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DHL’s New Americas Innovation Center Set to Spur R&D for Supply Chain Logistics

DHL expanded its global innovation footprint to the Americas region last week with the opening of its Americas Innovation Center in Rosemont, Ill.

The new center joins DHL Innovation Centers in Troisdorf, Germany, and Singapore to exhibit technologies DHL is implementing across the region. It will also serve to investigate future solutions for significant productivity and efficiency gains, according to DHL.

“Innovation has been a driving force for DHL since its inception in 1969. Now, with three Innovation Centers around the world, DHL can leverage the power of innovation to serve customers and play an active role in shaping the future of logistics,” Ken Allen, CEO of DHL E-commerce Solutions, said at the Americas Innovation Center opening.

The state-of-the-art, 28,000-square-foot facility offers a collaborative space for DHL to work with its customers, technology partners and academics, as well utilizing innovative abilities of its employees.

“The Innovation Centers are the nucleus of our customer-centric innovation approach,” said Matthias Heutger, global head of innovation and commercial development at DHL. “They provide the platform for understanding emerging trends and discovering insights with the potential to drive real-world business impacts. DHL was the first player to utilize picking robots, for example, in North American warehouses. Self-driving robots to support order picking can increase picking rates up to 200 percent, which is significant in a fast-moving, globalized e-commerce environment.”

DHL said its four business units–DHL Supply Chain, DHL Express, DHL Global Forwarding and DHL Freight–operating in the Americas are committed to investing in the development and adoption of new technologies that can improve operations, better the customer experience, lower costs and facilitate better workplace processes for its employees.

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For example, DHL Supply Chain has already seen significant productivity increases, especially in peak season, by using robotic solutions such as automated guided vehicles that can move goods through warehouses, mobile robots that can facilitate order fulfillment in e-commerce operations, and collaborative robots designed to help with repetitive tasks, such as picking and packing. As part of its commitment to invest in new technologies, DHL Supply Chain said last year that it would invest $300 million to deploy emerging technologies to 350 of its 430 North American facilities and transportation control towers.

DHL Express will continue to add more automation at its regional hubs, gateways and service centers, introduce robotics to help with shipment loading and unloading, expand the use of AI and machine learning for better route optimization, apply repetitive process automation for billing tasks and add chatbots and voice recognition tools for bookings, order tracking and improved customer service.

For DHL Global Forwarding, it’s about working with improved technology to track packages and handle temperature-sensitive shipments, as well as implementing warehouse automation with RFID tracking to track cargo location, shipment consolidation and shipping schedules.

Continuing the ramp up of its logistics offering, DHL Freight, a major provider of road transport services in Europe, officially opened its newest freight hub in the Airport Business Park in Langenhagen, Germany this month. Roughly 290 employees are already dispatching and consolidating freight at the new terminal. DHL is also trialing innovative technologies at the state-of-the-art facility to position itself as a long-term market and innovation leader.

“The opening of the new Hanover-Langenhagen freight terminal adds another important hub in European overland transport,” Uwe Brinks, CEO of DHL Freight, said. “The combination of a convenient location and innovative technologies makes this new future-oriented freight transshipment center an important growth driver within our network.”

The hub’s terminal houses more than 86 loading bays, where freight for the Europe-wide groupage service “Euroconnect” and the “Eurapid” premium day-definite groupage service is handled.

To further strengthen its position as a leader in road transport innovation, new technologies for the “Terminal for the Future” are being trialed and deployed at the new freight center. DHL Freight is testing an electric maneuvering assistant that uses augmented reality and automated steering to independently maneuver and swap bodies at the site. The technology developed by StreetScooter in cooperation with special vehicle manufacturer KAMAG, enables increased process reliability, reduced material wear and a simplified workplace for drivers.

DHL is also testing automated weight, volume and shipment data recording devices at the terminal. With the help of a combination of different technologies, all shipment-relevant data is digitally transferred to the transport management system within a few seconds.