The demand for more efficient warehouse operations has continued as the COVID-19 pandemic abated and in spite of recessionary fears. For example, DHL Supply Chain this week said it will be growing its fleet of autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, from Locus Robotics.
At the same time, some AMR users faced more uncertainty with the news of Shopify Inc.'s layoffs and sale of 6 River Systems to Ocado Group PLC. According to industry observers, relatively few mobile robot suppliers are profitable, but most agreed that Locus is one of them.
DHL Supply Chain said it plans to deploy Locus Origin robots across its global network of warehouses and distribution centers. The companies claimed that it is one of the industry's biggest AMR deals to date, growing from nearly 4,000 robots since 2021.
DHL seeks select robot providers
As a major third-party logistics provider (3PL), DHL works with several robotics suppliers, including AutoStore, Boston Dynamics, Crown Equipment, and Vecna Robotics. Locus Robotics is arguably one of the more mature AMR providers.
“We look for best-of-breed technologies and partner with companies of all sizes,” Brian Gaunt, senior director of DHL Supply Chain, told Robotics 24/7 at Manifest 2023.
Sally Miller, DHL Supply Chain
Sally Miller, global digital transformation officer at DHL Supply Chain, replied to the following questions from Robotics 24/7 about the company's expanded partnership with Locus Robotics:
About how many DHL facilities will be adding robots from Locus?
Miller: This will be across some of DHL Supply Chain’s 1,500 global network of fulfillment and distribution sites worldwide—depending if the operational profile fits.
How did previous collaboration lead to this expansion?
Miller: LocusBots currently deployed at DHL Supply Chain facilities have proven their value with consistent 2X to 3X performance improvements, faster cycle times, and lowered operational and labor costs.
In addition, workplace quality and workplace safety have improved. DHL Supply Chain seeks to continue that success with additional deployments across its global network.
What will the total number of Locus robots in DHL facilities be?
Miller: Locus will deploy 5,000 Locus Origin AMRs as part of this expansion agreement.
Were any changes in software or support necessary to scale up?
Miller: None. Locus can scale up at any site with an unlimited number of bots as part of the LocusONE system. Just add more bots!
Locus Robotics pursues strategic partnerships
After Amazon.com Inc. took Kiva Systems off the market in 2012, Locus Robotics spun out of Quiet Logistics in 2014. In November 2022, Locus raised $117 million in Series F funding, bringing its valuation to close to $2 billion.
The Wilmington, Mass.-based company reported that its systems, which collaborate with human warehouse associates, completed more than 230 million cart picks during last year's holiday peak.
While it has stayed independent, Locus has recently also partnered with several companies on automation deployments, including Berkshire Grey, Design Future Japan, FANUC, Körber Supply Chain, and Optoro.
At ProMat in March, Locus Robotics introduced LocusONE, a warehouse orchestration platform intended to enable central management of different AMRs in large warehouses.
Locus Robotics will be exhibiting at Booth 4432 at Automate later this month in Detroit. For more about Automate 2023, visit Robotics 24/7's special coverage page.
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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