Boston Dynamics’ Stretch robot hired by DHL to unload trucks
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.
DHL Supply Chain, a global and North American contract logistics provider within Deutsche Post DHL Group, is the first commercial customer for Boston Dynamics’ ‘Stretch’ robot.
In its announcement, Boston Dynamics revealed that it will deliver a fleet of Stretch robots to multiple DHL warehouses throughout North America over the next three years.
The investment is part of DHL Supply Chain’s “Accelerated Digitalisation” agenda, a strategy for developing and scaling innovative solutions and new technologies.
It aims to use Stretch to tackle several box-moving tasks in the warehouse, beginning with truck unloading at select DHL facilities. After the first deployment, the multi-purpose mobile robot will handle other tasks to support additional parts of the warehouse workflow, which will effectively automate warehouse operations.
“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 of DHL Supply Chain North America. “The stretch robot addresses complex industry challenges through flexible automation, which we’ll be able to replicate and scale regionally and globally.”
Stretch is equipped with a compact, omni-directional mobile base and a custom-designed lightweight arm with a smart gripper at the end of it with advanced sensing and controls that can handle a large variety of box types and sizes.
Stretch also includes Boston Dynamics’ computer vision technology, which enables it to identify boxes easily and without any pre-programming. It is also 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’ CEP. “ 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.”
Initial deployment of the Stretch units in DHL warehouses will start in Spring, and DHL plans to gradually scale Boston Dynamics’ robots for additional tasks and across multiple facilities in phases over the next few years.
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