DHL Supply Chain yesterday announced the launch of a new robotics platform in collaboration with Microsoft Corp. and digital fulfillment provider Blue Yonder Group Inc. The companies said the software will reduce the time and effort needed to deploy warehouse automation, as well as give DHL customers more flexibility in finding and integrating robots to meet their individual business needs.
The “plug-and-play” offering uses Microsoft Azure Internet of things (IoT) and cloud platform services, said DHL Supply Chain, which is a part of Deutsche Post DHL Group. The logistics provider employs about 550,000 people in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide.
DHL Supply Chain pursues global strategy
“The global deployment of robots and robotic systems is integral to our strategy to support our employees and improve customer operations,” stated Markus Voss, global CIO and chief operating officer at DHL Supply Chain. “Automation and collaborative robotics help us make operational processes more flexible, ergonomic, and more attractive to our employees by replacing monotonous, repetitive and particularly strenuous activities. The aim is not to replace employees over time, but to assign the more attractive and interesting tasks to our human workforce.”
DHL said the new software platform is just one part of its companywide digitalization strategy. It is also focusing on facilitating and accelerating the deployment of technologies such as robotics, wearable devices, and data analytics on a large scale.
“Building a resilient and flexible supply chain is essential to respond to constantly changing customer needs,” said Sam George, corporate vice president of Azure IoT at Microsoft. “By digitizing their warehouse solutions, DHL is dramatically simplifying the integration of complex IoT systems and unlocking new business opportunities for the logistics industry. The result: greater advancements in speed, global scale, cost reduction, and security,”
First platform demo reduces integration times
The first implementation at a DHL Supply Chain facility in Madrid demonstrated that the new platform can reduce complexity and accelerate the integration of robots into an existing warehouse management system, said the partners. The platform also gives customers the ability to integrate systems from different robotics vendors.
“We have more than 2,000 operational sites across DHL Supply Chain, so we know how complex, time-consuming, and costly it can be to integrate new robots into existing platforms and connect to our clients’ various warehouse management systems,” he added. “This is exactly where the new platform is so effective. Our first implementation on the new platform with 6 River Systems at one of our Madrid sites is already showing a 60% reduction in integration times, but with subsequent deployments, we foresee further improvements of up to 90%.”
“By using Blue Yonder’s Luminate Platform, DHL was able to offer a solution that can be implemented across all of its distribution center sites seamlessly through a cloud SaaS [software-as-a-service] application,” said Girish Rishi, CEO of Blue Yonder. “In the age of labor-market shortages during peak season, DHL sites can now bring on a robotics vendor quickly to augment its resource capacity and support its workforce.”
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Blue Yonder, formerly JDA Software, said it is helping more than 3,000 manufacturers, retailers, and logistics companies create more autonomous, sustainable, and profitable operations.
DHL Supply Chain said its collaboration with Microsoft and Blue Yonder combines their “strengths in customer-centric contract logistics, secure cloud computing at global scale, and seamless end-to-end supply chain integration to improve warehouse management and operational excellence for a wide range of industry customers.”