Last year on March 29, U.S. robotics company Boston Dynamics unveiled a new robot called Stretch, which is specially designed for warehouses. And today, Boston Dynamics announced the first commercial purchase of its Stretch pallet stacking machine, which will begin trials at DHL warehouses.
The contract valued by DHL with Boston Dynamics is $15 million, where DHL will deploy the robots in the North American area, with Boston Dynamics providing the robotic fleet to its logistics centers of DHL in the next 3 years. The Specific details on the number of robots being purchased were not revealed.
Boston Dynamics said in a statement, “The deployment of the first Stretch Robots in DHL warehouses will begin this spring, and DHL plans to gradually scale Boston Dynamics robots for additional tasks and in multiple installations in phases over the next few years,”
Besides, the CEO Robert Playter of Boston Dynamics says, “We are excited to be able to work with DHL Supply Chain and deliver a fleet of robots that will automate warehouse operations and improve employee safety. We believe Stretch can have a measurable impact on DHL’s operations,”
Details of Stretch Robots
The Stretch is a huge robotic arm on a mobile base. The arm has seven degrees of freedom and is equipped with an array of suction cups, with which the device can grip and move boxes with a maximum weight of up to 23 kg. Stretch is equipped with an array of cameras and sensors for navigation. Built-in batteries provide continuous operation of the robot for eight hours.
At first glance, Stretch seems like a fairly simple device, but in practice, the robot has to manipulate a huge number of boxes, performing complex three-dimensional maneuvers in space. Of course, the robot is only capable of moving traditionally shaped boxes of strictly limited weight.
But despite such shortcomings, logistics companies say that due to a huge labor shortage, there is a dire need for automation. Last year, the US transportation and logistics industry reported a record 490,000 unfilled jobs.
Lastly, it is an opportunity for DHL to automate some logistics functions during a time when blue-collar jobs have proved difficult to maintain. It’s also a chance to more fully embrace automation as it competes with companies like Amazon, which has begun to steadily encroach on the package delivery space.
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