In a warehouse located in Unna, Germany, DHL Supply chain ran a pilot test which used robot technology for collaborative automated order picking.

The robot called EffiBOT, from the French start-up Effidence is a new, fully automated trolley that follows pickers through the warehouse and takes care of most of the physical work. It is specifically designed to work safely with and around people. During the test, two robots supported the pickers by carrying the weight and automatically dropping off the orders once fully loaded.

“The picking cart follows the picker through the rack system,” explains Michael Artinger, Site Manager DHL Supply Chain, who was responsible for the test. “Once it reaches full capacity, the picker simply sends it to the designated drop-off location, while another picking cart joins. This solution makes moving from single to multi-order picking a more efficient and ergonomic process.”

This assistance is especially important as there is a higher frequency of picking processes in smaller entities due to reduced inventories and increased online shopping. In a non-automated setting manual pickers are confronted with heavy carts and high payloads restricting the picker to single order picking while forcing them to walk longer distances.

In addition to EffiBOT, collaborative robots for value-added services such as co-packing as well as mobile piece picking robots autonomously navigating through warehouse shelves are being tested. “In the following weeks, DHL will continuously perform tests with different robot types and systems”, says Markus Kückelhaus, VP Innovation & Trend Research, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.

For more information on robots see Robotics in Logistics report from DHL.