CEO says that the technology has matured enough to justify investment
DHL has told Bloomberg that it will invest $300 million into various automation technologies – including AI and robots – to handle the surge in e-commerce demand.
In an interview, Scott Sureddin, CEO of DHL Supply Chain North America, said, « The maturity of the technology in this area has really improved, so it’s given us an opportunity to make a larger investment. »
DHL plans to bring the new technologies to 350 of its 430 facilities in North America. They include autonomous trolleys that can shadow a human worker as they move around a warehouse, and robots that can pick and sort products by themselves.
The company withdrew from from the US domestic parcel business in 2008, but still competes with major rivals like UPS and FedEx to provide warehousing and fulfillment centre services to shippers. This industry undergone huge growth in recent years, as e-commerce shipments surge. DHL’s e-commerce business in North America has increased 25 per cent this year.
Jim Gehr, president of retail for the North American unit, says that the new technologies are already proving their value, with productivity and processing capacity up 25 and 30 per cent, respectively.
« It’s unprecedented, like nothing we’ve ever seen before, » he told Bloomberg. « These are really needle-moving technologies. »
Sureddin added that more development is on the way, with DHL planning to open a 2,230 square metre innovation centre near Chicago in September 2019. It will use the space to develop new tools to ‘speed the flow of products’.