DHL has announced that it is currently testing two smart and collaborative robots in its warehouses on co-packing and value-added tasks, such as assembly, kitting, packaging and pre-retail services.
“Historically, the distribution environment has been difficult to automate using traditional industrial robots, which do not respond well to variability,” said Matthias Heutger, SVP for Strategy, Marketing & Innovation, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “In our recently published DHL Trend Report ‘Robotics in Logistics’ we found that 80% of logistics facilities today are still manual due to the complexity of the operations. As technology improves however, the logistics industry is benefitting from the adoption of collaborative robots to improve efficiency,” he added.
DHL is currently testing how to integrate several of these robots, which the company refer to as ‘Baxter’ and ‘Sawyer’, into various operational sites across the globe. DHL also recently purchased its first Sawyer robot and its research entails 3D printing possibilities to create specialized grippers for the robots to allow for additional tasks to be completed in the warehouse.
“Baxter and Sawyer robots are some of the most advanced collaborative robots on the market, and we plan to deploy them in a variety of packaging and inventory tasks that will allow us to use our employees for higher value work,” said Adrian Kumar, the Vice President of Solutions Design North America at DHL Supply Chain. “By deploying these robots to work in tandem with humans, we can ensure our production lines are adjusting to changes and running more efficiently year-round.”
With Baxter and Sawyer, DHL will aim to leverage automation that can adapt to real world variability, change applications quickly, and perform tasks like people do as well enable shorter cycle times.