Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

DHL tests robot pickers at supply chain warehouse

Steve Rogerson
June 16, 2016
DHL has run a pilot test of robot technology for collaborative automated order picking in a supply chain warehouse in Unna, Germany.
The robot called EffiBot from the French start-up Effidence is a fully automated trolley that follows pickers through the warehouse and takes care of most of the physical work. It is designed to work safely with and around people.
During the test, two robots supported the pickers by carrying the weight and automatically dropping off the orders once fully loaded. The warehousing staff highly appreciated the option to work hands-free and not having to push or pull heavy carts.
A common problem for today's logistics sector is the high frequency of picking processes in smaller entities due to reduced inventories and increased online shopping. In a non-automated setting manual pickers are confronted with heavy carts and high payloads restricting the picker to single order picking while forcing them to walk longer distances.
"The picking cart follows the picker through the rack system," said Michael Artinger, site manager at DHL, who was responsible for the test. “Once it reaches full capacity, the picker simply sends it to the designated drop-off location, while another picking cart joins. This makes moving from single to multi-order picking a more efficient and ergonomic process.”
In addition to EffiBot, collaborative robots for value-added services such as co-packing as well as mobile piece picking robots autonomously navigating through warehouse shelves are being tested.
"In the following weeks, DHL will continuously perform tests with different robot types and systems," said Markus Kückelhaus, VP for innovation at DHL. "These evaluation results will then determine which technologies will be permanently implemented and position DHL as one of the leaders in an automated future of logistics."
DHL has launched the Carbon Calculator, which lets its customers calculate, free of charge, transport-related emissions for almost all shipment sizes and modes of transport. The calculation is carried out online based on intelligent algorithms.
"While many other computational tools provide only a rough estimate of the transport emissions and the route, the Carbon Calculator taps into real logistics data," said Kathrin Brost, vice president for DHL’s green strategy.
Those data include the route to the nearest airport or harbour, the main leg by air or sea and the last kilometre in the destination country. To determine the level of emissions, the calculator uses data from DHL’s carbon accounting and controlling department.
The computational methodology reflects recognised greenhouse gas protocol standards, the European Standard EN 16258 as well as the guidelines of the Global Logistics Emissions Council.
"With the intuitively operated Carbon Calculator, our customers can determine in advance the exact environmental impact of their shipment, at any time, from any place and free of charge,” said Katharina Tomoff, DHL vice president.
To calculate the emissions, the user enters the sender's and receiver's locations, as well as the weight and volume of a shipment. Then they select the preferred mode of transport. Based on the entries, the calculator recommends a shipping route, which the user can modify further. Using this, the tool calculates the amount of CO2 equivalent emissions that the transport will generate. Enquiries are free of charge on the system and can be entered without registration; registered users also have access to an expanded range of analytical functions.