DB Schenker case study: Autonomous robots in supply chain

February 24, 2020

In a 2019 project with Gideon Brothers, DB Schenker used our autonomous mobile robots to streamline the supply chain for their client, a prominent German carmaker. An in-depth case study shows how our pallet-handling robots, equipped with Advanced Visual Perception, fit easily into DB Schenker’s complex contract logistics operations.

DB Schenker deployed Gideon Brothers’ autonomous mobile robots in their formidable facility at Leipzig. The Leipzig facility is DB Schenker’s largest supply center worldwide, with an area of 125.000 m2 (around 18 soccer fields!) and a daily average of 70 containers or 4500m3 of packaged outgoing goods.

Robotics use case for Supply Chain 4.0

The project involved an on-demand use case, with template missions launched by packing station employees with a few clicks from their terminals. A typical task for the robots was to bring over fresh batches of packaging materials. Before the project, when a packing station ran out of packaging material, an employee had to stop what they were working on, find a pallet truck, bring over fresh supplies and then return the pallet truck before resuming work. As might be expected, this process sometimes causes delays and bottlenecks in the process – which are avoided when the employee only has to click on a button to order a robot to bring fresh packaging.

After the initial three-month period, DB Schenker announced that the pilot project was successfully completed and launched a joint communications campaign with Gideon Brothers.

Robot co-workers with sci-fi nicknames

The project results included:

  • The localization and navigation showed consistently successful performance.
  • Fleet Management application proved to be an efficient and user-friendly interface, allowing different access levels and customizable settings.
  • DB Schenker staff (operations level, not IT level) performed all expansion, changes, and fine-tuning, proving the flexibility and user-friendly set-up of the system.
  • Employees working directly with the robots saw the project in a positive light – seeing the advantages the technology brought. They named the robots after a set of popular characters from a perennial sci-fi show – cute and very definitely among the ‘good guys.’ This positive stance was noted as a key factor of success.
  • DB Schenker highlighted strong support from Gideon Brothers – including the support focused on promoting a positive stance among the workers through open communication.

Find the full case study here.

Learn more!

DHL: A disruptive wave is changing the supply chain

Analysts and companies are reporting a fundamental shift in supply chain due to new technology breakthroughs. DHL is among the companies warning of the deep transformation. They have identified a total of 12 areas where new technology may bring tangible benefits over the short term, from wearable devices to process automation, but they note that indoor robotic transport is the segment that “will have the biggest impact for us.”