DHL Supply Chain will deploy 5,000 autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) across its global warehousing and distribution center network.
After teaming with Locus Robotics in 2021 to deploy 500 assisted picking robots at its warehouses in the U.S., Europe, and the U.K., DHL Supply Chain scaled its robotics implementation to 2,000 assisted picking robots last year across 1,400 global sites.
“An idea is only a good idea if it can scale,” said Oscar de Bok, CEO, DHL Supply Chain in a statement. “The flexibility and scalability of the Locus solution has been instrumental in helping us meet the evolving demands of the e-commerce landscape and leveraging cutting-edge technology to optimize our operations and deliver an even better experience for our customers.”
The logistics giant is calling it the largest AMR deal of its kind to date. The announcement comes after an Interact Analysis reports projects that 26 percent of warehouses will be automated by 2027—up from the 18 percent at the end of 2021. This mass deployment would cover more than 200,000 total warehouses, according to the market research company.
The firm also forecasts a n increase in orders for picking robots amid rising labor costs and falling technology costs. Interact Analysis estimates that just over 150,000 picking robots will be installed by 2030, with annual shipments rising from fewer than 2,000 in 2022 to above 50,000 by the end of the decade.
DHL Supply Chain expects to fully deploy the new LocusBots by the end of the year.
With the expanded fleet of Locus AMRs, DHL Supply Chain aims to leverage the advanced automation technology to optimize its supply chain operations, and improve worker productivity, order accuracy, speed and efficiency. The AMRs are designed to operate collaboratively with human workers, with Locus claiming that they can double or triple product movement efficiency and productivity.
DHL Supply Chain, the company’s contract logistics division, said that the assisted picking robots help reduce time spent on maneuvering pushcarts through warehouses, reduce physical strain and increase picking efficiency. They also display images of goods to be picked, calculate optimal navigation routes and cut down on training time.
Locus Robotics CEO Rick Faulk said the company is “thrilled to be working in an expanded capacity with DHL Supply Chain to bring our industry-leading robotics technology to their global network.”
With clients including VF Corp., Geodis and Ceva Logistics, Locus Robotic was valued at nearly $2 billion as November 2022 after it secured $117 million in Series F funding.
The robots will enhance the DHL Supply Chain’s capabilities in e-commerce fulfillment, retail replenishment ,and pharmaceutical and healthcare logistics.
DHL has picked more than 250 million units using LocusOne. The warehouse automation platform facilitates a seamless operation and management of large quantities of multiple AMR form factors as a single, coordinated warehouse fleet.
The platform supports a system of more than 1,000 robots, operating in sites as large as 1 million square feet or more. This enables the individual AMRs to engage in different tasks at once, including picking and putaway, case picking and putaway, replenishment, pallet building, routine routes, point-to-point transport and counting.
“The addition of Locus Robotics AMRs to our network is a major milestone in our digitalization journey, and we are excited to partner with Locus Robotics to bring this technology to our operations,” said Markus Voss, global chief information officer and chief operating officer at DHL Supply Chain, in a statement. “By using advanced robotics and data intelligence, we can further improve our operational efficiency, reduce processing time and continue to improve our customer experience.”
Locus Robotics says it works with more than 100 companies and has deployed its technology at more than 250 sites.
“Locus is helping DHL rapidly transform operations through a workforce empowered with the right technology at the right time, to deliver goods where they need to at the speed our modern markets demand,” said Sally Miller, global digital transformation officer, DHL Supply Chain. “Locus is a critical partner for us as we digitalize our warehouses, distribution and fulfillment centers to efficiently meet increasing order volumes, labor shortages and rising consumer expectations.”
DHL Supply Chain is a believer in robotics warehouse technology. The contract logistics unit invested $15 million in robotics solutions from Boston Dynamics in February last year, and in January became the first company to commercially deploy the Massachusetts firm’s Stretch robot developed for carton unloading of trucks. It uses the Stretch robots to move packages from trailers onto a flexible conveyor.
The company plans to deploy Stretch robots in multiple warehouses in the coming year.