Driverless Forklifts Are Revolutionizing Warehousing and Logistics at M&D - Morris & Dickson

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March 24, 2023

Driverless Forklifts Are Revolutionizing Warehousing and Logistics at M&D

Meet Morris & Dickson’s newest distribution center employees, Wall-E, Johnny 5, R2D2, and M&D Rover 1, the industry’s most versatile self-driving, autonomous forklifts from Vecna Roboticsä.

M&D’s distribution center in Shreveport is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s largest facilities. Over 30,000 SKUs of pharmaceutical and healthcare products are found in the state-of-the-art, 12-acre automated distribution center. Traditional forklifts have been a staple of distribution centers and logistics operations for decades, lifting and moving heavy loads of goods, which make them an essential device in a bustling center with a robust supply chain.

Technological advancements have now made it possible to automate forklifts, creating autonomous or self-driving machines with minimal human intervention. Autonomous forklifts use a combination of sensors, cameras, and other technologies to identify their surroundings, detect obstacles, and navigate through the space. Equipped with advanced software, the information gathered about the environment is used to create a 3D map of the facility. This collected data enables the forklift to navigate and operate autonomously.
Morris & Dickson’s four Vecna Robotics autonomous forklifts, or AFLs, serve as a complement to human workers, enabling them to focus on critical tasks that further support the company’s growth and expansion. Running 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, the four AFLs scan pallet barcodes and send updates to Morris & Dickson’s distribution management center software, ensuring that inventory is fully stocked and ready to distribute to hospitals and independent pharmacies.

Each AFL is monitored by Alan Bass, Distribution Center Inventory Manager at Morris & Dickson. “By monitoring the operational performance of each AFL from a dashboard, I can track the location of the forklifts at all times and their battery levels and productivity, as well as update or assign tasks through our remote user interface,” says Bass.
The AFLs have proven to be exceptionally productive. With battery charges that last up to eight hours (and when low, automatically return to their charging stations), the AFLs traveled more than 15 miles in a 24-hour cycle, handling 131 pallets in the process. Over a five-day period, 431 pallets were moved by the AFLs.  
Vecna Robotics’ AFLs were chosen because of their superior technology and safety certifications, both of which ensure Morris & Dickson’s distribution center continues to operate with the highest standards. Safety is a top priority in the distribution center setting to protect people, equipment, and products. The AFLs are able to navigate narrow aisles and maneuver around impediments. If it senses a person walking across its path, it will stop and honk.
The AFLs can lift up to 3,000 pounds and travel at approximately five miles per hour, easily moving pallets of product from receiving to storage to picking stations. The AFLs also help to reduce, reuse, and recycle by moving cardboard waste to recycling compactors.

Some key advantages of AFLs are:

  • Improved Efficiency – Autonomous forklifts can work around the clock, resulting in increased productivity and efficiency.
  • Increased Safety – With AFLs, there is no risk of human error, resulting in a safer working environment for employees.
  • Improved Accuracy – Autonomous forklifts can move heavy loads with greater precision and accuracy than human operators, reducing the risk of damage to goods.
  • Increased Flexibility – AFLs can be programmed to perform a wide range of tasks, making them more flexible than traditional forklifts.

Even with these incredible technological advancements, Morris & Dickson relies on human employees and is continuing to hire for all distribution center jobs and shifts as part of their aggressive growth strategy. To learn more about these opportunities, visit Morris & Dickson’s careers page.  
Morris & Dickson is the largest independent full-line pharmaceutical distributor in the country. With over 30,000 SKUs, M&D’s singular focus is the reliable, next-day delivery of drugs and related products to health systems, independent pharmacies, specialty pharmacies, and alternative care facilities across 27 states (and counting).  
Vecna Robotics is an award-winning and flexible material-handling robotics company based out of Waltham, Mass. Our solutions are focused on augmenting the operation of distribution and manufacturing facilities by automating material movement with autonomous mobile robots. The goal of these systems is to keep our customers’ businesses moving and provide a seamless combination of human and robotic operation.  
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