Arvato is implementing robots to unload truckloads.

A new cooperation between Arvato and Boston Dynamics should ensure that the logistic service provider is able to remove loose boxes from containers and trailers much faster and in a more ergonomic manner. The robots will be showcased in Venlo and Gennep next spring. 

As part of the cooperation, the acquisition of ten Stretch robots has been agreed upon. Arvato Supply Chain Services will deploy the first two Stretch robots in Louisville, United States. There are also plans to deploy the Stretch robots in Europe. The Dutch centra of Arvato, ranked 19th in the Top 100 Logistics service providers in the Netherlands, will be the first to benefit from this initiative. 


Minimalizing ergonomically heavy work 

In recent years, Arvato has invested heavily in automation worldwide, especially in picking with shuttles and AutoStore systems. The Stretch robot of Boston Dynamics has now been added to this automation strategy. Stretch is a mobile autonomous robot designed for efficient and safe package handling. The robot processes packages of different sizes and weighing up to 23kg, and can be deployed continuously up to 16 hours. Stretch unloads trucks and containers, relieving warehouse workers from the physically demanding task. “The health of our employees is a top priority for us”, explains Alex ress, project manager at Arvato. “By minimizing less ergonomic tasks, we relieve the burden on our employees, enabling them to ass more value in other areas. At the same time, automation is an important step in addressing the general problems of the staff availability.”

Robot can be used in multiple places 

“This new innovation project offers great potential for medium term”, stated Bernhard Lembeck, head of the Future warehouse department at Arvato. “We do not see Stretch as a standalone system, but as a building brick of our Warehouse Automation Toolbox. Besides robotic inbound palletizing and pallet transports through Automated Mobile Robots (AMR), Stretch moves the process chain towards fully automated goods reception. Stretch is equipped with a lightweight robotic arm, which is mounted on a mobile platform. The robot is not tied to power or air lines and can therefore be deployed in various areas in the warehouse. With an advanced vision system and a powerful vacuum gripper with pneumatic control and detection, Stretch recognizes a wide range of cardboard types and box sizes, which are then safely picked up. The robot makes real-time decisions, therefore the pre-programming of box information is not required. “Currently, this robot is the only solution on the market capable of unloading goods in this way”, says Lembeck. 

First robots in the Netherlands next spring 

The first robots are deployed on a logistics campus in Louisville, where Arvato has multiple distribution centers for different customers on a total area of 2.4 million square meters. There are plans to implement Stretch in Europe, starting with Arvato’s Dutch branches. “The first robot in Europe will probably be deployed in Venlo or Gennep. The final decision has not yet been made,” says Andre Mahon, Vice-President of Tech at Arvato. The ‘European’ robots are expected to be deployed in the second half of the upcoming year. “Whether this is feasible or not, depends on the lessons learned from the initial implementations in the US and the needs of the customer,” Mahon adds. 

Multiple robots in Gennep and Venlo 

The exact number of robots that will elevate logistics in Dutch distribution centers to a new level is also not yet determined. Mahon states, “We will determine that in 2024, based on our need in the Netherlands and other locations in Europe, and on the volumes and desires of the customer.” In addition to the compact storage and order picking system AutoStore, Arvato already uses various robots to optimize logistics operations in its Europe centers. Currently, there are depalletizing robots in use in both Venlo and Gennep. At the beginning of 2024, Venlo will have an additional palletizing robot. In Gennep, Arvato also employs two robots for floor cleaning.