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Maersk and DHL Broaden Supply Chain Investments

Warehouse space and the ability to operate it with greatest efficiency are critical components for companies and their delivery partners working to alleviate the supply chain bottlenecks that have hindered cross-border commerce.

Two of the largest transportation firms–Maersk and DHL–have taken steps to expand their warehousing capacity in vital locales and improve their speed of operations.

Maersk

A.P. Moller-Maersk is strengthening its operations in Bangladesh, partnering with ISATL to build a 200,000-square-foot custom bonded warehouse in Chattogram.

Maersk said despite the strong growth of garment exports from Bangladesh, the number of warehouses in the key port city of Chattogram has not increased since 2012 with the sole exception of Ispahani Summit Alliance Terminals Limited (ISATL) that became operational in 2018. In 2021, a fallout of this structural challenge was felt by all the stakeholders involved in import-export trade when the Container Freight Stations (CFS) got clogged with cargo resulting in delayed clearance and dispatch of containers to the port.

Delay in offloading cargo also led to longer truck waiting time, and delays in transporting containers to the port, consequently resulting in lack of overall productivity. These challenges have serious consequences on the overall economy of the country given the fact that the Chittagong Port handles in excess of 90 percent of the total containerized trade to and from Bangladesh.

Recognizing these challenges, Maersk Bangladesh has partnered with ISATL to build the custom bonded warehouse. ISATL operate four CFS facilities within Chattogram and the River Terminal at Dhaka. Under the scope of this partnership, ISATL will construct a new custom bonded warehouse within the existing premises of the facility located at Pathortoli in Chattogram.

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The new warehouse will double the existing capacity at ISATL and add around 8 percent additional space to the existing ecosystem at Chattogram. The construction of the new CFS has already commenced and is expected to be completed in a phased manner by the end of 2022. Bangladesh’s exporters and their overseas buyers will be able to start using the facility in July once the first phase of construction is completed.

“There was a need for a comprehensive solution to optimize ocean shipping, port handling and inland logistics that would benefit trade in the long term,” Angshuman Mustafi, managing director of Maersk Bangladesh, said. “By partnering with ISALT, we are establishing a facility that has the potential to partially decongest the system from the landside and streamline the flow of cargo in and out of Bangladesh.”

Apart from adding capacity, the facility will offer several other benefits to Bangladesh’s exports. The new facility will be a multi-storied facility with an option to offer pallets for all operations, improving the overall operational efficiency. Maersk will also offer customers Garment on Hanger facility, sorting, product audit, labelling, bar code and RFID scanning.

Last month, Maersk opened a new logistics center for South Western Europe at the port of Barcelona (Zal Port). The new 8,168-square-foot facility will provide logistics services to the Iberian Peninsula and the south of France, while meeting high energy efficiency and sustainability criteria.

The new logistics center is a state-of-the-art facility with an 11-meter-high storage area that allows higher capacity density. It has 39 loading docks, which Maersk said makes it a flagship for transfer operations in Barcelona. The building includes self-sufficient energy generating solar panels, an efficient installation and electric vehicle chargers.

DHL

Maersk and DHL have taken steps to expand their warehousing capacity in vital locales and improve their speed of operations.
A Stretch robot Courtesy

DHL Supply Chain, the global and North American contract logistics unit of DHL Group, recently announced a $15 million investment in robotics solutions from Boston Dynamics, a specialist in mobile robotics, to further automate warehousing in North America.

The companies have signed a multi-year agreement that begins with equipping DHL facilities with Stretch, Boston Dynamics’ newest robot specifically designed to automate the unloading process in distribution centers. This agreement is the culmination of strategic collaboration between the two companies over the past few years as Stretch was being developed and tested.

Boston Dynamics will deliver a fleet of Stretch robots to multiple DHL warehouses throughout North America over the next three years. The deal with DHL marks the first commercial purchase of Stretch, which was unveiled last year.

The investment is part of DHL Supply Chain’s “Accelerated Digitalization” agenda, a strategy for developing and scaling innovative solutions and new technologies. Stretch will tackle several box-moving operations in the warehouse, beginning with truck unloading at select DHL facilities. Following the first deployment, the multipurpose mobile robot will handle additional tasks to support other parts of the warehouse workflow, which will effectively automate warehouse operations.

“At DHL Supply Chain, we are committed to continuous innovation and digital transformation to optimize the end-to-end supply chain,” Sally Miller, chief information officer at DHL Supply Chain North America, said. “Investing in warehouse automation plays an important role in increasing operational efficiency and improving service for our customers..The Stretch robot addresses complex industry challenges through flexible automation, which we’ll be able to replicate and scale regionally and globally.”

Stretch is equipped with a compact, omnidirectional mobile base, and custom-designed lightweight arm, as well as a smart gripper with advanced sensing and controls that can handle a large variety of box types and sizes. It also includes Boston Dynamics’ computer vision technology that enables it to identify boxes easily and without any pre-programming. Stretch is capable of working autonomously through complex situations like disordered stacking configurations and recovering fallen boxes.

“Stretch is Boston Dynamics’ newest robot, designed specifically to remedy challenges within the warehouse space,” Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter said. “We believe Stretch can make a measurable impact on DHL’s business operations and we’re excited to see the robot in action at scale.”

Deployment of the first Stretch units in DHL warehouses will begin this spring, and DHL plans to gradually scale Boston Dynamics’ robots for additional tasks and across multiple facilities in phases over the next few years.