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Bentonville-based Ox is an innovator in supply chain technology, but its work revolves around people.
Founded in 2019 by Charu Thomas while she was pursuing her degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Ox describes itself as the world’s first human-centered automation company.
In an era in which people are increasingly concerned about losing their jobs to automation, Ox’s technology puts live humans back in the supply chain.
“You think about large mechanical systems and robots,” Chief Product Officer Tanner Green said. “Ox exists to override that platform and work primarily with people.”
Ox has pioneered an operator experience (from which the name Ox is derived) that directs supply chain operators using software automation, artificial intelligence and wearable displays. The technology uses smart watches and other mobile devices to improve efficiency, whether that’s in operations, training or elsewhere.
“Our secret in some ways is our market has lined up just right and a lot of these companies care about the problems that we solve,” Green said.
Thomas, who earned her Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering technology, formed a team that in 2021 raised $3.5 million in seed money from investors like MaC Venture Capital, Cortado Ventures and Steve Case’s Revolution. In less than two years the company has grown from four to 30 full-time employees and has been featured in The New York Times and Business Insider, among other media outlets, while Thomas was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in manufacturing in 2020.
Ox’s biggest challenge was self-created, as it has targeted primarily Fortune 500 companies in building its initial handful of customers.
“It takes time and we have to be patient and maniacally focused on our goals and those outcomes we’re trying to drive,” Green said.
Ox technology strives to improve on the computer-mounted displays or handheld legacy devices used by potential competitors. Green said supply chains are a $35 billion market projected to be a $135 billion market by 2030.
“That’s companies committing tens of billions of dollars on robots,” Green said. “These automation projects cost a lot of money and they take a lot of time.”