FedEx Automating Facilities with Robotic Towing Tractors  

< 1 minute to read

Many companies are turning to automated solutions after facing high variability in package size and weight. In these cases, a traditional robotic system cannot provide the flexibility that the facility needs. Other factors that are contributing to a high rate of automation adoption include extreme seasonal demand fluctuation, as well as an ongoing labor shortage. 

One of these companies is FedEx, which has begun using Vecna Robotics’ autonomous towing tractors, or “tuggers to transport items within its facilities in response to a growth in e-commerce and increased volume of bulky shipments. 

Vecna Robotics tow tractors have high-tech sensors and navigate using a cloud-based map of the facility. “You fill them up at one end and hit the go button – it’s truly autonomous,” said Ted Dengel, managing director of operations technology for FedEx Ground. “There are no paint lines for them because the environment is so dynamic, with people and equipment everywhere, so we’re taking advantage of their ability navigate around obstacles.” 

The towing tractors exercise path-planning technology to effectively map the most efficient route and avoid obstacles. These capabilities are supported by Vecna Robotics orchestration engine, Pivotal, which plans the tasks of both humans and robots in a coordinated manner. These technologies are offering Fedex and other automated companies an extreme competitive advantage.  

Over the next 8-12 months, FedEx plans to ramp up the use of the autonomous towing tractors until there are no more human drivers in the facility. Material handlers who had driven the manual towing tractors will be moved into other positions with higher-level tasks. This strategy in line with many material handling companies that are integrating automation at this time. As the industry faces higher volumes, increasingly drastic demand peaks and more non-conveyable shipments, repetitive tasks will be handed off to robots and humans will be assigned safer, more fulfilling roles.  

Read the full article at multichannel merchant. 

See Vecna Robotics’ Autonomous Tow Tractor, Fork Truck and Pallet Truck.