A lack of willing workers is driving 3PL logistics providers who operate warehouses to adopt fleets of driverless lift trucks on a worldwide scale.
Last month, the 3PL companies ArcBest and NFI Industries announced that they had invested jointly $42 million to become the lead investors in Phantom Auto, a provider of human-centered remote operation software used in remotely-operated forklift trucks, which the two 3PLs are deploying by the thousands.
ArcBest says that its subsidiary ArcBest Technologies, is focused on delivering custom-built solutions designed to move the global supply chain forward. About 4% of ArcBest’s annual revenue is spent on technology and innovation.
ArcBest Technologies President Michael Newcity will sit on the Phantom Auto board of directors.
The Paris-based global logistics provider Geodis SA also announced last March that it had formed a partnership with Phantom Auto, which was founded in 2017. Geodis operates warehouse facilities all over the world and says it will use the technology to operate lift trucks from thousands of miles away.
According to Geodis one remote worker – called a “digital driver” – can operate multiple forklifts at a number of warehouses at different times of the day, all from one central location.
Geodis also says the program also helps advance its initiative to hire people with physical disabilities.
“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,” said Stéphanie Hervé, Geodis chief operating officer for Western Europe, Middle East and Africa.