Using an immersive visualisation Internet of Things (IoT) system, DHL can now view, understand and act in accordance with the data generated by its warehouses, which offer global information on the whole connected infrastructure as well as details of what is going on in a specific sensor. With all this, DHL is going one step further: From installing the technology used for vehicle tracking in its warehouses, it has moved to an IoT system for self-management and communication between them. Javier Esplugas, VP IT Mainland Europe Middle East Africa for the DHL Supply Chain, will explain the Internet of Things model that DHL has implemented for the management of its warehouses. Here we are offering a taster of this IoT success story as applied to logistics.

Esplugas explains how the security of the company’s operational management has been improved, achieving significant savings in the costs related to efficiency of processes by means of a unique interface that connects DHL with all the potential offered by sensor technology, big data, cloud computing and analytics.

 “What we do, essentially, is move things. Consequently, everything related to IoT is vitally important for our organisation. Our company has a huge number of assets in terms of trucks, warehouses, personnel and package movements, vehicles for intralogistics… and we firmly believe that we are at the threshold of a new industrial revolution.”

As far as Esplugas is concerned, this new industrial revolution, with which we are already familiar and is known as Industry 4.0, revolves entirely around digitisation. DHL’s Internet of Things platform consists of self-managing IT systems capable of establishing communications between themselves, and takes the use of new technologies one step further.

More than two years have now passed since DHL instigated the start-up of an IoT-related project in their supply chain.

“Our partner in our IoT project is Cisco, who we provide with logistics services, while as clients of theirs we use their networking equipment. As a result of this project, in 2015 we drew up a report on IoT in the field of logistics which set forth DHL’s vision from the perspective of a large company. One of the success stories for our company has been the positioning technologies used to track vehicles, but this time used in our warehouses.”

Xavi Esplugas also points out that since the explosion of e-commerce, globalisation and economies of scale, DHL needs to manage giant warehouses, some the size of six football pitches, over which it can be extremely difficult to get a global overview.

“In these scenarios, by implementing an IoT project along with smart warehousing methods, we can create an overview of everything that goes on in the warehouse. This overview is primarily fed by the location of the mobile forklifts that are responsible for moving the goods around, as well as the 20 terminals carried by the warehouse staff through which we monitor all the activities taking place.”

The goal: moving boxes as quickly as possible
The DHL executive is pleased with the accuracy of future work forecasts, thanks to which his clients’ lives are made much easier when it comes to making estimates, allowing them to plan sales and rotations. Yet they are still just forecasts.

“Those of us who are actually involved in moving the boxes around can see how the barrier separating the Internet of Things from big data processes is blurring, because the more innovation there is, the more rigorous the results thrown up by predictive demand-driven models will be, and consequently we will achieve greater precision when it comes to determining how many staff are necessary and when.”

Thanks to IoT, DHL has increased its efficiency:

“We are now able to predict much more accurately how many staff we are going to need to get orders out on time; at the same time, it helps us to avoid over-contracting, which might endanger our level of competitiveness in the market. With IoT, we have increased our efficiency levels by around 10%“.

DHL started off its process of IoT immersion for the processes involved in the movements of boxes and personnel inside the warehouse, because these two factors are two of the most significant elements in the organisation’s operating costs, but the firm’s IoT infrastructure is set to grow.

“We expect to integrate IoT platforms in the transport departments, in which case we would be talking about factors such as optimisation of loads, trucks, etc. The developments forthcoming from the use of IoT in the logistics sector will not be in the form of small, specific changes but rather a revolution in the processes that we use for everyday operations at the moment. I firmly believe that we will be seeing disruptive changes in the way logistics operations are managed. All these changes will be related to improvements in route planning, more intensive and efficient use of shared structures, and the minimisation of movements within the warehouse, all of which have the sole objective of improving our efficiency towards our clients so we can continue to support them”, concludes Xavi Esplugas.

AUTHOR: Marga Verdú

SOURCE: IoT Solutions World Congress

Pedro Mier

Pedro Mier holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineer ing from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, MBA from ESADE and PADE from IESE. He is currently President of AMETIC (Association of Electronics, Information Technology and Telecommunications Companies of Spain), Shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of TRYO Aerospace & Electronics, Board Member of the Premo Group and Committee of CTTC. member of Space Angels Network and Member of the Sc ientific Advisory