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DHL Supply Chain opens its fully-automated robot picking system

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DHL Supply Chain opens its fully-automated robot picking system. Image: DHL
DHL Supply Chain opens its fully-automated robot picking system. Image: DHL
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DHL Supply Chain, the contract logistics specialist of Deutsche Post DHL Group, is now operating a fully-automated robot picking system at a logistics center in the Lower Saxon municipality of Staufenberg for an important long-time customer, Peek & Cloppenburg Düsseldorf. The system, AutoStore, is made by robot specialist Element Logic and covers 6,000 square meters, making it one of the largest fully-automated storage and order fulfillment systems in Germany. It’s located in one of the five halls at the location, each of which offers 10,000 square meters of space and 50 loading bays. DHL Supply Chain operates this massive logistics center for a range of customers.

Nationwide e-commerce for fashion retailer Peek & Cloppenburg Düsseldorf is just one focus of DHL Supply Chain’s operations in Staufenberg. The location also ships merchandise to end customers in Austria, Poland and the Netherlands. The center handles inbound new merchandise and returns, the warehousing of 3.5 million fashion items, order picking and packing, and the shipping of the goods to end customers.

The AutoStore system there allows merchandise inventory to be fully monitored and controlled, ensuring high efficiency in storage and retrieval. This enables customer orders to be processed and shipped with greater speed and reliability. The interplay of the flexible and modularly expandible robotics solution with the local employees reduces throughput times for individual customer orders, from order placement to dispatch from the warehouse, simplifies operational processes for employees, and increases operating efficiency.

AutoStore offers space-saving warehousing and fully-automated order fulfillment. The basis of the system is a 16-level high aluminum framework in which inventory is stacked and stored in 196,000 plastic bins. Above the bins, the aluminum framework forms a structure called the “grid.” The robots, 160 of them, use the grid to maneuver while picking the items for each individual order fully automatically. The goods are then further processed and prepared for shipping by their human counterparts at 21 “ports.”

“We are thrilled to facilitate the omnichannel growth of a long-time customer like Peek & Cloppenburg Düsseldorf with the help of this automated solution,” says Rainer Haag, CEO of DHL Supply Chain Germany & Alps. “It enhances our partnership and is an investment in the future success of both our companies. E-commerce is one of DHL Supply Chain’s strategic growth sectors. The use of this system is another important building block in the expansion of our e-commerce business and automation strategy. Staufenberg is an ideal location for this operation in terms of transport connections and offers us a direct link to our sister divisions DHL Paket and DHL Express. On average we can deliver 85% of parcels by the next day to recipients in Germany.”

Marco Rebohm, Managing Director of Mode Logistik GmbH & Co. KG, is also pleased with the new AutoStore fulfillment system in Staufenberg. “This type of solution enables us to better meet the needs and expectations of our customers,” he says. “And the higher speed and reliability of the system makes it possible for us to easily handle our steadily growing order volumes. Our vision is to be the leading multi-brand omnichannel retailer for fashion in Europe by 2026, and AutoStore is an important milestone on that path.” Mode Logistik GmbH & Co. KG is a subsidiary of the Peek & Cloppenburg group and oversees logistics for the multi-brand fashion retailer. “We’re happy to have DHL Supply Chain as our partner,” Rebohm continues. “It’s a company with whom we can develop and implement new solutions hand-in-hand.”

District Administrator Marcel Riethig from Göttingen is also excited about the cooperation between Peek & Cloppenburg Düsseldorf and DHL in the area. “It offers enormous opportunities to the people of Staufenberg, the surrounding communities and the region,” he says. “Our central location in the heart of Germany means that Staufenberg also has the potential to benefit from future growth in the logistics sector. The logistics park has played a very important role here for years now. It’s part of the commercial area adjacent to Lutterberg and right next to Autobahn 7.” Bernd Grebenstein, mayor of Staufenberg, also views DHL’s local presence as positive. “That area is the location of what we often call ‘DHL City’. You’ve got DHL Supply Chain, the DHL Paket center and DHL Express center all in one place. The logistics sector has been a welcome partner for the town of Staufenberg for years now. We intend for it to stay that way.” Provided, of course, that traffic doesn’t become too heavy.

