Digital innovation in logistics warehouses
Business Chief takes a look at three leading logistics companies and how they are digitalising their warehouses.
With technology evolving at an exponential rate, and the logistics industry needing flexible solutions for its complex operation, we take a closer look at some of the successful deployments of digitalisation within the warehouses of leading logistic companies around the world.
Founded in 1907, UPS has been “breaking barriers throughout its 100 years as a leader in global commerce.” Within the company's international supply chain and freight operations, its key services include: logistics, distribution, transportation, freight (air, sea, ground and rail) and freight forwarding.
To combat the challenges that come with providing efficient and on time delivery during peak seasons, UPS is utilising new technologies within its warehouse facilities to create operational precision and network efficiencies.
“Our transformation initiatives are enabling UPS to perform at high levels, even as we handle nearly double the average daily package volume as the rest of the year. We are confident we will sustain these high levels of service and we’re ready to take on even more customer shipments in the coming weeks,” commented David Abney, CEO and Chairman of UPS.
New technologies UPS is harnessing include:
Advanced analytics - UPS has developed a peak volume alignment tool (PVAT) utilising advanced analytics to efficiently manage loads by synchronising its volume demands and capacity. In addition to PVAT, UPS is utilising advanced analytics to better forecast its package volume that needs to be processed.
Network planning tool (NPT) - By utilising advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and operations research, UPS has developed its NPT to help coordinate tractor-trailer movements between its sortation hubs to reduce bottlenecks.
Dynamic Sort Instruction (DSI) - To increase employee productivity and reduce training time, UPS has developed a bluetooth audio device that gives its employees processing instructions as they scan packages.
In addition to its new in-house technology, UPS has been utilising innovations for its drivers too. These include mobile tools to improve onboarding and effectiveness, via a delivery helper app. UPS has also developed UPSNav to provide drivers with higher levels of accuracy and precision when making deliveries.
As a result of UPS’ global deployments of automation, AI and advanced analytics, UPS has seen between 25-35% higher efficiency.
With over 140 years of experience supporting the global exchange of goods, DB Schenker strives to provide its customers with “innovative supply chain solutions to challenge the status quo.” DB Schenker provides its solutions for land transport, air freight, ocean freight, contract logistics and supply chain management.
Robotics powered by AI
To provide flexible solutions within its warehouses to drive productivity, DB Schenker has been utilising the combination of AI and robotics with the help of Gideon Brothers - a global manufacturer of autonomous robots.
With the digital age becoming increasingly complex, DB Schenker strives to offer its clients a strategic advantage. “DB Schenker continuously explores opportunities to integrate innovations from visionary start-up companies,” commented Xavier Garijo, Member of the Board for Contract Logistics at Schenker AG. “Delivering automation possibilities for logistics and warehouse operations is a foundation for building the next generation supply chain."
“This is a technological leap,” commented Matija Kopic%u0301, CEO and Co-Founder of Gideon Brothers. The robotics developed by DB Schenker and Gideon Brothers utilises a visual perception based robotic autonomy system that combines deep learning and stereoscopic cameras, to provide next generation robotics vision. In addition to its next generation robotic vision, the robots can move 800kg and have a hot-swappable battery system to minimise downtime.
“Self-driving machines, powered by vision and AI, will succeed where earlier technology failed,” added Kopic%u0301. “It will become ubiquitous in industrial environments.”
Speaking with Oscar de Bok, CEO of DHL Supply Chain in January’s edition of Business Chief, de Bok highlighted the need for flexible solutions as supply chains become increasingly complex and the importance of a large global company such as DHL having a strategy that utilises digitalisation and collaborative robotics. Between now and 2025 the company aims to invest US$2.2bn into digitalisation of its logistics and robotics.
From cleaning robots to robotic arms within DHL’s warehouses, its operations are seeing the benefits of digital automation to enhance its workforce.
Cleaning robots (Neo) - Developed by Avidbots, DHL has deployed its cleaning robots in multiple standard warehouses, to reduce the need for people to complete repetitive and tedious tasks.
‘Follow me’ robots - Designed by Effidence, it is a simple trolly that follows an associate will they pick items to help transport the load. Once it is full you can simply press a button to send it on its way, while another replaces it.
Robot arms (Sawyer) - Sawyer is a robotic arm developed to sense its surrounded removing the need for it to be static and caged. This robotic arm can be moved to where it is needed to complete repetitive and mundane tasks.
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Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.