XPO Logistics Brings Autonomous Forklift Truck Technology to Warehouses with New Pilot Program
XPO Logistics plans to test Balyo’s autonomous lift trucks in their France warehouse.
XPO and Balyo’s Partnership Goals
XPO Logistics announced a partnership with Balyo to combine their experience in warehousing and shipping with Balyo’s robotic goods-handling trucks. In this partnership, Balyo’s autonomous lift trucks will be tested in a pilot program at XPO Logistic’s facilities to determine their suitability in this environment. XPO Logistics will also provide feedback and recommendations as needed to improve the Balyo trucks. The initial testing will begin at the XPO Logistics warehouse in Blois, France.
Video used courtesy of Balyo
Both parties are excited about this partnership. Pascal Rialland, CEO of Balyo, commented in the news release, “Our collaboration validates the performance of our autonomous robots in specific applications in order to deliver the greatest benefit to XPO’s operations.” Malcolm Wilson, CEO of XPO Logistics, stated, “We’re pleased that our on-site tests will help optimize intelligent reach trucks for the logistics environment. As we pilot the robotics in our operations, we’re also exploring these applications to increase efficiency for customers and to support our employees.”
Since 2004, Balyo has specialized in autonomous robots for handling products and packaged goods. Specifically, this partnership will test “Reachy,” their autonomous reach robots designed to place pallets in high bays on warehouse shelving (up to 11 m high). Their onboard cameras can detect overhead and floor-bound obstacles, determine adequate spacing for pallet placement, and navigate safely through the factory. The trucks also have sensors to determine whether the pallet is dragging or being pushed by the truck, both of which can lead to dumping the pallet.
Organized warehouse at an XPO Logistics facility. Image used courtesy of XPO Logistics
XPO Logistics is a sound test track for such equipment. With over 100,000 employees and facilities worldwide, they are experts in shipping, storage, and transportation logistics. Servicing everything from consumer goods to medicine to aerospace industries, they will have a wide variety of loads and packages for Reachy to handle.
Reachy is designed as a safe, autonomous replacement to traditional straddle-stackers in warehouses. Straddle-stackers are normally human-driven and can lead to industrial accidents. Drivers must navigate through narrow aisles with some of their vision blocked by large pallets. Depending on the size and shape of the goods stacked on the pallet, they can spill the pallet when transporting or lifting the pallet to a higher shelf.
Besides standard forklift injuries (collisions with forklifts, merchandise, or pedestrians), straddle-stackers can create falling object hazards. For example, suppose a grocery store warehouse is stacking pallets of canned green beans. The straddle-stacker lifts the pallet fifteen feet in the air, and the driver snags the plastic wrap on the pallet, opening a case of canned green beans. Suddenly, a dozen cans of green beans crash down in several directions, potentially causing injury to anyone nearby. Reachy helps to mitigate this risk with sensors that can detect these problems immediately (instead of relying on the vision of a driver from 15 feet away), and takes workers out of the warehouse while these operations are occurring.
Balyo’s Reach "Reachy" Truck. Image used courtesy of Balyo
The partnership between XPO Logistics and Balyo could lead to more efficient warehousing, faster processing of orders to be shipped, and safer facilities for employees. As Reachy and his friends navigate the warehouses, observations and feedback will be provided to Balyo to constantly improve Reachy’s performance.