DHL and Blue Yonder collaborate on warehouse robotics

  • June 30, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

DHL Supply Chain has launched a warehouse plug-and-play robotics platform in collaboration with Microsoft and Arizona-based artificial intelligence (AI) digital fulfilment provider Blue Yonder.
The robotics platform can reduce integration time and programming efforts to on-board automation devices into warehouse facilities, while giving DHL customers more flexibility in selecting suitable robotics systems according to their business needs. The platform leverages Microsoft Azure IoT and cloud platform services.
“The global deployment of robots and robotic systems is integral to our strategy to support our employees and improve customer operations,” said Markus Voss, CIO and COO at DHL Supply Chain. “Automation and collaborative robotics help us make operational processes more flexible, ergonomic and more attractive to our employees by replacing monotonous, repetitive and particularly strenuous activities. The aim is not to replace employees over time, but to assign the more attractive and interesting tasks to our human workforce.”
There are more than 2000 operational sites across DHL Supply Chain, so the company says it knows how complex, time-consuming and costly it can be to integrate new robots into existing platforms and connect to clients’ various warehouse management systems.
“This is exactly where the new platform is so effective,” said Voss. “Our first implementation on the new platform with 6 River Systems at one of our Madrid sites is already showing a 60% reduction in integration times, but with subsequent deployments we foresee further improvements of up to 90%.”
The implementation in Madrid has already demonstrated that the platform can reduce complexity and accelerate the integration of robotic systems into an existing warehouse management system. At the same time, the platform gives greater flexibility in selecting and integrating different robotics vendors in one system.
The robotics platform is powered by Blue Yonder’s Luminate platform, with machine-learning (ML)-driven task management capabilities that enable a high level of warehouse operational efficiency.
“By using Blue Yonder’s Luminate Platform, DHL was able to offer a solution that can be implemented across all of its distribution centre sites seamlessly through a cloud SaaS application,” said Girish Rishi, CEO of Blue Yonder. “In the age of labour market shortages during peak season, DHL sites can now bring on a robotics vendor quickly to augment its resource capacity and support its workforce. This project was a true collaboration across all stakeholders.”
With this collaboration, DHL Supply Chain, Microsoft and Blue Yonder have combined their strengths in customer-centric contract logistics, secure cloud computing at global scale and seamless end-to-end supply chain integration to improve warehouse management and operational ability for a wide range of industry users.
“Building a resilient and flexible supply chain is essential to respond to constantly changing customer needs,” said Sam George, corporate vice president for Azure IoT at Microsoft. “By digitising their warehouse solutions, DHL is dramatically simplifying the integration of complex IoT systems and unlocking new business opportunities for the logistics industry. The result: greater advancements in speed, global scale, cost reduction and security.”
While the software platform is just one part of DHL Supply Chain’s company-wide digitalisation strategy – that includes the use of DHL’s focus technologies such as robots, smart operations through wearable devices and data analytics – it plays an essential role in facilitating and accelerating the deployment of technologies on a large scale.
The ML-driven digital fulfilment platform from Blue Yonder, formerly JDA Software, comes from more than 35 years of domain expertise, contextual intelligence and data science.