DHL has successfully run a pilot test including robot technology for collaborative automated order picking in a DHL Supply Chain warehouse in Unna, Germany.
The robot - called EffiBOT from the French start-up Effidence - is a new, fully automated trolley that follows pickers through the warehouse and takes care of most of the physical work.
It is specifically designed to work safely with and around people. During the test, two robots supported the pickers by carrying the weight and automatically dropping off the orders once fully loaded. The warehousing staff highly appreciated the option to work hands-free and not having to push or pull heavy carts.
A common challenge for today’s logistics sector is the high frequency of picking processes in smaller entities due to reduced inventories and increased online shopping. In a non-automated setting manual pickers are confronted with heavy carts and high payloads restricting the picker to single order picking while forcing them to walk longer distances.
“The picking cart follows the picker through the rack system. Once it reaches full capacity, the picker simply sends it to the designated drop-off location, while another picking cart joins. This solution makes moving from single to multi-order picking a more efficient and ergonomic process”, explains Michael Artinger, Site Manager DHL Supply Chain, who was responsible for the test.
In addition to EffiBOT, collaborative robots for value-added services such as co-packing as well as mobile piece picking robots autonomously navigating through warehouse shelves are being tested. “In the following weeks, DHL will continuously perform tests with different robot types and systems”, says Markus Kückelhaus, VP Innovation & Trend Research, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.
“These evaluation results will then determine which technologies will be permanently implemented and position DHL as one of the leaders in an automated future of logistics.”
Assisted order picking is only one part in the automation revolution that will transform the world of logistics. DHL’s latest trend report “Robotics in Logistics” illustrates the full potential of robotics and its impact on supply chains, and prepares logistics professionals for a new era of advanced robots in logistics. It is available online at www.dhl.com/robots.