- FedEx is testing the use of AI-powered robots to more efficiently load its Ground unit's trailers through a collaboration with robotics company Dexterity AI.
- Dexterity AI's robot, DexR, autonomously moves to the back of a trailer before connecting to a powered conveyor system, which feeds the robot boxes directly from the facility's sortation system. DexR's two-arm design allows it to pick and pack boxes simultaneously, boosting throughput.
- "Testing of the truck load technology is ongoing by FedEx with a goal to refine the technology and deploy commercially in the future," according to Tuesday news release emailed to Supply Chain Dive.
FedEx has long pursued more automated package handling processes throughout its operations, including for loading and unloading, which it says frees up employees for other tasks while keeping service levels high.
Loading FedEx trailers in an efficient manner can be a challenging task considering the wide variety of shipments the company encounters, as size, shape, weight and packaging material all have to be considered in crafting a stable wall of boxes. Dexterity AI touts its truck-loading robot as being able to handle this complex volume mix.
“Based on feedback from our operations team, we have been looking for a solution that helps alleviate the challenges of truck loading," Rebecca Yeung, FedEx corporate vice president of operations science and advanced technologies, said in a statement. "Collaborating with Dexterity AI to combine the latest in AI and robotics supports our operations team while meeting growing customer demand.”
Dexterity’s AI software powers the DexR robot, providing it several useful truck-loading capabilities. It can quickly assess possible ways to load the trailer, has a sense of touch so it can gently nudge boxes together and improves its efficiency with every box picked through machine learning.
FedEx is tapping further into robotics as other companies slow their pursuit of automation amid high interest rates and economic uncertainty. Robot orders in North America declined again in Q2 after record purchases in 2021 and 2022, according to the Association for Advancing Automation.
"While many companies continue to automate, others just don’t have the capital to invest right now,” said Alex Shikany, the association's vice president of membership and business intelligence, in a statement.