Wärtsilä and DHL deploy Fetch Cloud Robotics Platform to streamline warehouse operations
Wärtsilä’s 37,000 square meter Central Distribution Center in Kampen, the Netherlands, contains more than 85,000 unique items. It’s an integral part of Wärtsilä Global Logistics Services (WGLS), serving as a hub for the entire logistics chain of spare parts supporting energy and marine solutions. In 2015, over 870,000 items were shipped to customers. It takes a team of hundreds of people to make this happen, constantly moving goods between receiving, quality assurance, storage, packing, and shipping. Wärtsilä partnered with DHL to manage its warehouse operations, and the two companies are working together on innovative ways of applying new technology to improve both safety and efficiency.
Wärtsilä and DHL were interested in exploring how robotics could add value to their warehouse environment, while also learning about how collaborative robots would interact with their employees. The Fetch Robotics VirtualConveyor material transport solution and its autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) were introduced into the warehouse workflow to simplify point-to-point material handling. With the Fetch Cloud Robotics Platform, the VirtualConveyor AMRs were deployed in just a few days.
“Our robotic system is up and running and has already saved our operators walking up to 32km per day. What is quite impressive is the flexibility of the solution and how easy it is to adjust to our needs.”
Project Manager, DHL Supply Chain Consultancy and Innovation
Since each Fetch AMR is equipped with sensors that enable it to recognize its location in the warehouse and avoid both static obstacles (like pallets) and dynamic obstacles (like forklifts), the robots were able to intelligently navigate through normal warehouse operations, slowing down around people and finding their own safe paths through the warehouse.
In addition to reducing the physical stress on workers, Fetch Robotics AMRs were able to take over the repetitive task of transporting goods. This freed up workers to focus on more rewarding and fulfilling job experiences. Within days, the Fetch Robotics VirtualConveyor Solution was saving workers at Wärtsilä’s distribution center from walking more than 30 extra kilometers every day while simultaneously improving their productivity. However, in order for these improvements to be sustainable, they would also have to be flexible, with robots capable of responding quickly to workflow changes. An entire Fetch AMR fleet can be managed across one single map of the entire facility. Without any programming experience, it was easy for users to modify the paths and schedules of the robots as well as designate restricted areas. This allowed Wärtsilä and DHL to deploy Fetch AMRs with confidence that the robots are able to adapt to their specific warehouse environment, instead of becoming yet another piece of technology that somehow just made things more complicated.
It’s this inherent simplicity, combined with safety, reliability, and efficiency, that make the Fetch Cloud Robotics platforms so appealing to companies like Wärtsilä and DHL. For them, the fast deployment and robust return on investment made the Fetch Robotics solution a unique and compelling way of significantly enhancing productivity in harmony with human workers.