DHL Supply Chain Autonomous Forklift

DHL Supply Chain Deploys First Autonomous Forklifts in North America

DHL Supply Chain has deployed the first US autonomous forklifts in North America, seeing an early return on its investment through higher efficiency and better reliability.

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Indoor robotic transport is part of the company’s Accelerated Digitalization strategy, which focuses on using autonomous forklifts for high-value use cases in pallet warehouse environments.

A strategic collaboration between DHL Supply Chain, Crown Equipment, and JBT Corporation led to the implementation of automation technology, which is set to improve warehouse efficiency, workplace safety, and employee satisfaction.

“Our manual forklifts travel an estimated 25 million miles per year in our facilities, which makes pallet movement an excellent candidate for automation. Indoor robotic transport can increase the efficiency, accuracy and safety of double-deep pallet putaway and retrieval tasks without requiring any significant changes in the infrastructure.”

Brian Gaunt, senior director, accelerated digitalization, DHL Supply Chain North America

The new installation features Crown R 1000 Series DualMode reach trucks fitted with JBT Automated Systems robotics technology.

DHL Supply Chain Developed New Warehouse Workflow

Instead of inserting the automation into an existing manual process, the first deployment involved designing a new process for how products flow in the warehouse, resulting in creating a manual-to-autonomous handoff zone between pallet storage and receiving and shipping.

This solution integrates with the warehouse management system to ensure a consistent workflow.

Equipped with the ability to operate 24/7/365, the autonomous forklift range spans six levels (27 feet) high and two pallets deep for putaway and retrieval, with a high degree of speed and precision especially at levels three and above.

With a 360-degree safety field light, the autonomous forklifts operate in a dedicated area of the warehouse where access is limited to properly trained associates.

The installation went live in July 2021 and DHL Supply Chain has been pleased with the results, which surpassed the initial productivity goal.

Faster pick and putaway times from the autonomous forklifts are driving a 20 percent increase in efficiency, and these reach trucks deliver 98 percent or better reliability.

The company plans to deploy this flexible, scalable technology at additional sites, as applicable to its customers.

DHL Supply Chain credits the success of the autonomous forklift deployment to its proven process for integrating new technology, as well as the innovative spirit and commitment level of its partners.

This first North America installation of autonomous forklifts represents a significant step in DHL Supply Chain’s efforts to accelerate the deployment of indoor robotic transport in its more than 2,200 warehouses worldwide.

DHL Supply Chain’s commitment to continuous innovation and digital transformation represents the next frontier in end-to-end supply chain optimization, from the warehouse to packaging and transportation.

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Editorial Note: This post is from a Company Press Release and may have been modified for clarity.

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