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FedEx, a 2021 RBR50 Robotics Innovation Award winner, continues to expand use of robotics and automation to sort small packages. FedEx Ground, a subsidiary of FedEx, recently deployed Berkshire Grey Robotic Product Sortation and Identification (RPSi) systems at its station in Queens, N.Y.
The system will robotically sort thousands of small packages that arrive daily in bulk into containers bound for other locations across the FedEx Ground network. In the coming months, FedEx Ground will deploy the same systems at sortation facilities in Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio.
RPSi has been engineered to autonomously process — pick, identify, sort, collect, and containerize — individual polybags, tubes, padded mailers, and other small packages that traditionally are sorted manually.
“We are encouraged by the initial package handling and processing accuracy of Berkshire Grey’s RPSi system in our Queens facility,” said Ted Dengel, managing director of operations technology and innovation at FedEx Ground. “As an industry leader in technology and automation, we see the significant benefits that next generation innovation brings in terms of enabling increased safety and productivity, enhancing customer service and improving flexibility to adjust to changing package volumes and sizes.”
RPSi is the latest investment made by FedEx to help accommodate the rapid growth of e-commerce through the use of automation and robotics. FedEx recently told The Robot Report it’s expanding its use of systems from PlusOne Robotics and Yaskawa, for which it won the RBR50 award. In 2020, FedEx introduced four pick-and-place robots into its small package sort facility at the Memphis Hub. The robots work two 4-hour shifts – a day sort and a night sort. Each robot sorts anywhere from 1000-1400 packages per hour depending on package mix.
“Our RPSi system is engineered from the ground up to automatically handle high volumes of small packages in small spaces with limited worker intervention, which significantly reduces labor challenges, streamlines sorting processes, and increases the efficiency of carrier operations across their networks,” said Jessica Moran, SVP parcels and 3PL businesses at Berkshire Grey. “More importantly, our system is uniquely able to address a core challenge in the traditional package sortation process: requiring package labels to be manually adjusted so they can be scanned properly. With our patented HyperScanner™ optical identification modules, barcodes can be read from any angle in milliseconds — all without manual intervention.”
FedEx also recently partnered with Nuro to test autonomous delivery vehicles. The companies signed a multi-year, multi-phase agreement to pilot Nuro’s autonomous delivery vehicles in the Houston area. The pilot marked Nuro’s expansion into parcel logistics and allows FedEx to explore various use cases for on-road autonomous vehicle logistics, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries.
Berkshire Grey, which recently opened an innovation hub in Bedford, Mass., became a public company in July 2021. It merged with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp in a deal that valued the combined company at $2.7 billion.
Founded in 2013 by CEO Tom Wagner, who is former CTO of iRobot, Berkshire Grey automates materials handling applications in warehouses and logistics fulfillment centers. It emerged out of stealth mode in 2018. Using proprietary technology, Berkshire Grey offers robotic picking systems and mobile robotics systems, as well as sensing, gripping and machine vision systems. It said its IP is protected by more than 300 patent filings.