is a fellow of ACM, AAAI and IEEE. In 2017, she received the Engelberger Robotics Award from the Robotics Industries Association and was included in the Forbes “Incredible Women Advancing AI Research” list. In April 2020, the White House selected Rus to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), a council that provides advice on topics critical to U.S. security and the economy, including policy recommendations on the future of work, American leadership in science and technology, and the support of U.S. research and development.

This announcement comes shortly after Vecna Robotics appointed Denis Lussault to oversee its autonomy division. The two experienced executives will help Vecna Robotics automate the material handlings and logistics operations for the world’s largest distribution, warehouse, and manufacturing organizations. Additionally, Rus and Lussault will provide invaluable support as Vecna Robotics further develops its AI orchestration engine Pivotal™, which integrates with existing warehouse management systems to maximize human and robot collaboration and increase productivity.

Welcome to the team, Daniela Rus! Read the full statement here

Vecna Robotics Supports Second Chances

Second Chances, a nonprofit in Somerville, Massachusetts, has provided clothing to homeless and very low-income people in Cambridge and Somerville for over 15 years.  The organization collects gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories and works with local homelessness and social service agencies to distribute the donations. These donations help the recipients feel confident and valued as they take their first steps toward brighter futures. In addition, the donations help reduce the amount of apparel going into local landfills. Second Chances has already kept more than 200,000 pounds of textiles out of landfills.

When presented with the opportunity to support Second Chances, employees rallied around the cause and collected over 366 pounds of clothing for donation. Matt Ellis, Robotics Implementation Project Manager, led the effort. “My initial goal was to promote reuse in the community, benefiting those who aren’t as fortunate as us. This was also the first step towards a series of events or drives that the team will pursue in order to promote a circular economy way of thinking at Vecna Robotics,” says Ellis.

Giving back and going green is part of the culture at Vecna Robotics. Other employee-led initiatives include in-office composting, eliminating the use of K-cups, and adding car charging stations in the parking lot, as well as food drives, electronics drive, blood drives, and trash pickup in nearby Beaver Brook Reservation.

Employees are encouraged to spend up to 10% of their paid working time contributing to community service activities. In 2019, the team recorded 285 hours giving back.

Find out more about Second Chances and how you can get involved here.

Robotics Firms Lead the Way in Reopening Offices

Lucia Maffei of the Boston Business Journal reports on robotics firms leading the way in reopening offices. As many tech companies are not rushing back employees to their offices, robotics companies are leading the pack in the technology industry when it comes to reopening since many of their non-software workers cannot work from home. The safety precautions robotics companies are taking to preserve the health of their employees might work as benchmarks, as a large part of the industry is planning to re-enter offices in the fall.

At Vecna Robotics Inc., the manufacturing and support team has never stopped coming to the 77,000-square-feet location in Waltham amid the pandemic. The company recently allowed a total of 25 workers to be back, or 25% of its workforce, broadening an initial cluster of 8-10 employees who never worked from home.

The safety measures the company put in place have been reinforced in the last couple of weeks, according to Kay Perkinson, chief of staff at Vecna Robotics. Mandatory training and additional signage were added, while hand-washing and masks were required from the very beginning. Employees can request optional desks dividers, and desks are all at least six feet apart.

“Employees that have come in have been doing really well in terms of compliance,” Mike Bearman, vice president and general counsel at Vecna Robotics, said. “Some employees don’t feel comfortable coming in, we told them it’s perfectly fine.”

Read the full article here.

Massachusetts Offices are Slowly Opening Up

Vecna Robotics’ office is among those re-opening this week

Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe reports on Massachusetts offices reopening to employees. Many office buildings across Massachusetts were officially allowed to reopen their doors Tuesday, but few workers hurried back to their cubicles, and most employers didn’t ask them to.

The easing of restrictions on office work ― part of Governor Charlie Baker’s phased-in restart of the economy ― was a muted affair, with most major white-collar employers across Boston’s suburbs electing to keep their employees working from home as they have for more than two months. From Waltham to Marlborough, Canton to Cambridge, office building parking lots sat empty, traffic was light, and video chat remained the meeting venue of choice.

Some businesses ― tech firms, in particular ― have continued to hire during the pandemic and related shutdowns, and some of those new employees were reporting to work for the first time this week.

Denis Lussault is a new vice president at Vecna Robotics in Waltham, where 16 of the 70-person headquarters staff showed up on Tuesday. They arrived to find desks that were spread out — something the company accomplished by expanding to fill all of its 80,000-square-foot office, instead of the 60 percent it was using previously. The safety precautions were comforting, said Lussault, who didn’t feel he was taking a risk by going to work. “I think the company was well-prepared,” he said. “And I needed to get out from my house.”

