Seeking ways to boost productivity in its distribution centers, the express and logistics firm DHL Corp. is testing a fleet of collaborative robots from Rethink Robotics Inc. in an unspecified number of its warehouses.
Bonn, Germany-based DHL is integrating the robots into warehousing operations such as co-packing and value-added tasks such as assembly, kitting, packaging, and pre-retail services, the company said Tuesday.
DHL said its goal is to free up human employees for "higher-value work" by using robots to help them with repetitive tasks such as packaging and inventory, Adrian Kumar, vice president of solutions design North America at DHL Supply Chain, said in a statement. "By deploying these robots to work in tandem with humans, we can ensure our production lines are adjusting to changes and running more efficiently year-round," Kumar said.
Rethink Robotics is a Boston-based company founded by MIT computer science professor and iRobot Corp. founder Rodney Brooks. The company makes collaborative robots, known as "cobots," that are designed to work alongside human laborers without being separated by traditional cages or other safety barriers.
DHL is testing how to integrate both of Rethink Robotics' main products into its facilities. They include Baxter, a dual-arm collaborative robot for repetitive tasks such as discrete part handling, and Sawyer, a model designed for more precise tasks, such as packaging.