The mobile robot will begin unloading trucks and containers as a pilot program at NFI’s Savannah, GA facility in 2023, with plans to outfit additional warehouse locations across North America over the next few years.
Supply chain demand remains near all-time highs. To support the flow of goods and increase operational capacity, NFI continues to invest in technology that supports a people-led, technology-enabled approach.
The investment also falls in line with NFI’s Applied Innovation focus, which pilots new technologies to demonstrate a real-world application within operations before scaling across its North American network.
Sid Brown, CEO of NFI, says: “At a time when companies need to evolve to meet consumer expectations, NFI has stepped in as the innovative logistics partner, contributing to our customers’ competitive edge.
“Our innovation portfolio emphasizes productivity and safety in NFI’s operations. With Stretch, we will enhance the movement of freight through our facilities while providing a safer environment for our employees.”
NFI is one of the oldest and largest privately-held 3PLs in North America, serving customers throughout various industries and operating over 65 million square feet of warehouse space.
The company foresees Stretch becoming an invaluable asset in its network of import deconsolidation centers, cross-dock and transload facilities, as well as floor-loaded inbound and outbound distribution centers – all of which have seen an influx of demand since the start of the pandemic.
Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, says: “We designed Stretch to automate box moving, an operationally and physically challenging task across warehouses.
“Demand for goods continues to rise, and robots like Stretch can help NFI alleviate some of the challenges associated with that surging demand. Stretch makes truck unloading a safer and more efficient task, and NFI can pass that efficiency along to its customers.”
Stretch operates for more than a full shift on a single charge or up to 16 hours with a high-capacity battery option.
With a powerful vacuum gripper and advanced vision system, the robot handles a variety of package types up to 50 pounds, requires no SKU number pre-programming or box size information, and can autonomously recover any packages that shift or fall during the unloading process.
The Stretch project is being overseen by NFI’s Integrated Design and Solutions team of supply chain engineers, which will help scale the program to the greater NFI footprint after the pilot’s conclusion.