Vecna wins DHL-Dell robotics picking challenge

by Inside Logistics Online Staff
Daniel Theobald, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Vecna Robotics, presents at DHL & Dell Robotics Innovation Challenge 2017.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Vecna Robotics, a manufacturer of intelligent, next-generation, robotic material handling autonomous ground vehicles (AGVs), won first place in the DHL & Dell Robotics Mobile Picking Challenge 2017. The event was held in December at the DHL Innovation Center in Troisdorf, Germany.

The challenge required a mobile robot capable of navigating traditional warehouse shelves, and picking boxes and totes. Vecna Robotics’ Tote Retrieval System (TRS) was not only able to successfully pick the boxes from different levels of the shelf but also was able to place the boxes and totes on its autonomous RC20 Conveyer (20kg) mobile robot.

According to Denis Niezgoda, robotics accelerator lead, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, “Vecna’s robots are clearly top-notch, and winning the DHL/Dell Robot challenge was an impressive accomplishment. But what truly impressed me was how great the Vecna team was to work with. We look forward to exploring ways to work together more in the future.”

The challenge was sponsored by Dell EMC. “As one of the largest technology solution companies in the world, it has been a fantastic opportunity for Dell EMC to co-sponsor this initiative,” Timmy O’Dwyer, vice-president, global parts operations and Limerick site leader at Dell EMC.

“We believe innovation is at the core of digital transformation, and are proud to be involved in this robotics challenge.”

Daniel Theobald, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Vecna Robotics, praised the collaborative spirit of the event finalists. “It was an honour to participate in the challenge and to work alongside the teams of global engineers participating in the challenge,” Theobald said.

“Everyone was supportive of one another, and it’s that type of collaboration that will advance the robotics industry.”

The challenge provided a platform for Vecna Robotics to fully test and demonstrate the Tote Retrieval System’s capabilities. The TRS was engineered to autonomously navigate down narrow aisles, and place or retrieve cases, totes or other items from shelving. The system also is capable of picking from or placing on conveyor belts or other mobile robots. The system identifies items by reading barcodes on the shelved boxes. With an optional 3D vision system, the TRS can pick unlabeled boxes, as well. TRS can be used in goods-to-person or goods-to-robot order fulfillment activities, case retrieval for order fulfillment, lineside replenishment or numerous other activities.

Vecna Robotics’ TRS was designed to integrate with a warehouse management system (WMS) to retrieve and store items as needed to support warehouse operations. As with all systems within Vecna Robotics’ next-generation fleet of mobile robots, the TRS is designed to operate safely around humans, preventing the need to separate human and robotic order fulfillment activities into different parts of the warehouse. This level of intelligent autonomy allows for maximum flexibility and robustness, Theobald said.

“This product further extends the capabilities of Vecna Robotics in the material handling and order fulfillment markets,” Theobald said. “Our customers wanted a fully integrated end-to-end automation solution. With the addition of the TRS to Vecna Robotics’ full-spectrum lineup of autonomous pallet, case and piece-handling equipment, we can offer full dock-to-dock autonomous operation in a warehouse without requiring any special infrastructure.”

While Vecna Robotics is making the system available for pre-orders, general availability will occur mid-2018. “We look forward to implementing this solution in the world’s largest manufacturing, shipping and retail order fulfillment facilities,” Theobald said.