Read the full article here.

Celebrating New Hires in the Technology Space

Denis Lussault

Denis Lussault

Supply & Demand Chain Executive highlighted Vecna Robotics’ new hire, Denis Lussault, as Vice President of Autonomy. With a growing demand for robotics and autonomy, Lussault will “oversee the division to help meet demand and develop solutions to simplify customer workflows.”

Vecna Robotics was recognized as a leader in the equipment and technology space, and welcomes Denis Lussault and his new position.

See the full article here.

Vecna Robotics Appoints Denis Lussault As Vice President of Autonomy

Denis Lussault

Denis Lussault

Waltham, MA — May 20, 2020 — Vecna Robotics, the leading automation provider in the materials handling space, today announced the appointment of Denis Lussault as Vice President of Autonomy. In this new role, Lussault will be responsible for overseeing the company’s autonomy division and helping meet the growing demand for world-class robotic platforms and autonomy software that simplify customer workflows.

Lussault brings nearly 20 years of engineering and management experience to Vecna Robotics, with a deep understanding of managing country-wide operations, bringing new products to market, and delivering on strategic growth initiatives. He has served in leadership roles for several companies, including Balyo, Atlantic Technologies, and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi. Lussault holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers and a Master of Business Administration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Most recently, Lussault served as Vice President of Americas at Balyo where he previously managed European operations.

“As companies around the world demand automation to improve operational efficiencies and simplify workflows, Vecna Robotics is best positioned to capitalize on this need,” said Lussault. “The company is the proven leader in AMR with an innovative spirit and deep customer focus. I’m honored to join the growing team, and I look forward to bringing a full suite of autonomous robots and orchestration software to market that helps distributors and manufacturers ensure resiliency in the supply chain.”

Vecna Robotics’ autonomous mobile robots (AMR) help some of the world’s largest distribution, warehouse, and manufacturing organizations automate their bulk materials handling and logistics operations. The company’s AI orchestration engine Pivotal™ integrates with existing warehouse management systems for a coordinated approach that maximizes human and robot collaboration and increases productivity.

“This has been a historic year for us, and adding a proven leader like Denis to our team only builds on that momentum,” said Daniel Theobald, Founder and CEO, Vecna Robotics. “Automation and orchestration are key differentiators for Vecna Robotics, stemming from our commitment to help customers tackle some of the most complex supply chain and material handling problems. Denis will help us meet the growing demand for our offerings, working closely with our engineering and manufacturing teams to build the most innovative, flexible and resilient AMRs.”

Read the full article here.

Vecna Robotics Named Top 10 Tech Startup in Waltham MA

Waltham, MA is continuing to grow as a hub of industry and innovation in Massachusetts. With a legacy extending back to the Waltham Watch Factory, the first company to mass produce a complete watch under one roof, it’s no wonder Waltham is abuzz with new tech startups. Vecna Robotics is helping to lead that charge.

In collaboration with Crunchbase, The Tech Tribune has compiled a list of the top 10 tech startups in Waltham. Vecna Robotics was one of the two robotics companies selected. Selection was based on the following criteria:

  • Revenue potential
  • Leadership team
  • Brand/product traction
  • Competitive landscape

According to Daniel Theobald, company Founder and CEO, “Our solutions deliver value for customers in the distribution, e-commerce, warehousing, and manufacturing sectors. Our unique orchestration engine technology, Pivotal, allows diverse robot types and humans to work together seamlessly and to flexibly yield an adaptive business solution, capable of meeting the increasingly unpredictable market needs. Our technology goes beyond traditional automation and focuses on maximizing human and robot capability to create fulfilling jobs, increase productivity, and encourage innovation.”

Read the full article on The Tech Tribune.

The Importance of Corporate Wellness Programs during Stay-at-Home Measures

Half of organizations in a recent Gartner survey reported that at least 81% of their employees are working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Another 15% of those surveyed said that 61% to 80% of their employees are working remotely in current conditions.

Remote work is the new norm: Meetings are held via video conferences, conferences are hosted as webinars, conversations are conducted via email or collaboration tools. People are missing social interaction, resulting in new trends such as virtual happy hours and at-home workout classes.

Corporate wellness programs don’t necessarily need to fit into any sort of template, but they do need to fit the interests and needs of the team, said Kay Perkinson, chief of staff and interim vice president of HR at Vecna Robotics.

“Given today’s work from home order, your corporate wellness program will likely look entirely different than it did before,” Perkinson said.

