If you haven’t heard yet, e-commerce is having a significant impact on supply chains worldwide, especially during the current peak-season ramp-up. According to DHL, automation, in the form of robotics, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles and other technologies, can be the solution to handling the increase in volume.
DHL Supply Chain, a division of Deutsche Post DHL Group, announced plans to deploy emerging automation technologies in 350 of its 430 facilities in North American facilities and transportation control towers, as part of a US$300 million investment. Selected technologies for facilities will vary by customer needs in different locations, and will be based on the outcomes of research and pilot programs completed by DHL’s internal innovation teams in collaboration with external innovators.
Other selected technologies for the facilities include augmented reality, robotics process automation, the internet of things (IoT) and DHL’s proprietary, end-to-end visibility tool – MySupplyChain. While DHL already leverages some emerging technologies at 85 of its 430 North American facilities, the new technology upgrades will focus on minimizing issues of complexity and capacity constraints related to e-commerce and omnichannel challenges.
DHL Supply China North America CEO, Scott Suredding, said, “While many technologies are already in active deployment, collaborative piece-picking robots, artificial intelligence applications and self-driving vehicles stand to have the most promise today.” According to DHL, in some deployments, these technologies have produced productivity gains upward of 25 percent, and throughput capacity gains of 30 percent.
In addition to this new investment project, DHL broke ground on its American Innovation Center, earlier this year. The 24,000 square-foot facility, scheduled to open next year just outside of Chicago, will offer space for collaborative development of future logistics and supply-chain innovations, and will also serve as an exhibition center for the company’s new technologies it is implementing in the region.