Boston Dynamics lands big job for Spot and Stretch robots

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by Emily Atkins

The Otto Group is planning to use Boston Dynamics’ Spot robots in more than 10 facilities and Stretch robots in more than 20 over the next two years.

The Otto Group is a global retail and services group with around 41,000 employees in 30 major company groups. Most of its operations are in the economic regions of Germany, the rest of Europe, and the USA.

The first deployment will be with Hermes Fulfilment. The deployment supports Otto Group’s efforts to improve safety, increase operational efficiency and address labour shortages for specific types of warehouse work. The agreement marks the first time both of Boston Dynamics’ commercially available robots will be deployed together at enterprise scale.

Under the terms of the agreement, Spot, the four-legged mobile robot from Boston Dynamics, will support tunnel inspections and predictive maintenance activities for operations equipment, including thermal monitoring, analog gauge reading and acoustic detection of pressurized air and gas leaks. The Spot fleet will also run autonomous missions, collecting data for machine learning models to support tasks like fire exit egress monitoring and detecting slight changes in storage racks to keep Otto Group’s warehouses even safer.

Stretch, Boston Dynamics’ box-moving robot designed for warehouse applications, will begin unloading containers at 10 facilities next year, with the goal of having all sites operational by the end of 2025. Stretch, which is particularly useful for unloading heavy packages in the container sector, will provide technological support for physically demanding activities.  

“The cooperation with Boston Dynamics is another important step for us to position ourselves for the future,” said Kay Schiebur, member of the executive board, services, at the Otto Group. “We strive for the best service for our customers and an innovative work environment for our employees. Robotics and AI are and will become even more central components of our daily work.”

The Otto Group offers a comprehensive training program to equip staff with the skills to work with robotics and AI. More than 10,000 warehouse and facility workers have participated in the company’s TechUcation virtual training courses so far. This training is supplemented with concrete on-site training, enabling existing job profiles to develop digitally and shape the future together.

“We have learned to adapt quickly and flexibly to new market situations, which makes us strong for the future,” emphasized Schiebur. The Otto Group and Boston Dynamics also plan to collaborate on research and development, including additional future use cases for both Spot and Stretch robots over the next several years.

“As one of Europe’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies, the Otto Group is an excellent fit for our technology,” said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics.

“This agreement represents a strategic collaboration that will benefit both our companies for years to come, and we look forward to seeing the value our mobile robots can provide when combined with Otto Group’s deep expertise in logistics and fulfillment.”