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Boston Dynamics’ Stretch robot gets its first job in DHL warehouses

Boston Dynamics has been in the robotics business for a while now, making a name for itself with designs that are equal parts sci-fi and creepy thanks to the animal shapes of its robots. The company has passed through several hands since leaving MIT in 1992; it was acquired by Google in 2013 before being sold to Softbank in Japan in 2017. The company is now owned by Hyundai, which acquired an 80% stake, with Softbank retaining the remaining 20% ​​through a subsidiary.

Boston Dynamics

In its latest announcement, Boston Dynamics revealed that it will deliver a fleet of Stretch robots to multiple DHL warehouses in North America over the next three years.When we first learned about Stretch earlier this year last, it was obvious that the robot had an unremarkable appearance compared to its more futuristic predecessors. at the same time, it’s clear that Stretch has inherited many of the design and engineering breakthroughs pioneered by its previous stable mates.

The potential of Stretch is obvious

Boston Dynamics

Stretch appears to belong to a warehouse with an appearance similar to a driverless forklift. However, the robot is extremely maneuverable, versatile and can be tasked with identifying boxes, reaching them and moving them to another location such as a conveyor belt or a truck.

At the end of his “extendable” arm is a smart gripper with advanced sensing that allows him to grab boxes of different sizes. The machine is also equipped with computer vision technology from Boston Dynamics, allowing it to search and grab boxes autonomously without the need for special programming. Stretch can even run in and around disorganized box stacks and retrieve fallen boxes.

Sally Miller, CIO of DHL Supply Chain North America, said of the new agreement:

At DHL Supply Chain, we are committed to continuous innovation and digital transformation to optimize the end-to-end supply chain. Investing in warehouse automation plays an important role in increasing operational efficiency and improving service for our customers. We are thrilled to partner with Boston Dynamics to deploy their cutting-edge robotics in our warehouses. The Stretch robot solves complex industry challenges with flexible automation, which we can replicate and scale regionally and globally. »

Increase automation to improve supply chains

Stretch smart gripper in action

Boston Dynamics

The deal with DHL is worth $15 million and is part of the company’s accelerated digitization strategy. Stretch will be deployed to “select DHL facilities,” according to the company, where it will initially be tasked with unloading trucks. However, DHL’s plans include extending Stretch to other areas of its warehouse workflows to automate additional warehouse operations.

Automation will help maintain the continuity of the supply chain, which has been severely disrupted lately due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer demand for reliable and fast supply chain services makes the deployment of technologies like Stretch inevitable.

Stretch also offers companies like DHL significant potential savings by reducing overhead costs related to staffing and benefits. It also reduces employee exposure to workplace accidents and other supply chain disruptions. No doubt other logistics companies will pay close attention to how Stretch works for DHL, but the robot looks set to find more customers in the near future, assuming all goes well.

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