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DHL continues IoT drive with latest Huawei pilot

Tamlin Magee | Sept. 20, 2017
DHL CIO Dr Markus Voss explains how its latest IoT pilot with Huawei fits in with the logistics company's wider digital programme.

These pilot programmes, Voss says, quite clearly demonstrate both the results and the future possibilities that come with integrating newer technologies into the supply chain, and so buy-in at the board level has not been a particularly hard sell.

"There has never been a better time to sit at the board level and have a very important seat at the table," says Voss. "So when I talk to my colleagues about digitisation they are very, very open minded, see the possibilities themselves, and are excited. We work very closely together so it was an easy sell-in, essentially."

DHL Supply Chain, a Bonn-based division of Deutsche Post DHL, has run other pilots to demonstrate how it can apply new technologies to the supply chain.

Last year, the company tested an augmented reality (AR) glasses programme across warehouses in the US and the UK. The smart glasses could be used to quickly locate where an item needs to be placed on a trolley, with the aim of reducing error rates while freeing up workers' hands to pick items faster.

It also ran a trial at a site in Unna, Germany for the use of 'EffiBot', a robotic trolley that follows pickers through warehouses and is designed to lighten the physical load of pushing heavy carts around. The company is also testing the Baxter and Sawyer robots (pictured above) in some warehouses.

While AR glasses have been a consumer flop to date, Voss says the company saw "huge potential" in using the technology to create efficiencies in the workplace. While DHL keeps an eye on emerging trends in social, business and consumer technology, Voss stresses that IoT has the potential to generate as much as 1.77 trillion in additional value for the logistics market worldwide, and this could forge new paths for the business to build revenue.

"There are still a lot of inefficiencies in today's supply chains, there are trucks that are empty on one route," Voss says. "There is a lot we can bring in, more algorithms, more knowledge, more data and information about what happens, so I think there's huge potential for us to drive better efficiencies out of the supply chain.

"What I'm sometimes more excited about are the completely new business models - how can we think of something that is out of the traditional offers a logistics provider would bring to the table?"


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