Guardian® XO® Exoskeleton Use Case: Material Handling

Guardian® XO® Exoskeleton Use Case:
Material Handling for Logistics, Warehousing, & Order Fulfillment

Augmenting worker performance and improving efficiency with a full-body, powered exoskeleton

The Heavy Lifting in Your Warehouse

Most of the material handling equipment in your warehouse is designed for small and medium-sized parts and packages. Lift trucks, tugs, sorters, pick arms, conveyors, autonomous mobile robots (AMR), and humans are the mainstay of shipping/receiving, warehousing, and order fulfillment.

But what about bulky, less-than-pallet-load, and non-conveyable items like crates and oversized inventory items? In the era of flourishing third-party logistics (3PL) and direct-to-consumer (D2C) fulfillment, how do you keep non-standard goods flowing as smoothly from point A to point B as your standard ones?

The simplest solution is human labor: assigning two or three workers to team-lift non-conveyable goods like refrigerators, furniture, and basketball backboards. However, the more you rely on labor for heavy lifting, the more you invite work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) and risk lengthening your receiving and order fulfillment time.

The Guardian XO Exoskeleton — Filling the Gap Between Manual and Assisted Lifts

What if you could combine the judgment and physical flexibility of warehouse workers with robotics that enables them to lift goods of varying shapes and sizes?

The Guardian XO full-body, powered exoskeleton is designed to boost productivity, minimize the risk of workplace injury, and enable employees to lift and move heavier loads by themselves. Engineered for heavy lifting, the suit utilizes robotics, sensors, and software to help workers move goods up to 200 pounds (90 kg) in warehouses and distribution centers.

The exoskeleton is ideal for items that fall into the gap between small, easily manipulated pieces and non-conveyable goods requiring mechanical assistance. Like a robotic suit, the exoskeleton is worn by the operator and reacts to their natural movements, augmenting the ordinary motion of limbs and joints with extraordinary strength.

Because the exoskeleton is modeled on the human body, it is easy to learn and intuitive to operate. It offers the operator optimal maneuverability in warehouse and order fulfillment settings, with an effortless command of heavy objects in many shapes and sizes. Since the operator’s judgment and expertise guide the suit movements, the exoskeleton fits naturally into unstructured environments right alongside humans — without the special programming or configuration required for fixed lift-assist equipment.

Applications in Order Fulfillment and Warehousing

Three scenarios illustrate how the full-body, powered exoskeleton can help boost productivity and mitigate injury risk in materials handling.

  • Kitting of heavy industrial equipment — In small-batch, high-mix industrial manufacturing, customers tend to buy a varying combination of parts that are prepared and shipped out as kits. Workers wearing Guardian XO exoskeletons can pick and pack individual, bulky parts in the kitting process, then move the final kit to stage in a single crate or carton.
  • Shipping and receiving in a sporting goods distribution center — Besides the standard items of apparel and balls, sporting goods inventory can include heavy, non-conveyable products such as kayaks, backboards, and weights. Using the Guardian XO exoskeleton, a single warehouse worker could handle and load items that would otherwise require a team lift.
  • Order picking and packaging in third-party logistics (3PL) — Industry-agnostic 3PLs handle goods for multiple markets, requiring adaptability to bulky products of varying weights and odd geometries. Rather than install fixed robotic arms in places that suit some goods but not others, management can equip fulfillment workers with the Guardian XO exoskeleton. The robot is designed to enable workers of nearly any size and strength to pick and pack heavy items wherever needed in the material flow.

Advantages and Capabilities

To address these use cases, the Guardian XO exoskeleton:

  • Supplements human labor in heavy lifting, allowing the operator to move naturally with 24 degrees of freedom
  • Features hot-swappable batteries as its onboard power source for near-continuous operation
  • Enables safe lifting of up to 200 pounds (90 kg), regardless of size or strength of the operator
  • Allows manipulation of bulky, awkward objects in warehouse/distribution center inventory, especially where standard lift-assist equipment is impractical or hazardous
  • Reduces strain on body parts most prone to injury from heavy physical exertion, including shoulders, lower back, and knees
  • Minimizes physical strain by offloading the weight of the carried item, plus the weight of the robotic suit itself

Benefits

  • Greater productivity and throughput — As D2C commerce grows, the number of labor hours required to handle the same quantity of goods is rising. One operator using a Guardian XO exoskeleton could handle materials that would typically occupy several workers in a team lift in warehouse and order fulfillment environments.
  • Injury prevention and worker safety — High injury rates impose steep costs on warehousing companies, including days missed from work, productivity loss, workers’ compensation premiums, and employee morale. The Guardian XO exoskeleton helps mitigate the risk of WMSD by reducing the strain of physically demanding lifts without interrupting surrounding workflows. And where health standards call for workers to socially distance, the exoskeleton can minimize or eliminate the need for team lifts that require employees to work side by side.
  • Equalizing the workforce and extending worker longevity — In the face of labor shortages and aging out of the skilled workforce, logistics companies have an incentive to prolong existing employees’ careers and promote a physically diverse workforce. By augmenting workers rather than replacing them, the Guardian XO exoskeleton can help extend career longevity and level the playing field for those who may have previously been excluded from heavy-duty jobs.