DHL has invested in four new Sawyer robots in order to evaluate the solution as part of its robotics research and development programme.
The company describes the purchase of the Sawyer robots as “the first step” in its robotics deployment journey.
DHL says the collaborative robots will be flexibly used across its 19 contract packing, or “co-packing”, and production logistics centres across the UK and Ireland region.
Sawyer robots are some of the most advanced collaborative robots currently available and can support production and warehouse staff by automating repetitive tasks.
The four robots will allow DHL to implement automation flexibly, moving the robots between different sites in support of seasonal demands.
DHL is the world’s largest logistics company and wants to be considered a leading innovator.
The company is introducing the new technology in response to changing requirements from its customer base, who need to quickly meet peaks in demand.
The new flexible approach ensures production lines are adjusting to change, while also providing additional capacity by filling gaps in the labour market.
Sawyer robots have been carefully evaluated by DHL to ensure they have the highest health and safety credentials so they can work in collaboration with the workforce.
The robots automatically stop if they touch something unexpected, which means that humans can physically be much closer to the robots without risk of harm.
DHL will be upskilling its existing co-packing teams to support its growth and apply this new technology, hiring specialist roles such as Robotics Technician, Project Engineer as well as other production management roles.
The four Sawyer robots have been bought following successful trials packing pet food, confectionery, aerosols and canned drinks. Following this initial investment, DHL plans a strategic investment of over £1 million in the next 12 months to enhance its commitment to robotics and automation.
Simon Woodward, director of co-packing and production logistics at DHL Supply Chain, says: “The introduction of collaborative robotics into logistics is something we’ve been exploring at DHL for a while.
“After numerous trials, we are excited to now be offering our Sawyer robots as a solution to our co-packing customers’ needs.
“Our customers who work in consumer industries are seeing huge fluctuations in demand as consumer preferences change.
“The rise of e-commerce has led to a surge in the number of deliveries within the network and the flexible nature of Sawyer allows us to quickly respond to changing needs, delivering solutions to meet demands and fill labour gaps.”
As the market leading co-packer in the UK and Ireland region, DHL processes more than 50 million cases per annum from 19 co-pack centres nationwide and works with household names across a range of industries.
DHL is now exploring how automation and robotics can be introduced at other points in the supply chain as well as at its co-packing and Production Logistics operations.