Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

DHL and Huawei halve logistics waiting times in China

William Payne
September 12, 2017



DHL and Huawei have launched a supply chain NB-IoT application at an automotive site in Liuzhou, China. The companies say the pilot has already cut by half waiting times for inbound logistics.
 
Building on existing infrastructure, the application is designed to streamline yard management for inbound-to-manufacturing logistics. It is intended to improve significantly inbound processing time at the site. The proof of concept will run until the end of September with 100 DHL drivers at a section with 30 docks.
 
DHL and Huawei are integrating NB-IoT chipsets that use common cellular telecommunications bands such as LTE, allowing for a simple and cost-effective implementation. Vehicle detectors are embedded with these chipsets, which do not require any infrastructure investments. Data are transmitted using existing public base stations that have been upgraded to support NB-IoT.
 
"In leveraging Huawei's and China Mobile's NB-IoT technology, we were able to design and develop this unique solution," said Yin Zou, CEO for DHL Supply Chain in Greater China. “Supported by a range of industrial, multimedia IoT protocols and interfaces, it offers connectivity, smart operations and device management functions. Exploring new technologies like NB-IoT is one of many ways we are forging forward with our digitalisation journey in China.”
 
Within each terminal, DHL Supply Chain is able to collect clear dock availability automatically in real time, which in return provides visibility to the dispatcher and drivers. When a lorry arrives, its driver checks in via an app on a mobile receiving a queue number and an estimated waiting time. The yard management system then automatically screens the docks for their availability, providing each driver with real-time status updates visible via the app.
 
As soon as a dock is free, the driver is notified to proceed accordingly. This way, inbound lorries can be prioritised to the manufacturing site's needs and shipments are unloaded at the most appropriate dock. The two companies report that this is halving the waiting time for drivers from an average waiting time of 40 minutes, significantly reducing the risks of manufacturing delays as materials arrive in time and resources are optimised appropriately.
 
DHL's proof of concept is expected to be enhanced with additional features such as automatic number plate recognition and geo-fencing. It joins other DHL IoT projects, such as the launch of IoT cockpits within smart warehouses across Europe and pilots in Asia.
 
"By 2025, internet of things has the potential to generate up to €1.77tn in additional value for the international logistics industry," said Markus Voss, chief operating officer for DHL Supply Chain. “Together with Huawei, we want to pursue this path in developing cellular-based IoT technology able to connect to multiple devices across long distances. Our goal is to enable a more integrated logistics value chain through greater connectivity, enhancing the customer experience.”