FedEx Ground Installs Robotics In Queens, Plans Additional Facilities

FedEx Ground has installed robotics solutions in its Queens, New York, facility to sort small packages that arrive in bulk for loading into containers bound for other hubs in the Ground network. The package delivery giant will add more robotics from Berkshire Grey in sortation facilities in Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio, in future months.

Berkshire Grey's BGRY AI-enabled Robotic Product Sortation and Identification (RPSi) system is designed to autonomously process, pick, identify, sort, collect and containerize individual polybags, tubes, padded mailers and other small packages.

"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 FDX. "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."

Berkshire Grey is an "intelligent enterprise robotics" (IER) company. Its robotics solutions are designed to "learn" about processes in warehouse operations, allowing them to continually improve efficiency going forward while reducing manual labor which can then be redeployed in more high-value tasks.

FedEx deployed robotics to help accommodate the rapid rise in e-commerce parcels moving through its sortation stations.

Read: SPAC in focus: Berkshire Grey ready for its debut

Read: Berkshire Grey shows next-generation fulfillment robots

"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, senior vice president of 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."

Moran noted the company's patented HyperScanner optical identification modules can read bar codes from any angle in milliseconds without manual intervention, speeding the picking process.

In July, Berkshire Grey debuted as a public company following a merger with special purpose acquisition company Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp. (RAAC). The deal valued Berkshire Grey at $2.7 billion and netted the company $413 million in cash, including $165 million in private investment in public equity financing anchored by Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of Social Capital, Hedosophia, and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock.

Steve Johnson, president and COO of Berkshire Grey, told Modern Shipper the company was profitable at the time of the SPAC, but that going public was an important step.

A Berkshire Grey robot picks up a small package at FedEx Ground's Queens, New York, facility. (Photo: FedEx Ground)

"The reason for the SPAC was we were [planning] to go public," he told Modern Shipper in a June interview. "It was all about [how] we'll be here for the long run … and when the SPAC came through, it was a really interesting opportunity."

Berkshire Grey has expanded its footprint, hoping to take advantage of an automation market still in its infancy. The company has said that only about 5% of warehouses are automated today, representing a large opportunity as e-commerce takes a greater hold in the economy. Johnson said that it is the software that ultimately makes the robotics work.

"We would talk and say we do holistic robots in the enterprise supply chain, but what does that mean?" he said. For intelligence enterprise robotics, "you need to have artificial intelligence enable picking and mobility."

The company offers automation solutions across several "families" of products, including pick robotics, mobile robots and software platforms. Its verticals include retail, e-commerce, third-party logistics, grocery, parcels and mobile applications.

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Brian Straight.

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