Digital innovation in logistics warehouses
Business Chief takes a look at three leading logistics companies and how they are digitalising their warehouses.
With technology evolving at an exponential rate, and the logistics industry needing flexible solutions for its complex operation, we take a closer look at some of the successful deployments of digitalisation within the warehouses of leading logistic companies around the world.
Founded in 1907, UPS has been “breaking barriers throughout its 100 years as a leader in global commerce.” Within the company's international supply chain and freight operations, its key services include: logistics, distribution, transportation, freight (air, sea, ground and rail) and freight forwarding.
To combat the challenges that come with providing efficient and on time delivery during peak seasons, UPS is utilising new technologies within its warehouse facilities to create operational precision and network efficiencies.
“Our transformation initiatives are enabling UPS to perform at high levels, even as we handle nearly double the average daily package volume as the rest of the year. We are confident we will sustain these high levels of service and we’re ready to take on even more customer shipments in the coming weeks,” commented David Abney, CEO and Chairman of UPS.
New technologies UPS is harnessing include:
Advanced analytics - UPS has developed a peak volume alignment tool (PVAT) utilising advanced analytics to efficiently manage loads by synchronising its volume demands and capacity. In addition to PVAT, UPS is utilising advanced analytics to better forecast its package volume that needs to be processed.
Network planning tool (NPT) - By utilising advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and operations research, UPS has developed its NPT to help coordinate tractor-trailer movements between its sortation hubs to reduce bottlenecks.
Dynamic Sort Instruction (DSI) - To increase employee productivity and reduce training time, UPS has developed a bluetooth audio device that gives its employees processing instructions as they scan packages.
In addition to its new in-house technology, UPS has been utilising innovations for its drivers too. These include mobile tools to improve onboarding and effectiveness, via a delivery helper app. UPS has also developed UPSNav to provide drivers with higher levels of accuracy and precision when making deliveries.
As a result of UPS’ global deployments of automation, AI and advanced analytics, UPS has seen between 25-35% higher efficiency.
With over 140 years of experience supporting the global exchange of goods, DB Schenker strives to provide its customers with “innovative supply chain solutions to challenge the status quo.” DB Schenker provides its solutions for land transport, air freight, ocean freight, contract logistics and supply chain management.
Robotics powered by AI
To provide flexible solutions within its warehouses to drive productivity, DB Schenker has been utilising the combination of AI and robotics with the help of Gideon Brothers - a global manufacturer of autonomous robots.
With the digital age becoming increasingly complex, DB Schenker strives to offer its clients a strategic advantage. “DB Schenker continuously explores opportunities to integrate innovations from visionary start-up companies,” commented Xavier Garijo, Member of the Board for Contract Logistics at Schenker AG. “Delivering automation possibilities for logistics and warehouse operations is a foundation for building the next generation supply chain."
“This is a technological leap,” commented Matija Kopic%u0301, CEO and Co-Founder of Gideon Brothers. The robotics developed by DB Schenker and Gideon Brothers utilises a visual perception based robotic autonomy system that combines deep learning and stereoscopic cameras, to provide next generation robotics vision. In addition to its next generation robotic vision, the robots can move 800kg and have a hot-swappable battery system to minimise downtime.
“Self-driving machines, powered by vision and AI, will succeed where earlier technology failed,” added Kopic%u0301. “It will become ubiquitous in industrial environments.”
Speaking with Oscar de Bok, CEO of DHL Supply Chain in January’s edition of Business Chief, de Bok highlighted the need for flexible solutions as supply chains become increasingly complex and the importance of a large global company such as DHL having a strategy that utilises digitalisation and collaborative robotics. Between now and 2025 the company aims to invest US$2.2bn into digitalisation of its logistics and robotics.
From cleaning robots to robotic arms within DHL’s warehouses, its operations are seeing the benefits of digital automation to enhance its workforce.
Cleaning robots (Neo) - Developed by Avidbots, DHL has deployed its cleaning robots in multiple standard warehouses, to reduce the need for people to complete repetitive and tedious tasks.
‘Follow me’ robots - Designed by Effidence, it is a simple trolly that follows an associate will they pick items to help transport the load. Once it is full you can simply press a button to send it on its way, while another replaces it.
Robot arms (Sawyer) - Sawyer is a robotic arm developed to sense its surrounded removing the need for it to be static and caged. This robotic arm can be moved to where it is needed to complete repetitive and mundane tasks.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”