I admit to having my doubts when Boston Dynamics announced it was getting into the already crowded warehouse/logistics field. One could certainly make the case that Stretch is a bit over-engineered and ultimately a bit of overkill for most situations. Keep in mind, the company’s Spot robot runs around $75,000, while no official pricing has been revealed for Handle’s robotic descendant.
That said, a second big firm has put down a sizable order for the ‘bots. It’s a strong vote of confidence for what is still a new system. New Jersey-based supply chain firm NFI has agreed to order $10 million worth of Stretches for its U.S. warehouses. The news follows an even larger $15 million deal between DHL and Boston Dynamics announced way back in January.
We talk plenty about warehouse staffing shortages on these pages, in reference to the incredible growth for logistics robots — and continued supply chain shortages are still a hot-button topic. The NFI/BD deal sits right in the middle, coupled with a push to bring more supply chain operations to North America.
Automation and robotics are inevitably going to be a large part of that conversation, going forward. With the backing of its parent company, Hyundai, Boston Dynamics looks well-positioned to tackle some loading and unloading needs for these factories. Certainly a pair of high-dollar deals out of the gate don’t hurt.
“We designed Stretch to automate box moving, an operationally and physically challenging task across warehouses,” Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter said in a release tied to the news. “Demand for goods continues to rise, and robots like Stretch can help NFI alleviate some of the challenges associated with that surging demand. Stretch makes truck unloading a safer and more efficient task, and NFI can pass that efficiency along to its customers.”
Stretch is set to make its NFI debut at a Savannah, Georgia facility at some point in 2023, with the remainder of the rollout happening over subsequent years. Clothing retailers Gap and H&M have also signed up to deploy the robot.