DHL robot: Take me to your loader (VIDEO)

11 / 07 / 2017

Technology group Wärtsilä and DHL have completed a successful pilot to test mobile robots in a warehouse environment.

The pilot phase of Fetch Robotics technology was carried out in Wärtsilä’s central distribution centre in Kampen, the Netherlands, where the entire logistics chain of Wärtsilä’s spare parts, from order intake to customer delivery, is managed. As Wärtsilä’s partner, DHL runs the warehouse operations.

The autonomous mobile robots have a loading capacity of 78 kg and can cover a distance of two meters per second. When the battery life of maximum nine hours comes to an end, the freight robot independently makes its way to the charging unit.

The intelligent robots recognize their location and surroundings, and can differentiate between dynamic and static obstacles, thus enabling evasive action to work safely with and around people.

The aim of the project was to investigate possibilities to utilise the latest technology innovations in the daily operations of the warehouse.

Wärtsilä and DHL also wanted to gain more understanding of the added value of robotics in a warehouse environment and “to learn about the human–technology interface between robots and employees”.

The mobile robot system simplifies point to point material handling, said the companies in a joint statement.

Workflows at Wärtsilä’s warehouse can be set up and modified very quickly to accommodate dynamic environments, without the need for complex programming.

Workers can interact with the robots via touchscreen and send them on their journeys with a push of a button.

Denis Niezgoda, robotics accelerator lead, DHL customer solutions & innovation, said: “Our colleagues took centre stage during the trial. The robots are designed to work alongside employees and to relieve them from physically strenuous tasks.

“The robots alone took over a walking distance of more than 30 km per day, thereby increasing productivity and safety within the warehouse working environment.”

Melonee Wise, chief executive at Fetch Robotics, said: “We were able to deploy our robots in the facility in a matter of days, rapidly improve on-site productivity, while increasing the safety of the warehouse employees.”

Anne Träskbäck, general manager, parts delivery at Wärtsilä Services, said: “The pilot was a success and, as a result, we have decided to continue exploring and developing new applications of smart mobile robot technology.

“Over the coming months, we will continue to trial different robot types and technologies together with our partners to further improve productivity, quality and safety in our operations.

“We have exciting times ahead. Working with robots means embracing a new change, and co-operating in new, productive ways in the future.”