DHL Supply Chain invests in robots to automate US warehouses

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DHL Supply Chain is set to invest US$15m in robotics solutions from Boston Dynamics 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 designed to automate the unloading process in distribution centres.

Boston Dynamics will deliver a fleet of Stretch robots to multiple DHL warehouses throughout North America over the next three years. The deal marks the first commercial purchase of Stretch, which was unveiled in 2021.

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.

Equipped with a compact, omni-directional mobile base, custom-designed lightweight arm as well as a smart gripper with advanced sensing and controls Stretch 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.

Furthermore, Stretch is capable of working autonomously through complex situations like disordered stacking configurations and recovering fallen boxes.

“Stretch is Boston Dynamics’ newest robot, designed specifically to remedy challenges within the warehouse space,” said Robert Playter, Boston Dynamics’ CEO.

“We are thrilled to be working with DHL Supply Chain to deliver a fleet of robots that will further automate warehousing and improve safety for its associates. We believe Stretch can make a measurable impact on DHL’s business operations, and we’re excited to see the robot in action at scale.”

The investment is part of DHL Supply Chain’s Accelerated Digitalisation agenda, a strategy for developing and scaling solutions and new technologies.

“At DHL Supply Chain, we are committed to continuous innovation and digital transformation to optimise the end-to-end supply chain. Investing in warehouse automation plays an important role in increasing operational efficiency and improving service for our customers,” said Sally Miller, CIO, DHL Supply Chain North America.

“We’re excited to partner with Boston Dynamics to deploy its best-in-class robotics in our warehouses. The Stretch robot addresses complex industry challenges through flexible automation, which we’ll be able to replicate and scale regionally and globally.”

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