DHL Supply Chain has announced the implementation of 15 automated forklifts in its warehouse operations at Tyrefort in the West Midlands.
The automated guided vehicles (AGVs) form part of DHL’s operation for a major customer in the automotive sector, taking over picking, put-away and replenishment of products and empty media in the warehouse.
According to DHL, the vehicles reduce the number of manual pallet transfers without requiring significant changes in warehouse infrastructure.
What’s more, DHL said it calculated that, with 24/7 operation, a fleet of a dozen automated forklifts can handle more than a million pallets per year in one facility.
The indoor robotics transporters work up to 11.5m high – which DHL said is believed to be a first in the logistics industry – reaching high warehousing racks to handle a range of pallets, stillages and waste cages.
Safety features including lidar and camera obstacle detection, bumper tip sensors and side bumper bars, are all designed to minimise interaction with manual trucks operating in the same facility.
In addition, the forklifts are fully integrated with the Blue Yonder warehouse management system and charge automatically when required.
Simon Woodward, head of accelerated innovation and digitalisation, DHL Supply Chain UK & Ireland, said: “Indoor robotics have the potential to bring huge benefits to our warehouse environments, and this is no exception.
“Autonomous forklifts can be safely deployed and make a difference immediately, creating capacity and increasing efficiencies. They are also helping us manage skilled worker shortages at a time when we are struggling to recruit.
“Excitingly, we’re already reaping the rewards and now plan to accelerate their rollout with more to follow in 2022.”
DHL said it worked with Swedish AGV manufacturer MAXAGV to ensure the deployment was completed without interruption to just-in-time operations in the warehouse.
The investment also marks the next step in DHL Supply Chain’s Accelerated Digitalisation strategy, which seeks to roll out innovative technologies to benefit its customers and colleagues, while lowering the operation’s carbon footprint.