Published on November 22, 2021

Robots relieve strain on the back: DPD Germany starts long-term test with exoskeletons

Mail and parcels

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 back relief 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 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 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: on the one hand it keeps the wearer's back straight at all times. At the same time the device 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 diverted to the thigh area, among others. This results in a back relief 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 were used on site.

"The Malsch depot was ideal for testing the Cray X under particularly physically demanding conditions,"

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,"

Björn Scheel

Chief Operating Officer at DPD Germany

Robots relieve strain on the back: DPD Germany starts long-term test with exoskeletons

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.