- FedEx acquired 12 new parcel-sorting robotic arms from Plus One Robotics and Yaskawa Motoman at its primary Express sorting facility in Memphis, Tennessee, according to a May 10 news release.
- The FedEx Express Memphis World Hub now has a total of 16 robotic arms in its Small Package Sort System, as the delivery giant previously installed four arms from the companies in 2020. The arms pick packages from a collection bin and place them on a conveyor belt to be scanned and inducted into the system, per FedEx's website.
- FedEx has also deployed Plus One's mixed depalletizing systems at an Express station in Reno, Nevada. This will allow for easier and more efficient movement of cases from palleted shipments throughout the facility, according to the release.
The variety of online orders flowing through distribution centers can make automation tricky, but Plus One touts its solutions as being able to handle a mix of package types using 3D sensors, AI-powered software and robot grippers.
"People buying truckloads of the same product, that's not really what's happening in e-commerce — we are all individualized," said Plus One Robotics' Chief Revenue Officer Robert Nilsson in an interview.
The mixed depalletizing systems will allow FedEx employees to perform more skilled tasks in the company's operations, such as loading and unloading airplanes and trucks, Brian Marflak, FedEx vice president of Global Engineering, Research and Technology, said in a statement.
“The technology in these depalletizing arms helps us move certain shipments that would otherwise take up valuable resources to manually offload,” Marflak said.
FedEx will also use Plus One's "human-in-the-loop" software Yonder, further freeing up employees for more high-value tasks. Yonder allows an employee to supervise the robots and take control of one remotely if it is having trouble with a particular parcel.
"It's really, really important that when the robot gets stopped that it can get going within seconds," Nilsson said. "If you didn't have 'human-in-the-loop,' this can go on for 10, 15 minutes."
FedEx Express has also been expanding its use of robotics beyond the U.S. Last year, the company announced the introduction of AI-powered intelligent sorting robots at facilities in Singapore and Guangzhou, China.
"By investing in warehouse automation, we enhance FedEx operational scalability,” Eric Tan, managing director at FedEx Express Singapore, said in a December statement.