FedEx Corp. will pilot a system that uses a pair of robotic arms backed by artificial intelligence (AI) to load boxes into its trucks and trailers, saying the product from Dexterity AI could help alleviate the challenges of truck loading cited by its operations team.
FedEx will test the truck load product in an ongoing approach, as Redwood City, California-based Dexterity says its goal is to refine the technology and deploy it commercially in the future.
Truck loading has long been considered one of the most challenging tasks in parcel hubs, industry sources say. Manual loading is taxing on workers, and the task is particularly complex at FedEx. Previous technology approaches have not been able to handle the complex decision-making required to stack the wide range of shipments encountered in the parcel carrier’s network, which vary in size, shape, weight, and packaging material, Dexterity said.
Six-year-old Dexterity says its “DexR” product solves that problem by navigating autonomously to the back of trailers and connecting to a powered conveyor system that feeds the robot boxes directly from the sortation system. The DexR then packs trailers with stable, dense walls of randomized boxes, using its two-arm design to improve throughput by picking and packing boxes simultaneously.
The trailer loading pilot follows a handful of robot designs that have hit the market in recent months doing the opposite job, unloading trailers. Most recently, those featuring an agreement by Boston Dynamics to provide its container-unloading Stretch robots in more than 20 facilities over the next two years that are operated by German e-commerce retailer The Otto Group. Other examples include Pickle Robot Co. and intelligent automation company Mujin’s TruckBot.