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Logistics & Supply Chain

Maersk uses Verity’s warehouse drones for better inventory management

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Maersk uses Verity's warehouse drones for better inventory management. Image: Maersk
Maersk uses Verity's warehouse drones for better inventory management. Image: Maersk
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Warehouse inventory management is one of the most important barometers for supply chain flow, financial cost exposure and business decision-making. It is also one of the most difficult, repetitive and tedious tasks to perform consistently in warehouses, with quality of data often questioned and requiring workers to work at heights.

“As a supply chain integrator, we are constantly looking for new innovations and engineering solutions in our warehouse operations. We wanted to deploy a safer, more accurate, data-driven inventory solution that addressed our decarbonization goals for customers and prevented our workforce from working at heights. Verity’s system has delivered data accuracy, safety and speed which makes our warehouse management system stronger, faster and more effective for customer decision-making.” said Erez Agmoni, Senior Vice President of Innovation & Strategic Growth for Maersk North America.

Verity’s warehouse drones navigate from pallet to pallet, collecting accurate inventory data in three dimensions by scanning barcodes at any height using onboard, high resolution cameras. The system requires one day of operator training, and the electric powered drones return to the battery charging pad when necessary, operating on nights or weekends and without overhead lighting turned on. The drones take photos of SKUs on pallets to identify inventory errors, such as missing or misplaced pallets. Once the data is collected, the system compares the findings with data stored in the warehouse management system and then distills that information into critical insights delivered directly to users via the user dashboard. The results are cloud-based, shareable and provide actionable warehouse data that offers better analytics for supply chain leaders.

“We view the Verity solution as an important differentiator to make our customers more competitive through higher quality, faster inventory data, ” added Mr. Agmoni.

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Logistics & Supply Chain

Topps Tiles optimises its fleet delivery capabilities with Descartes’ solution

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Topps Tiles optimises its fleet delivery capabilities with Descartes’ solution. Image: The Descartes System Group
Topps Tiles optimises its fleet delivery capabilities with Descartes’ solution. Image: The Descartes System Group
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Descartes Systems Group, the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, announced that Topps Tiles, the leading U.K. tile retailer, is optimising its fleet delivery capabilities with Descartes’ cloud-based route planning and optimisation solution. By working with Descartes, Topps Tiles is decreasing the average kilometers driven per delivery route by two percent and gaining a better understanding of the potential impact of changes to its delivery strategies.

“With over 300 stores nationwide in the U.K., we’re continuously evaluating how to maintain a high degree of customer service while reducing operational costs, especially today’s high transportation costs,” said Simon Macdonald, National Transport Manager, Topps Tiles. “Working with Descartes, we’ve replaced manual, spreadsheet-based processes with automated route planning to optimise the volume of tiles being delivered at any given time, as well as the routes our vehicles are travelling. Descartes’ strategic route modelling capabilities are also enabling us to model delivery scenarios and make more informed strategic decisions, which would have been nearly impossible with traditional resource-intensive analytical methods.”

Part of its Routing, Mobile and Telematics suite, Descartes’ route planning and optimisation solution helps brands, retailers and logistics providers reduce costs with more agile and efficient routing, improve fleet resource management by generating additional delivery capacity and become more sustainable through the reduction of their CO2 footprint and their use of paper across the route network. The strategic route modelling capabilities allow companies to understand and optimize their delivery and customer service strategies before having to execute them. Descartes’ mobile application helps drivers perform their daily routes, keeps managers aware of the progress and provides an accurate estimated-time-of-arrival to notify customers of their deliveries. Proof of delivery capabilities support customer service excellence and order accuracy through real-time mobile communication.

“Topps Tiles’ long-term success is based upon its ability to continually provide customers with a superior shopping experience while offering cost competitive pricing,” said Pól Sweeney, VP Fleet Sales in Europe at Descartes. “We’re delighted to help Topps Tiles minimize its operational costs today through our route planning and optimisation solution and in the future with our strategic route modelling capabilities.”