Perkinson recommended the following initiatives for organizations struggling to brainstorm ways to help their remote workers:

  • Support employees looking to make their space more conducive to productivity by offering reimbursements for home office equipment, like ergonomic chairs or monitors.
  • Deliver care packages of healthy snacks to colleagues and their families.
  • Encourage regular video chats or happy hours that promote face-to-face communication.
  • Get team members moving by hosting a weekly virtual workout class that even their families can participate in.
  • Don’t forget about the little ones either–consider introducing staggered hours or having story time for kids to help create a supportive environment for childcare.

“Corporate wellness programs are critical now more than ever. Before, these initiatives were often looked at as perks for team members,” Perkinson said. “Now, they’re making a considerable difference in helping teams become more of a community than a company.”

See the full article on TechRepublic.

Maintaining Safety, Camaraderie, and High Spirits at Vecna Robotics During Social Distancing

Like most companies around the world, Vecna Robotics has had to adapt quickly to the “new normal” of social distancing and self-quarantine measures recommended by the CDC. To bolster spirits, maintain productivity, and support one another during these unusual and uncertain times, we’ve found a number of ways to come together while apart.

Productivity Reimbursements and Workplace Safety

kids yoga

Tracy Affonso of Artemis Yoga in Watertown MA teaches virtual yoga to Vecna Robotics’ employees’ children, ages 3-8.

Recognizing that most employees didn’t have a home-office prior to the self-quarantine measures, Vecna Robotics established the COVID-19 Productivity Reimbursement program. Under this program, all employees working remotely are eligible for a $1,000 stipend to procure equipment like desks, monitors, monitor mounts, docking stations, and ergonomic chairs, as well as childcare services. Through this program, a number of creative home offices have appeared over video chat – in attics and basements, in the midst of home renovation projects, in 3-season porches, and, more commonly, bedrooms.

While most are working from home, team members in Manufacturing and Customer Support who are essential to supporting our customers are still reporting to the office. To ensure safe distancing and healthy environment, we’ve created a staggered schedule and established a Hygiene Protocol for anyone who enters the building, along with specific facility sanitation procedures. We encourage anyone who does not feel well to stay home.

running club

Colleagues share images of their running and fitness routines, no matter the weather!

Childcare Support

More important than maintaining productivity is finding ways to care for families at home, including creating a supportive environment for childcare. The team has come together to offer colleagues with small children staggered hours. Flextime allows moms and dads to login early, late, on weekends, etc., so they can stay present and care for their school-aged kids during the day. We have also implemented an interactive online educational childcare program, including virtual children’s yoga offered by Tracy Affonso of Artemis Yoga in Watertown, MA, Magic/Puppet Show sessions hosted by Froggle Party Time, and Storytime with youth educator and actress Samantha Cyzmbor-Smith.

Maintaining Wellness and Building Community

Recognizing the impact of social distancing on mental health, the Vecna Robotics team is reaching out to ensure team members feel connected. This week, we teamed up with Berkshire Natural to deliver a care package of healthy(-ish!) snacks to all employees and contractors. Treats included cocoa dusted almonds, granola bars, pistachios, organic tortilla chips and peanut butter cups.

Wednesdays are also now deemed Wellness Wednesdays! At 4:30pm, members of the team join online for a virtual yoga class taught by Vecna Robotics Marketing Director, Amanda Baier. Housemates, partners, and families roll out their mats and jump in on the half-hour class for some deep breathing and a good stretch.

Healthy Snacks

The team enjoyed a care packages delivered to their homes this week.

Employee-led clubs are central to Vecna Robotics’ culture and community. Under social distancing measures, clubs have gone virtual. Members of Running Club share images of their fitness routines, including outdoor all-weather trail runs, indoor Peloton workouts, and Zumba classes. Sharing these experiences helps team members stay active and inspired to meet their fitness goals while gyms are closed.

Board Game Club is battling it out on a weekly basis through the website Board Game Arena (sadly no tabletop flips in this simulator!). Gardening Club has also gone virtual, sharing tips on building raised beds for veggies and planting native wildflowers for pollinators.

In the absence of a shared lunchroom, and an actual, physical water cooler, a new way to share snippets of daily, personal life has emerged. The team now has a virtual “watercooler” channel on their messaging platform. Employees are encouraged to share vignettes of daily life. Images of backyard chicken coops with buckets of eggs, yawning newborns, and kitchen cooking adventures have populated the thread. Prompts, asking “What are you grateful for today?” and polls asking whether everyone is watching Tiger King help to keep the spirits up. Additionally, the Business Development team happy hour is in full swing, with the calendar invite stating, “This is a camera-on event. BYOB”.

happy hour

Social Distancing Hour kicks off the weekend on Friday evening.

During this time, it seems the Vecna Robotics team has become more a community than a company, swapping stories, offering support, and providing a helping hand to those in needs.