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DHL Supply Chain buying fleet of mobile warehouse robots

Deutsche Post DHL unit will deploy Stretch robots starting this spring

DHL Supply Chain to bring on 700 robots during peak (Photo: DHL Supply Chain)

Contract logistics giant DHL Supply Chain said Wednesday it will spend $15 million on a fleet of mobile robots being developed by Boston Dynamics.

Under the three-year agreement, Waltham, Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics will begin deploying Stretch (pictured), the name given the mobile robots, this spring. An undetermined number of robots will go to multiple DHL’s Supply Chain facilities in North America, but the company would not disclose the number of facilities or their locations. The unit has 493 facilities across North America, 447 of them in the U.S.

Initially, the robots will be used to help unload truck trailers, DHL Supply Chain said.

The unit of German transport and logistics firm Deutsche Post DHL (OTCUS: DPSGY) is the first commercial customer of the Stretch robot. The companies have been collaborating on the project for several years, said Westerville, Ohio-based DHL Supply Chain.

Stretch is equipped with an omnidirectional mobile base, a lightweight arm and a gripper that can handle a wide variety of box shapes and sizes, DHL Supply Chain said.

The investment is part of DHL Supply Chain’s plan to invest $2 billion in supply chain digitization by 2030, the company said.

The DHL unit was the seventh-largest third-party logistics provider in the U.S. during 2020, with gross revenue — revenue before the cost of transportation — of $4.4 billion, according to data from Armstrong & Associates Inc., which tracks the 3PL industry. 

Combined with DHL Global Forwarding, DHL’s air and ocean freight forwarding unit, DHL Supply Chain was the world’s largest 3PL in 2020 with gross revenue of more than $28 billion, according to Armstrong data.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.