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Honeywell unveils automated robotic unloader for distribution centres

Honeywell has announced a new automated robotic solution for unloading packages from truck trailers and shipping containers at distribution centres.

The robotic unloader uses artificial intelligence to operate fully autonomously inside of a trailer, which significantly reduces the manual effort required to operate receiving docks for retail merchandise and parcel distribution centres.

It drives into a trailer or container and uses machine vision to identify various package shapes and sizes as well as the optimal approach to unloading.

A robotic arm with a series of small suction cups conforms to the package shape to extract it from the stack. A conveyor below the arm can serve as a sweeper for packages to move them out of the trailer.

“For distribution centre workers, unloading packages is labour-intensive, physically demanding and injury-prone work that is often subject to extreme temperatures,” said Matt Wicks, vice president of product development at Honeywell Intelligrated.

“These factors lead to low employee satisfaction and high turnover – as much as 36 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“With our robotic unloader, we are using advanced machine learning to allow workers to remove themselves from the extreme environment and to oversee multiple unloading machines, increasing productivity and improving safety.”

“In real-world applications, we are unloading a rate of up to 1,500 cases per hour and helping companies maximise throughput safely and efficiently,” said Wicks.

“We’re working with Carnegie Mellon University to deploy advanced machine learning to expand the robotic capabilities with improved 3D vision, perception, processing power and gripping.”

Unlike other unloading solutions, the Honeywell Intelligrated unloader is fully autonomous and is designed to work within existing fleets to eliminate the need for costly configurations or modifications to trailers or standard shipping containers.

The unloader features patented gentle mechanisms to minimise package damage without affecting performance.

For nearly three decades, Honeywell Intelligrated has developed robotics solutions for warehousing operations and is a certified robot integrator by the Robotic Industries Association.

In addition to its collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center, Honeywell Intelligrated is also combining efforts with Fetch Robotics to deploy autonomous mobile robots to distribution centres.