XPO Logistics to Deploy 5,000 Collaborative Warehouse Robots in North America and Europe

XPO Logistics will buy 5,000 warehouse robots from a Singapore startup backed by billionaire Peter Thiel as part of a deal that makes XPO the only logistics provider to use the technology in North America, the U.K., and eight other European countries.

Intelligent Warehouse Automation

Global transportation and logistics solutions provider XPO Logistics has announced plans to deploy 5,000 intelligent robots throughout its logistics sites in North America and Europe.

The robots, which are designed to collaborate with humans, will supplement XPO's existing workforce and support future growth.

XPO has a strategic partnership with robotics manufacturer GreyOrange Pte. Ltd. that makes XPO the exclusive logistics provider for use of its robots in North America, the United Kingdom, and eight European countries.

XPO Logistics Chairman & CEO, Brad Jacobs said: “We've developed our logistics technology to integrate the latest intelligent automation and adapt it at lightning speed. This allows us to dramatically improve fulfillment time and cut costs.”

“The addition of 5,000 collaborative robots will make our logistics operations safer and more productive in picking, packing, and sortation. These are important benefits for our customers - particularly in the e-commerce and omnichannel retail sectors, where order speed and accuracy are essential ways to compete.”

The autonomous robots are part of a modular goods-to-person system that also includes mobile storage racks and fulfillment stations.

Each robot can move a rack weighing approximately 1,000 to 3,500 lbs., bringing it to a station where a worker fulfills up to 48 orders simultaneously.

The entire process is controlled by XPO's proprietary warehouse management system.

This high-speed, flexible solution supports same-day and next-day deliveries by shortening order-to-shipment times and helping workers minimize walk-time and manual errors.

Investment in Technology

XPO's latest robotics implementation is part of the company's planned $450 million investment in technology this year.

Other recent innovations include the XPO Direct shared-space distribution network, voice integration with Amazon Echo and Google Home to track the last mile delivery of heavy goods, and the XPO Connect digital freight marketplace with multimodal infrastructure.

As reported by FreightWaves, XPO has worked with 29 robotics companies and deployed 79 different types of robots across its warehouses.

Other XPO robotics vendors include Massachusetts-based 6 River Systems, which has deployed more than 100 robots for XPO; and KUKA Group's Swisslog, which is said to be providing the robotics for the digital warehouse XPO is building in the U.K. for Nestle.

It was unclear whether the robots will be deployed in time for the holiday rush, which may be more challenging this year as logistics and order fulfillment centers look for seasonal workers.

XPO itself said it plans to hire 8,000 seasonal workers in the fourth quarter, up from a seasonal hiring of 6,000 last year.

Singapore startup GreyOrange Pte. Ltd. (GreyOrange), in business since 2011, raised $140 million in September in a round of funding led by Mithril Capital Management, which was co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan.

The sale will help GreyOrange expand in the United States and North America, where it has just established its U.S. headquarters in Atlanta and is building a manufacturing site that will be completed next year.

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