Robots relieve strain on the back: DPD starts long-term test with exoskeletons from German Bionic

  • Robot backpack “Cray X” assists its wearer with heavy lifting
  • Two-month test at the Malsch depot delivered initial positive results
  • Focused area of application: unloading parcels from containers and semi-trailers
The Cray X intelligent exoskeleton is placed on the back like a backpack and secured to the body. During lifting operations, it helps to keep the back straight and at the same time redirects weight to the shoulders and thighs.

Aschaffenburg, 10 November 2021 – Parcels shipped with DPD can weigh up to 31.5 kilos. This means a lot of physical effort for the delivery personnel and the workers in parcel sorting operations. Even though the parcels in the sorting centres run through automatic systems most of the way, they are unloaded from the lorries by hand. The exoskeleton from German Bionic could now bring relief in this area. The company produces intelligent, electrically motorised exoskeletons that provide relief for the back of up to 30 kilos when heavy objects are lifted. In a two-month test at DPD’s parcel centre in Malsch near Karlsruhe, workers put the devices through their paces and found the robots to be a practical support in their everyday work – which is why the test is now being extended.

An exoskeleton is a support device that can relieve pressure on different areas of the body, depending on its design. The Cray X model from the manufacturer German Bionic is strapped to the wearer’s back, similar to a hiking backpack, and then secures it to the body. The device only needs to be calibrated briefly by means of built-in sensors and is then ready for use. The Cray X works in two main ways: On the one hand, it keeps the wearer’s back straight at all times. At the same time, the device also helps to straighten the back again when a parcel is picked up. Two motors controlled by intelligent software pull the wearer upwards by the shoulders, and the force is mainly diverted to the thigh area. This results in relief for the back of up to 30 kilos with every lifting movement.

The Malsch depot is an ideal test location, especially because of its customer structure. One of the major regional shippers sends more than 860,000 parcels of copying paper from here every year. Each of these parcels weighs around 26 kilos. During the two-month pilot test, two Cray X units were used on site. “The Malsch depot was ideal for testing the Cray X under particularly physically demanding conditions,” says Björn Scheel, Chief Operating Officer at DPD Germany.

A big help during the unloading of heavy parcels

The staff on site are already impressed by the exoskeleton: Their feedback was particularly positive in terms of unloading parcels from swap bodies and semi-trailers, because the Cray X supports them best in such work where they move within a manageable radius. “Since the Cray X fits tightly on the body and is also connected to the thighs, it restricts the mobility of its wearer to some extent. However, when unloading parcels, the employees always stay in one place. The Cray X is therefore particularly suitable here. It is less suitable for workplaces where greater distances have to be covered,” says Scheel.

After this overall successful first run, the next step is a long-term test. DPD will be deploying a total of seven Cray X units at its locations in Duisburg, Leupoldsgrün and Malsch. DPD and German Bionic intend to intensively test the measurable advantages of long-term use, the conditions under which the exoskeleton is particularly helpful, and whether it would also make sense to use it at other DPD locations. Furthermore, both partners aim to work together to achieve hardware and software optimisations that will enable an even broader field of application for the exoskeletons at DPD.

 

About DPD
DPD Germany is part of DPDgroup, the largest international parcel delivery network in Europe. Throughout Germany DPD has 79 depots and 7,000 Pickup parcelshops. A workforce of 9,500 and 11,000 delivery drivers are in daily operation on behalf of the company’s customers. Every year the No. 2 on the German parcels market ships more than 400 million parcels – providing carbon-neutral transport operations at no additional cost to the customer. With a number of initiatives for sustainable parcel delivery DPD is demonstrating, particularly in city centres, how parcel shipping can be made environmentally friendly and emission-free at the local level.

Through innovative technology, local knowledge and dedicated customer care, DPD provides the best possible experience for both shippers and shoppers. DPD’s industry-leading Predict service is setting a new standard for keeping customers closely in touch with their delivery, with real time tracking of their delivery, a one-hour delivery window and a range of options for redirecting parcels. In recognition of this innovation DPD Germany received several awards like the Digital Transformation Award or the UX Design Award.

As part of DPDgroup, DPD Germany has access to over 58,000 Pickup points worldwide, and delivers to 230 countries and territories across the globe. DPDgroup’s 97,000 delivery experts work together to deliver more than 7.5 million parcels each day. The sole shareholder in DPD is GeoPost, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Le Groupe La Poste. GeoPost posted sales of €11 billion in the year 2020.

About German Bionic
German Bionic, with offices in Augsburg, Berlin, and Tokyo, is the first European manufacturer to develop and produce smart power suits. Exoskeletons are human-machine systems that combine human intelligence with machine power by supporting or amplifying the wearer’s movements.

The Cray X from German Bionic is the world’s first connected exoskeleton. Linked to the Smart Factory, it self-learns to reinforce lifting movements and prevent incorrect posture, thus becoming an intelligent link between humans and machines. In doing so, it delivers data that underscores its ability to protect the health of workers, measurably reduce the risk of accidents, and thereby make quantifiable improvements to work processes.

In recognition of this innovative technology, which puts people back in the focus of Industry 4.0, German Bionic and the Cray X have received numerous awards, including the Bavarian and German Entrepreneur Awards, the Land of Ideas and Automatica Award, as well as a nomination for the prestigious Hermes Award at the Hannover Messe.