Geodis, a leading global logistics provider, has joined hands with Phantom Auto, experts in long-range remote operation software for unmanned vehicles, to develop a forklift truck that can be controlled from a distance.
This innovative programme is aimed at improving comfort and safety, and creating job opportunities for people with physical disabilities and others that are underrepresented in the logistics industry, says Geodis.
The first successful tests took place in France (Levallois and Le Mans) as part of a multi-year cooperation between Geodis, Phantom Auto and Fenwick-Linde to create the first remotely-operated forklift, capable of being controlled from thousands of miles away.
Fenwick-Linde is the French subsidiary of Linde Material Handling, a globally operating manufacturer of forklift trucks and warehouse trucks, and a solutions and service provider for intralogistics.
The new product is the precursor of a revolution in the nature of work in the logistics industry, expanding opportunity to people from historically under-represented demographics, for example, women, people with physical disabilities, geographically-isolated, and more.
This cooperation stems from a creative idea from a Geodis manager and was developed in the framework of the Geodis internal innovation programme. The solution uses a Fenwick forklift combined with Phantom’s secure, network-agnostic, and interoperable remote operation software to enable remote workers to operate the vehicle, unlocking efficiency and equipment utilisation gains.
For example, one remote worker can operate multiple forklifts at a number of warehouses at different times of the day, all from one central location.
Geodis says its remote operators, also referred to as digital drivers, will be able to “teleport” between different vehicles and between different warehouses with the click of a button, all from the safety of a distant office.
Phantom’s software provides Geodis’ remote operators with real-time eyes and ears all around each vehicle, enabling them to safely and confidently guide the vehicles from wherever is convenient.
Geodis says its remotely operated forklift programme contributes to reducing injuries and increase overall safety in warehouses and also the number of people that need to be physically inside warehouses to enhance worker comfort. It create new future-proof remote operator jobs that can be carried out within an office environment and allows hiring of individuals who may have physical disabilities, restricting their use of traditional forklifts. These persons can be recruited from regions outside of where warehouses are located, including areas of higher unemployment.
Geodis COO (Western Europe, Middle East and Africa) Stéphanie Hervé, says: “Phantom Auto’s technology enables dynamic balancing of workforce allocation, safer warehouses, enhanced worker well-being, and employment opportunities to those who otherwise could not physically drive forklifts.
“This innovation will be of benefit to the wider community and indicates the future of logistics operations. We believe that technology should serve people, and that is what this partnership with Phantom Auto illustrates.”
Phantom Auto Co-Founder Shai Magzimof says: “Phantom is proud to have partnered with Geodis in Europe in this groundbreaking initiative, which delivers multiple benefits in efficiency and the provision of a safer working environment.”
Co-Founder Elliot Katz says: “Phantom’s remote operation software can help people with physical disabilities not just to get from point A to point B, but also with actual employment opportunities, and we are thrilled that Geodis is using our technology for good.”