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Office Depot: Flexible automation

Mobile robotics is powering Office Depot’s new demand-driven distribution center.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
August 20, 2010

When Office Depot decided to consolidate three distribution centers and a crossdock facility into one, new state-of-the-art DC in Newville, Pa., the office supplies retailer looked for an automated materials handling solution that was efficient and flexible. More importantly, they wanted a system that would deliver a competitive edge in the marketplace.

They found that edge in a goods-toperson picking solution featuring two different mobile robots (Kiva Systems, 781-221-4640). One robot handles cases while a larger robot moves pallet loads in the facility that went live just a few months ago.

Betting a part of your distribution strategy on robotic materials handling may seem like a risky move, especially given the conservative nature of retail distribution. But, Office Depot is convinced that the time has come for robotics in the DC; after three decades on the manufacturing line, robotics technology is proven, reliable and, says Office Depot, a potential game changer.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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