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Innovations at DHL to Maximize Supply Chain Efficiency

DHL uses technology to offer customers end-to-end supply chain visibility, especially during the COVID crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global logistics sector ─ with massive changes to operations, supply chains, regulations, and manpower. As the situation unfolds, logistics services have become more crucial than ever.

DHL, the world’s leading logistics company, is leveraging technology to offer its customers a comprehensive range of international express, freight transport, and supply chain management services, as well as e-commerce logistics solutions. With its own dedicated team of some 350 developers, engineers and solutions designers, DHL is continuously innovating to help customers manage the complexity and maximize the efficiency of their supply chain operations.

Integrating Risk Data with Customer Supply Chain Data

DHL introduced its supply chain risk management software platform called Resilience360, back in 2017. The risk mitigation tools provide businesses with the information they need for supply chain visualization and trade compliance, and also help provide near real time monitoring of incidents that have the capability to disrupt supply chains.

The platform integrates DHL’s Risk Exposure Index, a weighted index spread across more than 30 risk categories, with customer supply chain and business impact data to provide predictions of potential disruptions. Businesses are able to visualize the analyzed and consolidated data in one concise view, ultimately improving their supply chains visibility.

In order to forecast the likelihood and the potential duration of shipment disruptions involving risky events along transportation hubs, the analytics tool identifies alternative re-routing suggestions and shipment delay predictions, using millions of historic DHL shipment data sets.

DHL Resilience360 platform | Image credit: DHL

COVID-19 has disrupted activities at production facilities and logistics operations globally. One DHL customer, an automotive component manufacturer, used Resilience360 to evaluate the potential impact of disruption after seeing the first alerts of a new virus in Wuhan.

After placing a ‘one-time buy’ order covering the maximum feasible quantity of components from its supplier in Wuhan, the company used Resilience360 to review every possible option for transport to ship the components to its plant in Europe. The software was able to find a rail route through Russia that wasn’t disrupted and still had available capacity.

The company also used the Resilience360 platform to create a ‘heat map’ of the impact of the virus as its spread triggered lockdowns, transport restrictions and other public health responses globally.

The early warning system, followed by a pro-active response ahead of the pandemic, helped the company safeguard its multi-million euro engine program.

Optimizing Supply Chain with Data and Technology

End-to-End Supply Chain Visibility Platform

In 2018, DHL announced the launch of its customer technology platform called MySupplyChain. The platform integrates data from DHL Supply Chain applications, providing customers with complete supply chain visibility, accessible online anytime, anywhere, through a single log-in.

With this platform, customers are able to access track-and-trace data, inventory, operational performance and reporting, business analytics, customer service, and more. The near real time end-to-end visibility of global supply chain operations – from shipments entering the warehouse to final delivery, allows customers to gain valuable insights for better decision-making and drive competitive advantage.

Optimizing e-fulfillment with AI

COVID-19 has massively accelerated the growth of e-commerce. Today, consumers prefer to buy products online, even everyday essentials such as food and medicines. Lack of clarity regarding stock levels and incorrect data on availability has led to bottlenecks and delays in delivering to end-customers.

To make e-fulfillment more effective, DHL has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that can significantly improve order-picking processes in its warehouses. Known as IDEA, the plug and play software solution uses algorithmic analysis and data science to optimize picking routes and warehouse staff allocation.

Using the algorithm, orders are clustered logically, which helps optimize picking routes by the warehouse employees. The integrated, intelligent task planning also optimizes workload distribution for employees and helps prioritize more time-critical shipments.

DHL warehouse employee | Image credit: DHL

In its first commercial deployments, IDEA has reduced distance traveled by warehouse employees by up to 50 percent and increased productivity of individual DHL locations by up to 30 percent.

By taking a customer-focused approach in its digitalization and innovation practices, DHL has managed to transform innovative ideas into scalable and commercially viable products that have proven useful in times of major disruptions such as the global pandemic.

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