FedEx is now using industrial robotic arms to sort delivery packages

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to stay at home so that many economic activities that use human labor have to be stopped temporarily. The use of robots in production and service activities is now being looked at as an alternative solution during the new normalization period by most of the world’s largest companies. One of them is FedEx, an American multinational delivery services company.

The logistics giant FedEx has begun using robots to sort delivery packages. In March 2020, the company installed four robotic arms from Yaskawa America and Plus One to robotic sorting the large number of delivery packages that pass through its Memphis facility.

The robotic system performs a task that involves picking up parcels or envelopes from a tray and placing them on a conveyor. Automation in a sorting facility in a warehouse has proved very difficult in the past. But, thanks to the advances in camera systems and their associated artificial intelligence, this highly monotonous task can now be done by a robot.

FedEx said several members of its Small Package Sort System team, who previously handled sorting themselves, are now serving as supervisors for new robotic employees. Although the robotic system performs each task at only half the speed of a human, FedEx says it will get faster over time as the company learns more through testing.

The company has been actively exploring robotic technology even before the COVID-19 crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has not played a direct role in accelerating technology adoption, but it has multiplied the number of online orders passing through the Memphis Center, the company tells TechCrunch.

The logistics industry is now moving towards robotization. Amazon made large investments and acquired several robotics firms. UPS, too, has become increasingly focused on automation. FedEx announced last year that it aims to process 80% of packages through automated facilities by next year.