Belgian retailer Colruyt Group and German forklift maker Still have developed a self-driving pallet truck.
The first two units of the self-driving vehicle (SDV) have already been deployed at Colruyt’s Dassenveld distribution centre in Halle.
The collaboration began two years ago, with Colruyt developing the software and Still providing the translation to the hardware.
The logistics employees of Colruyt also provided extensive input during various testing phases.
Still Belgium program manager Jasper van Gool says: "The main advantage with these devices is that navigation does not require modifications to the existing structure such as reflectors, and the time to get a working truck deployed is much shorter.
“That has been reduced from weeks to a few days, just because they adapt so easily to new situations."
The SDVs, which use lithium titan oxide batteries that require faster and less frequent charging, recognise their environment and the objects within it using LIDAR (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) and SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) technology.
At Colruyt’s Dassenveld distribution centre, the SDVs recognise and process both euro and block pallets. They were designed to move palettes from the reception area to the correct location in the distribution centre, after which orders can be picked up by human order pickers.
“This allows employees to be deployed in more complex tasks or processes that require specific knowledge and skills,” says Koen De Vos, director supply chain Colruyt Lowest Prices.
As more SDVs are deployed at Colruyt, Still will also be marketing the devices to third parties.
Colruyt Group operates about 240 Colruyt Lowest Prices discount supermarkets in Belgium and Luxembourg and 146 Okay grocery stores, as well as DATS 24 gas stations, Bio-Planet organic shops and the DreamLand and DreamBaby chains.
"The first step is now the introduction of the SDVs in the distribution centers of Colruyt Lowest Prices, followed by the distribution centers of other retail formats within Colruyt Group," De Vos says.
"In total, Colruyt Group will acquire 85 SDVs, of which the first 24 have been ordered. In parallel, we continue discussions with STILL about possibilities for the future."