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07/01/2021

Ahold Delhaize cuts warehouse worker strain with robotic ‘exosuits’

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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The newest supply chain technology at Ahold Delhaize USA seems like something out of a comic book, but addresses a very real employee issue.

Following successful pilots, the Ahold Delhaize supply chain network will scale up the use of artificial intelligence (AI)-based, wearable robotic technology designed to enhance the safety and effectiveness of distribution center associates. Over the past year, the U.S. subsidiary of Netherlands-based grocery giant Ahold Delhaize has tested wearable Verve Motion robotic systems known as exosuits for millions of lifts of product. 

The Verve Motion device is designed to reduce strain on an associate’s back by 30-40% during a typical workday. This means that each 22-pound item feels like 14 pounds. During the pilot, Ahold Delhaize says that a “vast majority” of distribution center workers reported reduced fatigue and soreness, as well as better posture. 

Pilot results also indicated that the exosuit technology doesn’t require any complex integration, takes less than 30 seconds to put on, and automatically adapts to the user and task. It also has enough battery life so it can be worn for an entire shift, including overtime. Based on positive feedback from wearers, Ahold Delhaize will expand upon the pilot to include more than 250 suits in affiliated distribution centers.

“Selecting product in a distribution center is very physical work, and not only is it very physical, but it’s also critical,” said Chris Lewis, president, Ahold Delhaize USA Supply Chain. “The associates in grocery distribution centers are nothing short of superheroes who keep product flowing through the supply chain to physical and digital store shelves and ultimately to consumers’ tables. This has never been further demonstrated than during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re proud to pilot solutions like this one that enable us and our partners care for the workforce in distribution centers by helping associates reduce fatigue, work more effectively and reduce the likelihood of injuries.”