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Logistics & Supply Chain

Maersk outlines power of electrical vehicles in sustainable supply chains

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Maersk outlines power of electrical vehicles in sustainable supply chains. Image: Maersk
Maersk outlines power of electrical vehicles in sustainable supply chains. Image: Maersk
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Speaking at a Zero Emission Fleet Workshop in Phoenix, Arizona in January 2023, Maersk executives outlined what’s important in the Electrical Vehicle journey for customers to know as they plan for sustainable supply chains.

The first requirement is management commitment to the decarbonization goal of net zero and the long-term investment in its multi-year effort. In 2018, Maersk committed to Net Zero Green House Gas emissions by 2050. Last year, that date was accelerated by 10 years to 2040 across all modes and businesses as part of a comprehensive Environmental, Social Governance (ESG) plan. In March 2022, Maersk North America ordered 436 Electrical vehicles (Class 8 trucks) to replace diesel trucks. Decarbonizing inland transportation through heavy duty, electric trucks and the creation of charging station infrastructure benefits supply chains and communities, and is central to Maersk’s inland transportation ESG plans.

“By using Class 8 electric trucks, we will be reducing traffic noise and emissions in the communities we serve to fully comply with upcoming regulations. Our goal in the near future is for Maersk North America to be charging our entire fleet with 100 percent renewable electricity to offer our customers an environmentally-friendly alternative for short-haul trucking.” said Carlo Bertani, Maersk’s North America Environmental Manager.

The second requirement in EV operations is the ability to scale and look for partners. Maersk partnered with TEC Equipment – a Volvo Trucks’ Certified EV Dealership, who helped identify the ideal truck configurations needed to operate daily freight routes. This partnership allowed Maersk to leverage Volvo Trucks’ Electric Performance Generator (EPG) tool, which simulates real-world routes and determines which ones are best suited based on environmental factors such as route details, traffic patterns, speed, payload, terrain and ambient temperature. The EPG also considers if an opportunity charge (the optimal location for charging infrastructure) would be required. Volvo Trucks turnkey solution is used for the first six years of ownership that provides 24/7 support, scheduled and preventative maintenance, towing and vehicle repair (including the energy storage unit and the complete electromobility system) to ensure peak vehicle uptime, performance and productivity.

“Both Volvo Trucks and TEC Equipment continue to go above and beyond to support our growing battery-electric fleet operations. One example is the ongoing training they are providing to help our drivers optimize the range of the Volvo VNR Electric, including how to leverage regenerative braking benefits to add power back to the battery.” commented Michael Gallagher, Head of Indirect Sourcing, North America, at Maersk North America.

One of the challenges with the operation of Class 8 EVs is the lack of charging infrastructure. To mitigate this, Maersk is working cooperatively with public utilities and local officials to ensure that charging infrastructure is built in strategically-placed locations to maximize the efficiency of trucking operations. The company also worked with their warehouse leasing partner’s mobility unit, Prologis Mobility, to combine electric charging infrastructure into existing warehouse facilities to optimize truck deployment.

To comply with future regulations, Federal, State and Local funding incentives are aimed at accelerating scalability of EVs. EVs and battery performance are still in the early years of adoption and do not come without challenges. The cost of an electric vehicle is 2-3x more than a diesel vehicle and while battery performance will evolve to improve in duration and weight reduction, the reality is that early adopters of the technology are working to determine the best path forward. For example, current battery technology averages 275 miles on a full charge and a battery can add >6000 lbs. of extra weight to a truck. Charging time depends on the battery’s state of charge, the charging rate of the dispenser and the truck’s ability to accept a certain rate of charge. Initial charging times are approximately 75 minutes but are improving over time.

Regulatory compliance with climate change goals in California and New York are bringing new mandates for all new trucks to be zero emissions by 2045. The State of California has a target of 100 percent of passenger and light-duty truck sales to be zero emissions by 2035, medium and heavy-duty trucks by 2045.

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