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DHL Invests $300M to Futureproof Supply Chain with AI, Robotics, Driverless Autos

The supply chain arm of German logistics leader DHL will invest $300 million in emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence, robotic picking techniques and driverless automobiles that it said will enable new efficiencies throughout the value chain.

The company said some of these technologies are already in place at some 85 of 430 total North American facilities and transportation control towers, and the investment will affect 350 locations altogether. Instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, DHL said it will strive to incorporate the right technologies where they can offer the greatest impact and value based on learnings from “research and pilot programs.”

According to DHL Supply Chain North America CEO Scott Sureddin, the $300 million is earmarked to aid customers in achieving “their growth and profitability goals.”

“Our customers’ needs are not homogenous as each business and segment has unique challenges and levels of maturity,” Sureddin explained. “Therefore, it is important that our customers can benefit from our experiences and expertise with a variety of emerging technologies.”

Continuing, he 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.” What’s more, these advancements are already boosting productivity by more than 25 percent and throughput by 30 percent, in areas where they’ve been deployed.

While the client-facing component is undeniably important, that’s only half of the equation, DHL said. Increasing the company-wide use of technology will be instrumental not only to help attract and recruit talent, but also to retain valuable employees for the long run in a world where young generations are growing up with technology as second nature.

“These technologies enhance the value of our people; they don’t replace them,” Tim Sprosty, SVP of human resources at DHL Supply Chain, said. “Our team will be equipped with the most advanced technologies, trained on emerging ones and retained through a culture of innovation, collaboration and recognition.”

Sprosty described DHL’s doubling down on technology as “a winning strategy” for the company and for customers.

The 24,000-square-foot Chicago-area Americas Innovation Center, which is set for completion in 2019, showcases many of the technologies DHL is applying throughout the supply chain.