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How robotic picking is revolutionizing warehouse productivity

What’s one of the most strenuous and time-consuming tasks in a warehouse? The seemingly simple process of order picking. Automated warehouse robots are changing that, and DHL Supply Chain is taking full advantage.

Meet DHL’s newest recruits: Locus

Shopping online may be an entirely digital experience, but the process of fulfilling that order is often still an analog affair. While you lounge comfortably on your couch, order pickers push heavy carts up and down the aisles, locating your purchases and ferrying them to the packing station, where they are prepped for shipment.

Ordering picking is a time-consuming and physically challenging process. Although new technology helps streamline specific steps, robotic picking automates and optimizes the physical movement of goods. This will increase picking efficiency and free up our human resources to utilize their intelligence for more value-adding work.

Enter Lucas, our newest recruit. Manufactured by Locus Robotics, our new robotic picking assistants will increase our supply of automated warehouse robots at DHL Supply Chain to 2,000 by 2022. More than 500 DHL robots are currently in use at our warehouses in the US, Europe, and the UK. 

High performance warehouse and retailer picking

Locus Robotics - The solution that thinks outside the cart.

The robotic picking pros – what Locus does best

In e-commerce and supply chain logistics, the repetitious process of finding an item within a warehouse and removing it from the shelf – known as ‘picking’ – is not easy to automate. Today’s e-fulfillment warehouses cover enormous spaces and store millions of items. Increasing picking efficiency, including finding ways to reduce the physical burden on employees, is essential. It helps supply chain companies like DHL optimize operations, create healthy working environments, and gain a competitive advantage.

Assisted picking robots like the ones from Locus Robotics represent a breakthrough in efficiency. Robotic picking can increase the number of items picked per hour by up to 180%. That’s a big deal, especially right now. The pandemic has brought an e-commerce boom in its wake, and customer demands for product availability and delivery time are high. An efficiency increase of this magnitude is a big win for e-commerce businesses and order fulfillment services.

It’s a big win for our warehouse teams, too. Robotic picking helps us meet our commitment to create a safe and purpose-driven workplace and provide a great place to work. With automated warehouse robots rolling up and down the aisles, our people spend less time walking long distances and pushing heavy carts and instead focus on value-adding work that calls for human intelligence. The robots are also equipped with obstacle-detection sensors to prevent occupational hazards.









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Fast, flexible, and scalable

In addition to the immediate impact on productivity, our staff gets along famously with their new robotic colleagues. Employees have described how easy it is to learn how the robots work and have been quick to embrace the expanded capabilities.

Locus Robotics has made integration into complex operations like those at DHL facilities a high priority. In combination with our proprietary software solution – the robotics hub – the automated warehouse robots are easily and flexibly integrated into our existing warehouse management or control systems.

Additionally, during peak periods with exceptionally high fulfillment demand, the robotic pickers provide an optimal solution for quickly expanding our capacity. We can swiftly bring in more robots with minimal onboarding effort. Getting them up and running efficiently is about 80% faster than recruiting, hiring, and training new human pickers.

Logistics operations demand flexibility, which makes the scalability of the Locus robot fleet a key asset for expanding deployment to other DHL Supply Chain facilities.

Key benefits of assisted picking robots

Immensely improve productivity and reduce the error rate

Reduced travel time

30%-180% increase in units picked per hour

Lower physical strain

Delivering tomorrow’s smart warehouse today

By increasing the number of picking robots in DHL Supply Chain facilities worldwide by 2022, we are making a key investment in warehouse automation and the digital supply chain.

The surge in demand in the B2C e-commerce sector is already spilling over into B2B logistics operations. Innovative warehousing solutions involving assisted picking robots and other technology provide the boost we need to meet the exploding demand. Together with our partners at Locus Robotics, we’re revolutionizing warehouse productivity and delivering tomorrow’s smart warehouse today.

Published: July 2021

DHL Supply Chain

The world’s leading contract logistics provider

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