Logistics giant DHL has confirmed that it is testing two robot types in one of its warehouses, asking them to handle tasks including package assembly and packaging.
The two models, Baxter and Sawyer, are the product of Rethink Robotics, Inc of the US. DHL described them as “smart, adaptable solutions that support warehouse staff”.
The integrator recently purchased its first Sawyer robot.
“Historically, the distribution environment has been difficult to automate using traditional industrial robots, which do not respond well to variability,” explained Matthias Heutger, senior vice president strategy, marketing & innovation at DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.
“In our recently published DHL Trend Report “Robotics in Logistics”, we found that 80 percent of logistics facilities today are still manual due to the complexity of the operations.
“As technology improves however, the logistics industry is benefiting from the adoption of collaborative robots to improve efficiency,” he continued.
DHL hopes to introduce robots like these into a number of its operations around the world, if the trials go as well as expected.
“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,” informed Adrian Kumar, 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.”
Finally, Markus Kückelhaus, vice president innovation and trend research at DHL Customer Solutions and Innovation, noted: “The logistics industry has been unable to leverage smart, collaborative robots until recently, and the high performance Sawyer robot is changing the game in what we can and cannot automate.”
DHL’s 2016 Logistics Trend Radar, revealed earlier this year, identified 26 key trends that could impact the logistics industry in the next decade.
Among the ‘Technology Trends’ were Bionic Enhancement, Self-Learning Systems and Robotics & Automation.