dnata City East at London Heathrow, UK, has done just that. At just 1.25 m in height and weighing in at 60 kgs, DaViD might be small, but he has a big future ahead of him. dnata UK’s latest employee is a collaborative robot in charge of meeting and greeting visitors to the company’s new, state-of-the-art handling facility housing dnata, Virgin Atlantic Cargo and Delta Cargo.
The Future of Work is changing. According to the International Data Corporation (published on 02JAN20), worldwide spending on robotics systems is forecast to be $112.4 billion in 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 17.8%. An Oxford Economics report established that the global employment of robots has trebled in the last 20 years, reaching 2.25 million robots at the time of publication in JUN19, and predicted to multiply increasingly rapidly from now on, hitting circa 20 million robots by 2030 as more and more repetitive, standardized work processes are automated.
When setting up its latest multi-million pound handling facility, dnata Cargo East, at London, Heathrow, the UK’s largest independent cargo handler’s vision was to ensure fast, professional
customer service via a cutting edge IT infrastructure, as well as establishing a more positive ecological impact by, for example, creating a paperless environment.
Phase 1 of this state-of-the-art handling facility, comprising a 76,200 m² warehouse, recently commenced export operations in 24SEP19 – and this is where DaViD works.
DaViD stands for dnata, Virgin, Delta
Wayne Clements, Head of IT and Business Systems, dnata UK, explained: “During the planning stages of our dnata City East development at London Heathrow, our business identified a need to greet the corporate visitors of both dnata and our customers, Virgin Atlantic Cargo & Delta Cargo. We could have followed the traditional route of having either a full time human receptionist or a simple intercom system, but as innovation is always at the forefront of what we do, we looked towards technology as a way of meeting our requirements, and breaking the mold of traditional workplace interactions.”
When researching potential partners, dnata UK decided on a young, local robotics company, www.botsandus.com, since their “Bo” product, with its user-friendly interface, fitted the job description. BotsandUs pride themselves on being the “sole robotics company that simultaneously serves applications to improve customer experience and business operations” and this user-friendliness is practically tangible when navigating their website. dnata and BotsandUs spent the last 6 months developing and fine-tuning 'Bo', naming him 'DaViD' (to stand for dnata, Virgin, and Delta) in the process.
Image courtesy of dnata Press Department
A Day in the Life of DaViD
With his “winning personality” (according to BotsandUs), DaViD’s Artificial Intelligence is also quick to learn about his visitors’ demographics, and he actively approaches them when they arrive at the atrium, careful not to knock into anyone or anything with his advanced 360° sensor systems. Whilst he only speaks English in the Heathrow facility, he would have no problem using other languages if dnata wanted him to.
Wayne Clements describes DaViD’s working day: “Just before 9am every morning, DaViD wakes from his automated charging bay and heads to his set patrol route in our reception area, making him highly visible, and accessible, to any visitors. [His] primary task is to greet the corporate visitors of our customers and our own onsite staff. [He performs] a highly personal (and brand customized) induction, taking down the visitors’ details (he takes their name, asks them to select who they are here to see, collects their vehicle registration, [and] takes their photo), before informing their chosen host [via an email with all the details] of their arrival. DaViD will then lead visitors to our waiting area, before showing them our safety induction video. Our visitors also have the option of learning more about dnata and our customers as they wait to be picked up by their host. Once his working day is complete, he automatically returns to his charging bay, where he charges up his batteries, ready for his next day. Whilst we will of course be monitoring his performance, he is designed to be completely unattended in regard to daily maintenance.”
CFG inquired as to any security issues in using a small robot and whether he could be bypassed. Wayne Clements pointed out that DaViD operates in a CCTV monitored secure area, with control systems guarding further access to offices beyond the atrium. Furthermore, DaViD has no connected access to dnata’s core systems, so the only vulnerability would be his off/on switch, if anyone were inclined to sabotage.
I, DaViD, and…
DaViD is currently the only “Bo” working for dnata and should be able to cope with the current number of visitors by himself for now. The partnership with BotsandUs will continue as DaViD is further developed and refined along the way. Wayne Clements confirms: “Our ultimate aim is to use robotics and automation more and more within our growing UK business, and we see DaViD as a first step towards this goal of operational robotics within dnata.” Phase 2 of dnata City East, a second 35,052m² import facility, is due to open in the fall of 2021.
Meanwhile, BotsandUs reports that DaViD’s cousins in the “Bo” family are soon to start working in the British Airways check-in area, over at Heathrow Terminal 5, too!
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