The Otto Group today announced that it has signed a strategic agreement with Boston Dynamics Inc. to continue automating its logistics operations. The Hamburg, Germany-based e-commerce retailer plans to deploy Boston Dynamics' Spot robots in more than 10 facilities and Stretch robots in more than 20 facilities over the next two years.
Otto Group said the deployment will support its efforts to improve safety, increase operational efficiency, and address labor shortages for specific types of warehouse work. Waltham, Mass.-based Boston Dynamics noted that the agreement marks the first time both of its commercially available robots will be deployed together at enterprise scale.
“The cooperation with Boston Dynamics is another important step for us to position ourselves for the future,” said Kay Schiebur, member of the executive board for services at Otto Group, in a release.
“We strive for the best service for our customers and an innovative work environment for our employees,” he stated. “Robotics and AI are and will become even more central components of our daily work.”
Otto Group adds automation
Founded in 1949, the Otto Group is a global retail and services business with about 41,000 employees in 30 companies primarily active in Germany, Europe, and the U.S. It offers products and services through its Platforms, Brand Concepts, Retailers, Services and Financial Services segments.
In the 2022-2023 financial year (ended Feb. 28), the Otto Group generated revenues of €16.2 billion ($17.38 billion U.S.). With online revenues of approximately €12 billion ($12.87 billion), the group claimed that it is one of the world’s largest online retailers, with numerous strategic partnerships and joint ventures.
“We have learned to adapt quickly and flexibly to new market situations, which makes us strong for the future,” asserted Schiebur.
The Otto Group plans to start deploying Boston Dynamics' robots, starting with Hermes Fulfillment.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Spot quadruped will support tunnel inspections and predictive maintenance activities for equipment. They will include thermal monitoring, analog gauge reading, and acoustic detection of pressurized air and gas leaks.
The fleet of legged robots will also run autonomous missions, collecting data for machine learning models to support tasks such as fire-exit monitoring and detecting slight changes in storage racks to help keep Otto Group’s warehouses safe.
In addition, the Otto Group will use Stretch in warehouse applications. The box-moving robot will begin unloading containers at 10 facilities next year, with the goal of having all of Otto Group's sites operational by the end of 2025.
Stretch, which is suitable for unloading heavy packages in the container sector, will provide technological support for physically demanding activities, said the companies.
Partners team for a digital future
The Otto Group added that more than 10,000 warehouse and facility workers have participated to date in its TechUcation virtual training courses in robotics and artificial intelligence. This training is supplemented with on-site training, “enabling existing job profiles to develop digitally and shape the future together,” it said.
The Otto Group and Boston Dynamics also said they plan to collaborate on research and development, including additional future use cases for both Spot and Stretch robots over the next several years.
“As one of Europe’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies, the Otto Group is an excellent fit for our technology,” said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics. “This agreement represents a strategic collaboration that will benefit both our companies for years to come, and we look forward to seeing the value our mobile robots can provide when combined with Otto Group’s deep expertise in logistics and fulfillment.”
Boston Dynamics said its mobile robots offer advanced mobility, dexterity, and intelligence, enabling automation in unstructured or hard-to-traverse spaces, from manufacturing facilities, power plants, and construction sites to warehouses and distribution centers.
The company's portfolio includes Spot for enterprise asset management, Spot for logistics and retail, and Atlas, its bipedal R&D platform.
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