Camden-based NFI, a leading supply chain solutions provider, on Wednesday said it signed a $10 million agreement to deploy Boston Dynamics’ newest robot, Stretch, across its U.S. warehousing operations.
The mobile robot will begin unloading trucks and containers as a pilot program at NFI’s Savannah, Georgia, facility in 2023, with plans to outfit additional warehouse locations across North America over the next few years.
“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,” Sid Brown, CEO of NFI, stated. “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 said that, as supply chain demand remains near all-time highs, it 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.
“We designed Stretch to automate box moving, an operationally and physically challenging task across warehouses,” Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, stated. “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.