Meet the robot that wants to replace fork lift truck drivers

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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

  • Forklift drivers have so far been lucky to escape the clutches of automation, but now that could be about to change


 

It seems to be all go in the world of warehouses. Robot pickers can now pick goods as fast, and as accurately as their human counterparts, and robots can now autonomously navigate their way around – just another wheel turn on the road to full warehouse domination. But let’s face it, warehouses are used to store lots of heavy things, like crates of beer, and anvils, and that’s nothing to say about the heavy pallets and racks that pepper every square foot, and all of this, of course, is great news – especially if you’re a fork lift operator or a trolley driver. But now there’s yet another new mighty robot operator in town and it can shift up to 1,500kg of goods and equipment all day, every day. Non stop, well, almost… it still needs the occasional one hour power nap.

 

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The Freight 1500, and its smaller cousin the Freight 500, are the latest in a line of warehouse robot workers from the guys and gals at Fetch Robotics. Led by CEO Melonee Wise the company has been working on developing affordable warehouse robots for years now, and both of its new robots are much bigger versions of a smaller, rolling robot called Freight, which was designed to follow warehouse workers around as they picked products from shelves.

 

They’re strong, very strong, and flat
 

The Freight 500 and 1500’s design and specs make it the ideal candidate to replace the trolleys and forklifts used in almost all of today’s modern warehouses, which isn’t a surprise – they were designed that way, and once loaded, the duo can navigate their way around and avoid hazards using a combination of Lidar and stereo cameras. And as for that power nap? Well, they’ll run for up to nine hours on a single charge and recharge themselves in under an hour. Even robots need sleep – slackers.

 

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The robots join similar devices on the market made by the likes of Clearpath Robotics, and for now at least it looks like warehouse workers at the majority of companies, such as Amazon and Ocado will continue to coexist with their robot overlords. But as robots gain new skills, such as the one I unveiled earlier this week from RightHand Robotics that can pick a wide assortment of random products from warehouse bins as fast as its human co-workers it looks increasingly like warehouse workers could be nearing the end of their shelf life.

 

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers.” Among other things Matthew keeps busy helping the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers ideate the next five generations of smartphones, and what comes beyond, the world’s largest chip makers envision the next twenty years of intelligent machines, and is helping Europe’s largest energy companies re-invent energy generation, transmission and retail.

Recognised in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as one of Europe’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an award winning author, entrepreneur and international speaker who has been featured on the BBC, Discovery and other outlets. Working hand in hand with accelerators, investors, governments, multi-nationals and regulators around the world Matthew helps them envision the future and helps them transform their industries, products and go to market strategies, and shows them how the combination of new, democratised, powerful emerging technologies are helping accelerate cultural, industrial and societal change.

Matthew’s clients include Accenture, Bain & Co, Bank of America, Blackrock, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Du Pont, E&Y, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, HPE, Huawei, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, Lloyds Banking Group, McKinsey & Co, PWC, Qualcomm, Rolls Royce, SAP, Samsung, Schroeder’s, Sequoia Capital, Sopra Steria, UBS, the UK’s HM Treasury, the USAF and many others.

Comments
  • Brian#1

    15th April 2017

    Automated forklifts have been out for decades…… I’ve worked on them. Do a search for ‘Elettric 80 LGV’. There are other companies that make them too. Comparable products to these and ones that are more advanced than these.

    Reply
  • Simon Mayers#2

    22nd April 2017

    These robots are useful, helping people reduce the burden of labor. Thanks for the post.

    Reply

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