FedEx Small Package Sorting Automation Expansion

A robust system for high-speed sortation

In 2020, FedEx installed four robotic arms at the company’s World Hub in Memphis, Tennessee to automate its small package sorting. FedEx’s robotic arms are mounted inside protective cages on the upper or of the small package sort, where incoming parcels are inducted into high-speed parcel sorters.

The robotic arms are powered by Plus One’s 3-D machine vision and artificial intelligence. Yaskawa Motoman supplied the robots’ arms, grippers, and system integration. Plus One provided the 3-D vision, artificial intelligence (AI) and an industrial computing system to run the software.

Results led to additional deployments at World Hub

The arms were installed in the small package sort facility at the Memphis hub in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting the US. The robotic arms help FedEx manage the surge in e-commerce demand by maintaining warehouse throughput and mitigating labor shortages.

The robots are improving effi­ciency and creating new roles for workers, as former package-sorters can now manage the team of robots. FedEx stated plans to expand beyond these four robots.

A solution for a serious labor shortage

“This has never been about, ‘Can a robot beat a human?’ This is about how they’re a thousand people short every night in Memphis, and there is no alternative.”

– Erik Nieves, founder and CEO