*This article was originally published in September 2016.
6 technologies that will change the logistics industry by 2030
Big data, sensor technology, augmented reality, 3D printing, robots and drones. Markus Kückelhaus from DHL reveals how these technology trends will affect the logistics industry in the next 5-15 years.
“Logistics used to be a quite boring industry with a very low level of innovation. But now we see many start-up companies trying to improve efficiency in different areas of logistics. This makes the industry much more interesting than in the past, ” Markus said.
Markus Kückelhaus is Vice President of Innovation & Trend Research at DHL’s innovation center in Bonn, where he along with a dedicated team of trend researchers investigate and develop new trends in logistics:
“We believe that you as company must help to drive changes within your industry in order to not lag behind. We are continuously investigating trends that we think will affect the future of the logistics industry. Along with external researchers and technology companies we are developing and testing these trends at DHL‘s innovation centers in Bonn and Singapore. With more than 6,000 annual customer visits at the innovation centers, we are able to capture feedback as an indicator of whether customers find our innovations relevant. ”
Big data can be used in several ways depending on the type of data, i.e. you can use data from your shipments to show what type of delivery is the most popular.
DHL has tested big data in risk management, where they have collected internal and external logistics statistic reports on failed shipments and risks in logistics.
They have collated this data, which they can use to manage risk in several ways, i.e. when risk arises they can advise their customers and suppliers proactively on potentially failed shipments.
DHL wants to increase the use of sensors in logistics by looking at how we use sensors in our daily lives.
They have studied the sensors in X-box game consoles, which has motion and depth sensors. DHL sees potential in using these within logistics to show the available capacity on pallets, trucks or at the warehouse.
DHL has successfully tested augmented reality glasses on warehouse staff when they are picking goods.
The glasses can scan barcodes and show the warehouse operative their picking list, where on the shelf the goods are located, and where the goods should be placed in the picking trolley.
This way the picker has their hands free and the need for a physical pick list or hand scanner is obsolete. DHL is now launching the smart glasses in warehouses across Europe, USA and Asia.
DHL has tested 3D printing on different types of goods at their own warehouses.
They identified a number of challenges in terms of quality, cost and product liability, which means that up to 80% of the goods at DHL‘s warehouses are not suitable for 3D printing as yet.
However, DHL see a great potential in 3D printing in niche healthcare markets such as hearing aids and tooth implants.
80% of the world’s warehouses are manually managed today. But there is great potential in using robots to automate warehouse processes.
DHL is currently testing robots that integrate with warehouse operators, i.e. the self-driving picking trolley, which automatically follows the operator around the warehouse, and with the push of a button the self-automated trolley drives to the packing station when it is full and simultaneously sends an empty picking trolley back to the picking operative. This makes the picking more efficient and less ergonomic burdensome.
Drones have achieved greater media attention over the last few years.
DHL has successfully tested drone delivery in areas with a lack of infrastructure. They have found rural areas most relevant for drone deliveries, since cities provide many challenges.
A lot is possible with drones, but the biggest challenge is the regulatory aspect, especially in Germany and European countries in general.