Digital innovation in logistics warehouses

By Leah Netabai

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. 

Super Hub 

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.


DB Schenker

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.

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