German logistics giant DHL has revealed it is working with networking giant Cisco and start-up Conduce to create ‘smart warehouses’ in Germany, the Netherlands and Poland.
At the heart of this project, currently being tested in three locations, is Cisco’s Wi-Fi infrastructure technology and Conduce’s operational data visualization platform, which aims to present IoT data to managers in easy to interpret ways, enabling them to figure out what’s happening in their business.
The potential for supply chain operations is pretty clear. According to a DHL blog post, this combination of technologies enables the logistics giant to monitor supply chain activities in real time, by viewing data collected from scanners and material handling equipment in its hubs, as well as from its warehouse management system.
“Visualizing operational data with heat maps has changed the way data is analyzed and used at the pilot sites, and is expected to contribute to operational efficiencies and improve employee safety,” the post states.
Read more: The voice of the warehouse worker
At the DHL pilot sites, the company claims, it has already gained new insights into activity peaks, warehouse layouts and processes, by displaying concentrations of pickers and material handling equipment against a backdrop of warehouse orders in real time, presumably via Conduce’s platform.
According to Conduce CEO Kevin Parent: “The platform does not just display operational data. It unlocks insights on how well warehouses are running. By pulling together data of all elements in a warehouse environment into one unified, engaging interface, Conduce helps decision-makers at DHL to achieve improved, measurable results in the real world.”
Meanwhile, DHL Supply Chain CIO and chief operating officer Markus Voss hints at the kinds of improvements that logic dictates might be useful in many other areas of DHL’s business.
“Through our collaboration with Cisco and Conduce, we are integrating innovative solutions to build the supply chain of tomorrow today,” he states. “This is changing the way we collect, analyze and use data, and ultimately, our ways of working at these sites. By monitoring operational activities in real time, rather than retrospectively, we can interpret data more meaningfully, and immediately re-engineer processes or warehouse layouts to boost operational efficiency and address potential safety blind spots in a warehouse.”
Alexa, where’s my parcel?
In other news from DHL, the company has announced it is launching a new, voice-activated information service based on Amazon Alexa.
Effective immediately, the company says, DHL customers can query Amazon’s Echo and Dot smart speakers for information on the current whereabouts and status of an expected delivery, with a command such as, “Alexa, ask DHL where my parcel is.”
“We want to continually expand and improve service levels for our customers, so of course we’re going to take a close look at any new and innovative technologies available,” said Michaela Lukas, who heads up DHL Parcel’s customer service for private customers. “Voice enabled technologies, including hands-free interaction with online apps, will become more and more prevalent in the future.”