Third-party logistics provider Geodis and one of its women’s wear clients have added 30 autonomous robots from Locus Robotics to its fulfillment “picking” warehouse in Indianapolis, which manages over 30,000 stockkeeping units. In the pilot program, the robots work in collaboration with human pickers.

Since its deployment, Geodis said 80 percent of the units are picked by the robots daily and the company’s employee productivity has doubled. There’s also been a 50 percent reduction in the time it takes to train new workers. The use of the robots was driven by low unemployment rates in the market and the “strain on labor” during peak fulfillment seasons, such as the recent holiday shopping season.

Geodis and Locus did not identify the names of the apparel brand involved in the pilot.

Eric Douglas, executive vice president of technology and engineering at Geodis, said the “labor market is tight, and we want to enable our team to better execute for our customers. And in this case, the technological support of robots effectively solved the challenge.”

In a joint statement, the companies said the success of the pilot program began with simplifying employee training. “Rather than spending hours in the classroom, team members were instructed on how to pick to the robots on the warehouse floor, completing the training within a matter of minutes,” the companies said. “The messaging on the robots is displayed in their preferred languages (English, Burmese, Chinese and Spanish) allowing for faster absorption of training and a decrease in picking errors. Picking units to the robots also reduced physical demand by eliminating the need to pull pick carts and decreasing overall travel.”

As a result, Geodis said it expects to deploy more robots this coming year. Mike Honious, chief operating officer at Geodis, said that while technology will not replace the “human aspect” of business, Locus Robotics’ “solution has proven to be a great asset to assist our operations to increase productivity.”

Rick Faulk, chief executive officer of Locus Robotics, said the company’s technology is “able to scale on-demand to meet the growing future needs of their customers.”

“Our robots enhance more than worker productivity, they improve worker job satisfaction by removing some of the more physically demanding aspects of the picking process,” Faulk added.

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