Wednesday, April 10, 2024

DHL invests $15 million to further automate warehousing in North America

Logistics giant DHL announced a $15 million investment in robotics solutions from Boston Dynamics, the 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 centers.

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

The robot 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.

Stretch is equipped with a compact, omnidirectional 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. The robotic arm has seven degrees of freedom and a suction pad array with which to grab and move boxes, weighing up to 23 kg. The “perception mast” contains cameras and sensors to navigate, and internal batteries keep it running for eight hours until it needs to recharge. 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.”

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.