Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

DHL brings flexible robotics to logistics centres

Steve Rogerson
May 9, 2017

Following a trial, DHL has invested in four collaborative robots for its co-packing customers. The four Sawyer robots will be flexibly used across its 19 co-packing and production logistics centres in the UK.
Sawyer robots are some of the most advanced collaborative robots available and can support production and warehouse staff by automating repetitive tasks. The four robots will allow DHL to leverage automation flexibly, moving the robots between different sites in support of seasonal demands.
DHL is introducing the technology in response to changing requirements from its customer base, who need to meet peaks in demand quickly. The flexible approach ensures production lines are adjusting to change, while also providing additional capacity by filling gaps in the labour market.
Sawyer robots have been evaluated by DHL to ensure their health and safety credentials let them work in close collaboration with the workforce. The robots automatically stop if they touch something unexpected, which means that humans can physically be much closer to the robots without risk of harm. DHL will be up-skilling its existing co-packing teams to support its growth and apply this technology, hiring specialists such as robotics technician, project engineer and other production management roles.
The four robots have been bought following successful trials packing pet food, confectionery, aerosols and canned drinks. Following this initial investment, DHL plans a strategic investment of over £1m in the next 12 months to enhance its commitment to robotics and automation.
"The introduction of collaborative robotics into logistics is something we've been exploring at DHL for a while,” said Simon Woodward, director of production logistics at DHL Supply Chain. “After numerous trials, we are excited to now be offering our Sawyer robots for our co-packing customers. Our customers who work in consumer industries are seeing huge fluctuations in demand as consumer preferences change. The rise of ecommerce has led to a surge in the number of deliveries within the network and the flexible nature of Sawyer allows us to quickly respond to changing needs."
DHL processes more than 50 million cases per annum from the 19 co-pack centres and works with household names across a range of industries. The company is now exploring how automation and robotics can be introduced at other points in the supply chain as well as at its co-packing and production logistics operations.
DHL has launched a domestic ecommerce delivery service with nationwide coverage in Malaysia. Local online retailers will also benefit from DHL's range of cross-border shipping and fulfilment network services.
This should accelerate the ecommerce market in Malaysia, which is expected to grow at CAGR of 15.8% to €1bn by 2020.

"Ecommerce has become a way of life for Malaysians, with 47% already using their smartphones to shop online," said Malcolm Monteiro (pictured left), CEO for Asia Pacific at DHL. "Approximately seven million are already shopping online every month, and with the industry expected to grow to €1bn by 2020 in Malaysia and globally to US$1tn in the same year, businesses need high-quality logistics to leverage this immense growth and meet the rapidly changing needs of online shoppers. This makes the need for a tailored ecommerce delivery service greater than ever before."
The investment in Malaysia includes a 4500 square metre central distribution hub in Puchong as well as depots in Penang, Johor Bahru, Cheras and Puchong and a fleet of two- and four-wheel vehicles. The fleet of vehicles will provide next-day delivery to all urban areas in Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Bahru, and two-to-four-day delivery to all other locations across west and east Malaysia.
DHL's end-to-end domestic delivery operation will offer pick-up services, track and trace, reverse logistics, cash on delivery with daily remittance and call centre capabilities for deliveries within Malaysia. It aims to provide best-in-class domestic delivery with quick, predictive and secure delivery.
Leveraging the company's logistics expertise in more than 220 countries and territories, it is also enabling local online retailers to connect with buyers across the globe through its range of cross-border delivery services and network of fulfilment centres across the world. Merchants will also be able to tap onto a range of IT integration options to simplify shipment preparation.
"The world's fastest growing ecommerce region is Asia Pacific, and Malaysia is one of the most exciting countries with enormous opportunities," said Monteiro. "To win in this space, e-tailers need exceptional customer service supported by seamless and agile logistics. Through our investments, infrastructure and renowned global network, we are well positioned to support the domestic and global growth of local online retailers in Malaysia."
Jason Kong (pictured right), managing director for ecommerce at DHL in Malaysia, added: "With the huge ecommerce growth expected in Malaysia, we believe e-tailers are demanding greater quality and consistency in their logistics. We aim to offer best-in-class logistics for e-tailers in Malaysia so they can focus on growing their business locally and internationally. We are confident that this will benefit the Malaysian ecommerce industry and fuel further growth. Online retailers looking to grow within and beyond Malaysia can now take advantage of our expertise and the group's extensive network to tap into the potential of ecommerce."
Also pictured (centre) is Charles Brewer, CEO for DHL ecommerce.