Arvato's robots move confirms Gartner tech report findings

Supply chain management & 3PL logistics firm Arvato deploys fleet of package-handling robots, echoing predictions of Gartner report on warehouse robotics

Supply chain management and 3PL logistics giant Arvato is pushing the envelope on automation at its global logistics centres. 

Arvato is working with US engineering and robotics design firm Boston Dynamics to deploy a series of bespoke robots called ‘Stretch’.

The first of the robots will be in the company’s Kentucky logistics 2.4mn square-foot campus. Arvato then plans to deploy the robots across Europe, starting with its Dutch sites.

Stretch is a mobile autonomous robot that performs package handling tasks for greater efficiency and safety. With an advanced vision system – and a powerful vacuum gripper with pneumatic control and sensing – Stretch recognises, and is able to grasp, a wide range of carton types and sizes. 

It is mounted on a mobile platform untethered to power or air lines, which allows it to be deployed across Arvato’s network. 

This means it can unload trucks and containers, saving employees in warehouse operations from doing this physically demanding work.

"The health of employees is a high priority for us,” says Alex Rees, Arvato Project Manager. “This relieves the burden on our employees, who in return can take on value-adding activities in other areas. Automation is also an important step in addressing the general issue of staff availability."

Robot another piece in automation jigsaw for Arvato

Arvato Tech VP Andrea Mahon says: "This innovation project offers great potential in the medium term. Stretch is another building block of our Warehouse Automation Toolbox that completes the process chain towards a fully automated goods-receiving process."  

This ‘toolbox’ includes autonomous mobile robots and automated guided vehicles that take care of inbound palletising, pallet transports. 

"We are proud to be working with Arvato to deliver a fleet of robots to their logistics centres," says Marc Theermann, Chief Strategy Officer at Boston Dynamics. "We believe Stretch will improve safety and employee experience across the company’s global footprint."

Arvato's latest deployment of advanced robotics reinforces the findings of a recent Gartner supply chain study, which found that mobile robotics will move far faster than drones tech, because the technology is more established – and that it is warehouses that are the main area of deployment for such robots.

The report, Hype Cycle for Mobile Robots and Drones, shows that around three-quarters of companies plan on using some type of robotic warehouse automation. 

Gartner also says machine learning will become mainstream over the next five years, creating greater demand both for mobile robots and drones.

Standardised automation software is also a factor driving robotics, says the report, with so-called multi-agent orchestration platforms increasing in 2023. 

  • The widespread adoption of warehouse robotics solutions is the cover story of this month’s issue of Supply Chain Digital.
We explore the rapid deployment of warehouse robotics technology in the latest issue of Supply Chain magazine.
  •  For further insight check out other issues of Supply Chain Magazine, as well as Procurement Magazine & Sustainability Magazine
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