GXO tests Dexterity robots and AI for depalletizing, labeling, and repalletizing

GXO and Dexterity are collaborating on a test of robotics repalletizing.
GXO and Dexterity are collaborating on a test of robotics repalletizing. Source: GXO Logistics

LAS VEGAS — GXO Logistics Inc. today said at the Manifest trade show that it is partnering with Dexterity Inc. to pilot robots using artificial intelligence to facilitate operations for a top beauty brand.

“We’re leading the charge on integrating automation into our customers’ supply chains to help them grow and meet their strategic objectives,” said Adrian Stoch, chief automation officer at GXO, in a release. “This pilot is especially exciting, as it combines advanced robotics with artificial intelligence and machine learning into a practical application to make warehouse operations safer, more productive, and more efficient.”

GXO Logistics, which claims to be “the world’s largest pure-play contract logistics provider,” has more than 130,000 team members across over 970 facilities totaling about 200 million sq. ft. (18.5 million sq. m). The Greenwich, Conn.-based third-party logistics provider (3PL) has been testing several technologies, including Agility Robotics’ humanoid Digit at a Spanx facility.

“We’ve learned the hard way to be disciplined when it comes to trials,” Stoch told Mobile Robot Guide. “We’ve seen customers burned, and we’re not exclusive.”

Dexterity flexes for repalletization

Redwood City, Calif.-based Dexterity said it specializes in building “full-stack robots with human-like dexterity” to automate repetitive tasks and allow employees to focus on higher-level, cognitive work. The company said its robots can tackle complex manipulation in unpredictable environments for logistics, warehousing, and supply chain applications.

“The robots’ adaptability means they can be swiftly deployed into operations across a range of industries,” asserted Dexterity. “This adaptive technology is highly flexible and can be deployed either as a standalone solution in a previously manual operation or in a highly automated warehouse, representing the next chapter in supply chain automation.”

GXO said is testing Dexterity robots to depalletize, label, and repalletize packages, optimizing the inbound and outbound processes in the warehouse. Dexterity said AI allows these systems to be rapidly deployed, and they can learn to improve their performance with each pick.

“GXO is at the forefront of using technology to enable superior operations performance,” stated Samir Menon, CEO of Dexterity. “We are proud to support them with robots that are smart, fast, and easy for their team to deploy in their warehouse operations.”

“We’re excited by this partnership and are talking with other major brands,” Michael Patrick Perry, vice president of marketing at Dexterity, told Mobile Robot Guide.

GXO discusses ‘funnel’ and the importance of data

Stoch described GXO Logistics’ “automation funnel” for assessing technologies such as those from Dexterity and Agility Robotics.

“At the top level, we get candidates for trials,” he said. “Next, we have discussions with vendors. We just saw three here at Manifest.”

“Then, we conduct a detailed assessment — is there a business case?” added Stoch. “We work with regional leaders, such as Spanx for Agility. Then, is the trial — does it work? What are the pick rates? It’s very rigorous, and very few get through the funnel.”

He cited an example of a successful trial of AI for transport optimization for a U.K.-based supermarket chain.

“But early indications are positive with Dexterity,” Stoch said. “It’s trying to solve a discrete problem in dozens or hundreds of warehouses — repalletization and relabeling. This affects our customers, as we ship from manufacturers to stores or directly to e-commerce consumers.”

“It’s less about efficiency and more about closing productivity gaps,” he said. “In the past five years, same-day shipping has become the expectation of all consumers.”

GXO has significantly reduced order-fulfillment times with separate deployments of AutoStore‘s automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), as well as collaborative mobile robots from 6 River Systems and Locus Robotics, said Stoch. He also talked about how some of GXO’s customers have found success with more modular technologies than “end-to-end” large-scale deployments.

In addition, Stoch discussed the importance of data as a “single source of truth.” It needs to be a reliable foundation for data quality and data strategy to pay off for products and brands, respectively.

“We’re heading to an inflection point,” he predicted. “After seven years, we’re starting to see some supply chain providers offering mature, reliable tech. At the same time, there’s a second wave of innovators promising end-to-end automation, and AI can slot into either modular or large deployments.”

“This will happen in the next three to five years, and companies need to get on board now or be left behind,” said Stoch.

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Written by

Eugene Demaitre

Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of the robotics group at WTWH Media. He was senior editor of The Robot Report from 2019 to 2020 and editorial director of Robotics 24/7 from 2020 to 2023. Prior to working at WTWH Media, Demaitre was an editor at BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, TechTarget, and Robotics Business Review.

Demaitre has participated in robotics webcasts, podcasts, and conferences worldwide. He has a master's from the George Washington University and lives in the Boston area.