How DHL leverages innovation to reinvent the logistics industry
When it comes to the logistics industry, DHL is doubtlessly one of the top names in the business, handling billions of items across the world every day. But in a rapidly connected and technology-enabled world, how is the company managing to stay relevant and on top of the latest customer trends?
"Digitalization is on everyone's mind... it will dramatically change the way global supply chains work," DHL CIO and COO Markus Voss told attendees during a keynote at the Huawei Connect 2017 event in Shanghai earlier this month, attended by ITProPortal.
"I've seen a staggering amount of change... if we are not quick enough, we will be left behind," he added. "Innovation for us is a matter of do or die."
Voss noted that DHL is undertaking a number of new technology-themed trials and services as it looks to modernise what is a 1000-year-old industry to become one of the leaders in the growing connected ecosystem known as Industry 4.0.
"Industry 4.0 will have a profound effect -- logistics is an essential part of everyday life," Voss said, noting that a modern millennial customer base wants a fast, connected, technology-friendly delivery service.
In his keynote, Voss highlighted DHL’s trial of electric delivery vehicles, augmented reality glasses and a robot warehouse assistant called Thouzer (pictured below) as just some of the solutions the company is bringing through, as it maintains and monitors its own "logistics trend radar" to spot growing needs and developments before any of its competitors.
Speaking to ITProPortal in a group media briefing after his keynote, Voss noted that in order to accelerate this innovation and bring DHL into the Industry 4.0 space, the company has been working with Huawei on a range of technology services and tools which Voss hopes will bear fruit.
The Chinese giant has provided a range of connected technology, including narrowband IoT sensors, to provide all DHL drivers with a mobile app that can alert them to the nearest available pickup, then to the correct delivery address. This has so far led to a 50 percent reduction in waiting times, and almost eliminated all manual errors, such as packages being developed to the wrong address.
"It's early days yet... but we are very excited and convinced that that is going to change the way we do logistics," Voss said.
"(The trial) has already proved its worthiness... but there is much much more to come. This market has the potential to drive logistics value, and the possibilities are endless."
"We need technology experts to bring the vision to life," he added. "There's still a lot of inefficiency in today's supply chains... there's a lot that we can do to build in more algorithms, more knowledge, and more data, and information about what happens."
"There is huge potential for us to drive in this direction and take these inefficiencies out of the supply chain."
However all this innovation and development doesn’t mean that DHL will be fundamentally changing what it does best --
"There are many things that will change -- but our core will still be logistics," says Voss. "But we will bring new things to the table. It's a very interesting and rewarding place to be in right now... there's a lot of enthusiasm and passion to drive DHL into the future."
"Everything that we do today means a significant change to the marketplace," he concluded. "We can change the world for the better -- we have the technology, we have the brains, we have the need for innovation... and most importantly, we need and have the right ecosystem."
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