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DHL Supply Chain expands partnership with Locus Robotics

DHL Supply Chain, a contract logistics services provider and subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL Group, recently announced it has expanded its partnership with Locus Robotics, a provider of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) for fulfillment warehouses.

The key component of this expanded partnership, according to DHL, is ten new, nationwide deployments of the Locus AMR solution, through and Expanded Multi-Site Services Agreement. Today, DHL Supply Chain has roughly 100 bots deployed in two locations, according to Jim Gehr, President, Retail, at DHL Supply Chain North America.  Gehr added that with this announcement, DHL is targeting that number to be roughly 1,000 by the end of 2020.

The partnership between DHL Supply Chain and Locus Robotics goes back to 2017, when they teamed up for a pilot program geared towards piloting a collaborative, autonomous robotics solution – LocusBots – focused on supporting associates in piece picking order fulfillment in warehouses.  DHL explained that the LocusBots navigate autonomously within warehouses to quickly locate and transport pick items to associates. And they added that these LocusBots can be flexibly deployed to support a diverse range of picking strategies, significantly reducing time spent on routine or physically demanding tasks, reducing manual errors and increasing productivity.

What’s more, in 2018 DHL Supply Chain rolled out a $300 million multi-year plan focused on North American operations in emerging technologies. This plan featured an accelerated digitization program that identified 14 target technologies, with seven of those technologies having a collaborative robotics focus that DHL said can be “fast-tracked into customers’ operations.”

In an interview, DHL’s Gehr said that DHL Supply Chain’s partnership with Locus is one that provides significant value to the company’s shipper customers, as it have witnessed an increase in pick productivity of up to 80% at customer sites.  

“This allows us to increase throughput and reduce cycle times, which maximizes the throughput capacity of their capital investment and lowers their fulfillment cost per order,” Gehr explained. “Customers rely on our ability to scale quickly and provide a customized solution to meet their needs. Through our culture of continuous innovation, we have identified many emerging technology provider partners like LocusBots that enable us to bring these technologies to the market quickly and efficiently, breaking down boundaries for our customers so they can more easily increase sales and bottom line profitability and develop direct relationships with consumers.”

As for the next steps of the DHL Supply Chain and Locus Robotics partnership, Gehr declined to comment on any specific developments beyond this announcement, but he did note that DHL’s digital acceleration program will continue as a priority for DHL Supply Chain in North America, and the company hope that the increasing results this partnership delivers will build additional groundwork for further deployments in the future.  

“One emerging priority with all of our technology providers are the significant additional benefits that can be realized if the various hardware and software technologies in our operations can be better synchronized and share data more effectively,” he said. “This would allow us to generate more and better data and to drive improvements across the whole end-to-end process. We will be working with Locus on progressing this topic in the future.”  

From a competitive perspective, Gehr said that the increased LocusBot deployment will continue to enable DHL Supply Chain to improve efficiency and increase productivity for its customers.

“Through the integration of cobots, associates are able to walk shorter distances and minimize their heavy lifting, driving greater accuracy and productivity as well as job satisfaction – all factors contributing to cost savings and service improvements for customers and better working conditions for our associates,” he said.

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About the Author

Jeff Berman's avatar
Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review and is a contributor to Robotics 24/7. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis.
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