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XPO Logistics Plans 5K Robot Deployment Ahead of Holiday Ramp-Up

Business is booming at XPO Logistics, the second-biggest contract logistics firm globally, and the company is investing in automation to get to the next level.

Following a first half that generated $2.1 billion in new business and a second-quarter 16-percent revenue spike that touched $4.36 billion, the Greenwich, Conn.-based company said it will install 5,000 “collaborate warehouse robots” at its properties across Europe and North America.

The robots, XPO said, are designed to complement the company’s flesh-and-blood workforce rather than replace it outright—a common fear around robotics and automation.

Capable of carting racks weighing up to 2.5 tons, the bots form a key component of a modular goods-to-person system anchored by a fulfillment station where employees can work on up to 48 orders at once.

Describing XPO’s hiring agenda as a “significant increase,” President Troy Cooper said the logistics firm has plans to bring more than 8,000 temporary employees on board before November, the month that officially kicks off retailers’ holiday shopping season. The company said in a September press statement that the volume of retail logistics business it handled in August already clocked close to 20 percent above the prior-year period, portending an equally hectic year-end marathon.

Implementing robots will make the warehouse environment safer and help workers boost productivity, XPO CEO Bradley Jacobs said. “These are important benefits for our customers—particularly in the e-commerce and omnichannel retail sectors, where order speed and accuracy are essential ways to compete,” he noted.

XPO forged a strategic partnership with robot manufacturer GreyOrange of Singapore, and it is the only logistics firm with permission to deploy the bots in North America, the U.K. and eight European countries. With customers including Indian e-tailers Flipkart and Myntra, a fashion e-commerce company, GreyOrange on Sept. 6 raised $140 million in Series C funding, supposedly a record for an industrial robotics firm. One week earlier, the company unveiled its U.S. headquarters in Atlanta and installed Chris Barber as the regional CEO for North America.

The robot rollout is but one piece of $450 million in planned tech investments this year, XPO said.