Third party logistics provider (3PL) NFI Industries will deploy a truck-unloading robot made by Boston Dynamics next year in a $10 million pilot program at its Savannah, Georgia, warehouse, the companies said today.
The move is the first step in NFI’s plan to automate its operations by rolling out a fleet of the “Stretch” model robots across North America over the next few years. Camden, New Jersey-based NFI said the increased automation is needed to support the flow of goods and increase operational capacity as supply chain demand remains near all-time highs.
More specifically, NFI foresees Stretch becoming an “invaluable asset” in its network of import deconsolidation centers, cross-dock, and transload facilities, as well as floor-loaded inbound and outbound distribution centers.
Waltham, Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics is best known for its two-legged “Atlas” and its four-legged “Spot” robots, but has recently developed the rolling Stretch model to target the logistics sector.
With its robotic arm and vision-guided vacuum gripper mounted on a mobile platform, Stretch is an automated case handling system that can move a variety of package types up to 50 pounds in weight. Each Stretch unit operates for more than a full shift on a single charge or up to 16 hours with a high-capacity battery option, and can autonomously recover any packages that shift or fall during the unloading process, the firm says.
NFI’s deal marks the second large logistics provider to buy a Stretch bot, after DHL made a $15 million purchase in January.
“We designed Stretch to automate box moving, an operationally and physically challenging task across warehouses,” Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, said in a release. “Demand for goods continues to rise, and robots like Stretch can help NFI alleviate some of the challenges associated with that surging demand. Stretch makes truck unloading a safer and more efficient task, and NFI can pass that efficiency along to its customers.”
Future forward solutions to enhance our customers' operations. Read about our $10 million agreement to deploy @BostonDynamics' Stretch robot across our North American network: https://t.co/SSclE9dg40 pic.twitter.com/6uFmUfm6mH— NFIindustries (@NFIindustries) August 31, 2022
"With Stretch, we will enhance the movement of freight through our facilities while providing a safer environment for our employees.” - Sid Brown, CEO, @NFIindustries. Learn why NFI chose Stretch in a $10 million agreement. https://t.co/dpS1Lq0TzE— Boston Dynamics (@BostonDynamics) August 31, 2022