DB Schenker to automate warehouses with robotics

Logistics company DB Schenker is collaborating with IAM Robotics to implement artificial intelligence-based robots into its warehouses. The German company said the A.I.-based innovation will serve as a foundational platform as it aims to optimize its international network of warehouses with such technology advances over the next five to 10 years.

Melanie Gonick/MIT

Technology companies like Pennsylvania-based IAM Robotics manufacture piece-picking robots, which quickly scan warehouse shelves for specific items and collect them in a bin. Such technology is meant to save time and money in a warehousing environment by reducing the time it takes to find inventory and eliminating labor expenses.

DB Schenker said the investment will address challenges such as “the shrinking labor market” and demand from shippers for “high-velocity e-commerce business models.”

John Stikes, DB Schenker’s director of innovation and e-commerce, said that automation will grant logistics companies “economic advantages while alleviating their labor issues,” enabling them to “redeploy that labor to more thought-involved processes and gain enhanced flexibility in their operations.”

Companies like Kerry Logistics, DHL and XPO have all explored similar endeavors through their own partnerships with tech start-up partners. While innovation leaders argue that automation of processes will ultimately result in a shift in the workforce from labor-based to strategy-based, some speculate that instead, many jobs in the industry will simply evaporate due to the opportunity for logistics companies to save money on labor costs. An article from Forbes dissects both side of the argument here.

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