With the aim of increasing sustainability and efficiency, DS Smith has replaced forklifts at one of its plants in the UK with automated guided vehicles (AGVs).

The all-electric Rocla vehicles, supplied by Mitsubishi Logisnext Europe Oy, operate 24/7 and perform a variety of tasks around the warehouse, including collecting reels from the production conveyor, storing them, and picking them for orders.

When the AGVs aren’t tasked with work, they automatically switch to ‘housekeeping’ mode, rotating stocks in order of age to maximise warehouse capacity.

The robots, which have an average lifespan of 12 years, can reportedly transport paper reels safely around the warehouse at speeds of up to 8mph. They operate with zero local emissions and when their battery level drops to 30%, they complete their current task before going to the ‘automated battery exchange station’ where they choose the optimum charged battery as they get ready for another 10-hour shift.

Ben Jennings, mill manager at the site in question, Kemsley Paper Mill, says: “The recent boom in e-commerce has increased the demand for our papers and packaging. Every day, around 2,200-2,400 tonnes of paper leaves the Kemsley mill and so it’s critical that our talented team has the latest innovations to benefit our people, customers, and the environment.”

Petri Petäys, sales director at Mitsubishi Logisnext Europe Oy, adds: “There is an increasing demand for sustainable, safe, and efficient solutions in the paper and packaging segment, driving interest in our solutions which are optimised over almost 40 years of experience across various industries.

“What sets apart this project with DS Smith, seamlessly realised with the local support of Logisnext UK, is the dedication and can-do attitude embraced by the Kemsley Mill team. This allowed us to create one of the most efficient implementations even during these challenging times.”

In July of this year, DS Smith announced it had partnered with global industrial technology company Trimble to advance digitalisation at its paper mills across Europe, following a successful trial at Kemsley of its data mining platform, Wedge.