DHL has brought together cutting-edge frontrunners and start-ups in logistics and technology with its annual DHL Innovation Day in Germany. Competitions, interactive sessions and keynote speeches proposed new social approaches to transport and reimagined the future of tech in the industry.
Participants answered DHL’s call for a new mobile-piece picking robot prototype, as well as ideas for incorporating sharing economy strategies into logistics. Vecna from the US won the Robotics Challenge, while the start-up Parcelly from the UK took home the prize in the Sharing Economy Challenge. Entrepreneurs pitched ideas in the “Shark Tank” with KWIK being declared the winner, and PACCAR Parts was recognised for working with DHL on the most innovative customer solution.
“The pivotal forces of digitalisation and globalisation are reshaping our world, and DHL is committed to facilitating innovation that prepares us for these changes. We couldn’t think of a better way to discuss the endless possibilities ahead of us than by bringing together these creative minds at our DHL Innovation Day. We congratulate all of the winners for pushing us one step closer to the future of logistics,” said Matthias Heutger, senior vice president DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.
Excellence through innovation
From March to September this year, DHL accepted entries from all over the globe, proposing new prototypes for autonomous mobile-piece picking robots for warehouses, as well as sharing economy solutions for logistics. Finalists were selected by senior DHL executives, with three finalists for each challenge presenting their solutions in front of 180 senior supply chain professionals at DHL Innovation Day. Winners were chosen with a live audience vote.
For the Robotics Challenge, which was hosted in collaboration with DELL EMC, finalists from Singapore, Switzerland, and the US demonstrated their prototypes live. The robots were designed to autonomously navigate a warehouse and collect boxes of varying sizes from shelves to place in a cart. The winner, the Piece Picking Robot from US-based Vecna, received a grand prize of EUR15,000, as well as a chance to participate in a proof-of-concept with DHL.
“We are thrilled that our prototype proved itself to be fit for the challenge of autonomous picking and excited to see how far our robot can go through our partnership with DHL,” said Daniel Theobald of Vecna.
Dell EMC co-sponsored this year’s DHL Innovation Day. As a company with a strong track record in delivering innovative solutions for organizations undergoing IT transformation, Dell EMC is well positioned to help tech leaders of the future explore new horizons in cutting-edge robotics and logistics. Timmy O’Dwyer, vice president, Global Parts Operations and Limerick Site Leader at Dell EMC, said, “As one of the largest technology solution companies in the world, it has been a fantastic opportunity for Dell EMC to co-sponsor this initiative. We believe Innovation is at the core of digital transformation, and are proud to be involved in this robotics challenge.”
Finalists of the Sharing Economy Challenge also presented their inspirational solutions aimed at rethinking the status quo of access and ownership. Out of over 60 submissions from around the globe, Parcelly took first place with their platform that coordinates convenient package drop-offs at local businesses, along with immediate notification and flexible pick-up times.
“We are encouraged by DHL’s openness to logistics strategies that challenge conventional business models,” said Sebastian Steinhauser from Parcelly. “We are absolutely on board with adapting to customers’ changing needs by extending the capabilities at the first and last mile of the DHL network, allowing dynamic on-demand pick up and drop off.”
Ending the conference on a high, four start-ups participated in a Shark Tank competition, in which entrepreneurs presented their ideas before an expert jury consisting of Dr Alex von Frankenberg of High-Tech Gründerfonds, renowned founder and tech investor Frank Thelen of Freigeist, and Peer Bentzen of Deutsche Post DHL Group. The start-up of choice, KWIK, won and will have the chance to conduct a proof of concept with DHL and showcase its solution at the DHL Innovation Center.
KWIK impressed the judges with its online shopping solution that allows customers to reorder their favourite products with just the push of a button. KWIK’s open marketplace and analytics dashboard also offers brands the ability to develop a direct relationship with customers.
“It was a great platform to illustrate how our solution combines the Internet of Things and online shopping to the benefit of both customers and companies,” said Ofer Klein, CEO and cofounder of KWIK.
Pushing the limits of logistics
DHL also recognised the most innovative customer solution from the past year. Michiel Greeven, executive vice president Sales Europe, DHL Express presented the honour to PACCAR Parts in recognition of their role in the co-creation DHL MetriX Freight, a high-potential dimensioning system developed by startup company Metrilus GmbH, jointly with DHL’s innovation team. The need for a modern, low-cost, high performance dimensioning system was identified during an Innovation Center tour and workshop. Based on the camera sensors of a renowned game console manufacturer and Metrilus state-of-the-art software algorithms, DHL MetriX Freight allows for accurate measurement of a piece of freight – regardless of shape – in less than a second, a process that previously required up to a minute and two employees. A pilot was conducted with DHL, PACCAR Parts, and software start-up Metrilus and subsequently scaled up to five additional DHL sites. PACCAR Parts has shown a people- and quality-first approach, promoting a culture highly receptive to new technologies. Ever looking towards the next innovation, DHL and PACCAR’s brand DAF will conduct a platooning pilot to demonstrate the safety and efficiency of wirelessly-linked truck combinations, or “platoons”, in 2019.
Keynote speakers inspired attendees with new insights on social issues and technology. Thomas Ogilvie, board member for Human Resources at Deutsche Post DHL Group, emphasised how cultural change and innovation can be mutually beneficial, while Lufthansa’s Dr Christian Langer presented the impact of digitalisation and evolving planning processes on business improvement efforts. Anab Jain of Superflux discussed future-focused topics from the internet of things to climate change in her talk on why imagining different futures matters.
DHL Innovation Day presents a chance to bring together senior supply chain leaders, innovators, industry partners, and start-ups once a year to push the limits of logistics and technology. Here the audience sees live demonstrations of new prototypes and participates through interactive workshops, voting on challenge winners, and the active exchange of ideas.
DHL’s challenges for 2017 focused on social issues, tech, and entrepreneurship and allowed an opportunity for bright minds from around the world to showcase ideas that could change the landscape of the logistics industry.