DHL Supply Chain today announced a $15m investment in robotics solutions from Boston Dynamics, a global leader in mobile robotics, to further automate warehousing in North America. The companies have signed a multi-year agreement that begins with equipping DHL facilities with Stretch, Boston Dynamics’ newest robot specifically designed to automate the unloading process in distribution centres.
This agreement is the culmination of strategic collaboration between the two companies over the past few years as Stretch was being developed and tested. Boston Dynamics will deliver a fleet of Stretch robots to multiple DHL warehouses throughout North America over the next three years. The deal with DHL marks the first commercial purchase of Stretch, which was unveiled in 2021.
The investment is part of DHL Supply Chain’s Accelerated Digitalization agenda, a strategy for developing and scaling innovative solutions and new technologies. Stretch will tackle several box-moving tasks in the warehouse, beginning with truck unloading at select DHL facilities. Following the first deployment, the multi-purpose mobile robot will handle additional tasks to support other parts of the warehouse workflow, which will effectively automate warehouse operations.
CIO of DHL Supply Chain North America Sally Miller commented: “At DHL Supply Chain, we are committed to continuous innovation and digital transformation to optimize the end-to-end supply chain. Investing in warehouse automation plays an important role in increasing operational efficiency and improving service for our customers. The Stretch robot addresses complex industry challenges through flexible automation, which we’ll be able to replicate and scale regionally and globally.”
Stretch’s technology builds upon Boston Dynamics’ decades of advancements in robotics to create a flexible, integrated solution that can work in any warehouse to increase the flow of goods and improve associate safety by taking over physically demanding tasks. Stretch is equipped with a compact, omni-directional mobile base, custom-designed lightweight arm as well as a smart gripper with advanced sensing and controls that can handle a large variety of box types and sizes. It also includes Boston Dynamics’ computer vision technology, which enables it to identify boxes easily and without any pre-programming. Stretch can work autonomously through complex situations like disordered stacking configurations and recovering fallen boxes.
Deployment of the first Stretch units in DHL warehouses will begin this spring, and DHL plans to gradually scale Boston Dynamics’ robots for additional tasks and across multiple facilities in phases over the next few years.