DPD Germany extends trial of exoskeleton back-support for depot workers

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DPD Germany is extending its two-month trial of German Bionic’s exoskeleton back-support for its staff unloading heavy packages at sortation centers.

Following the successful trial of two ‘Cray X’ exoskeletons at DPD’s parcel center in Malsch, Germany, DPD has decided to trial five more of the products for the upcoming months. 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 fixed to the body. The device only needs to be calibrated briefly by means of built-in sensors and is ready for use. The Cray X works in two ways: it keeps the wearer’s back straight at all times and helps to straighten the back again when a parcel is picked up. Two motors controlled by intelligent software pull the wearer upward by the shoulders, and the force is diverted to the thigh area, resulting in back relief of up to 30kg with every lifting movement.

Even though the parcels in the sorting centers run through automatic systems most of the way, they are unloaded from the lorries by hand. DPD found that Malsch depot was an ideal test location, because 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 26kg. The on-site staff feedback was positive in terms of unloading parcels from swap bodies and semi-trailers. The extended trial will test the measurable advantages of long-term use, the conditions under which the exoskeleton is particularly helpful, and whether it would make sense to use it at additional DPD locations.

Björn Scheel, CEO at DPD Germany, said, “The Malsch depot was ideal for testing the Cray X under particularly physically demanding conditions. 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.”

It has also been announced that Pickup, a French parcel pickup point network service and subsidiary of La Poste, is to roll out 50 more smart lockers for the Paris transport authority (RATP) in 45 subway and RER regional train stations across the Paris region by the end of Q1 2022.

This network builds on Pickup’s existing service of 20 smart lockers in 15 subway stations and five railway stations in the Paris region. These lockers enable travelers to collect on their daily commute their Colissimo and Chronopost parcels from one of the 10,000 e-commerce sites that offer the Pickup out-of-home delivery service. To ensure the security of these orders in these busy locations, the lockers can be opened only by a unique code given to the parcel recipient.

Olivier Titeux, development director of Pickup, said, “For over 20 years, Pickup has employed solutions to make life easier for its customers, by operating as close to their homes as possible. These 50 new RATP lockers will be available to Parisians on their daily journeys so that they can collect their parcels with great ease. They will complement our network of 16,000 shopkeeper pickup points and 500 lockers, further enhancing our long-standing close proximity to consumers. We are very proud of this partnership and deployment, which will greatly enhance the customer experience.”

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