Amid increasing shipment volumes, DHL Express yesterday said it has partnered with Dorabot Inc. to introduce DHLBot in Singapore and South Korea. The robotic arm uses artificial intelligence to automate parcel sortation. DHLBot will replace manual sortation of small parcels and enable hubs and gateways to handle greater volumes, particularly during peak season. In addition, it can increase overall operational efficiency by at least 40%, claimed DHL.
“Sorting parcels might seem like a straightforward process, but it actually takes a lot of time, effort, and precision to ensure that they get to their addressees without a hitch,” said Ken Lee, CEO of DHL Express Asia Pacific. “These innovations, however minor they seem, will really boost our employees' and operations' productivity and efficiency.”
“The DHLBots are a demonstration of our innovative spirit as we continuously seek solutions to automate repetitive tasks and, correspondingly, position us at the forefront of next-generation express logistics,” he said.
DHL Express said it partnered with Shenzhen, China-based Dorabot to implement the DHLBot after a successful pilot provided “a significant boost” in parcel sortation productivity and service quality. This is especially critical given the consistent growth in shipment volume witnessed across the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2020, DHL Express recorded a 17.3% year-on-year increase in shipment volume during the peak months of November and December. Capable of sorting over 1,000 small parcels per hour with 99% accuracy, the DHLBot reduces the probability of mis-sorting and thus removes the need for secondary sorting, said the company.
Barcode and 3D cameras scan the airway bill on each package for its targeted destination as it travels through the conveyor belt. The DHLBot at the end of the conveyor belt then receives the package's information and its destination.
The AI-based system sorts parcels into respective delivery bins that sit on racks surrounding the robot, each representing an individual courier route. The entire process reduces the dependency on employees to manually read waybills and sort parcels, allowing them to have more time for route planning.
“Maintaining high customer satisfaction levels is an important measure of success to us,” said Sean Wall, executive vice president for network operations and aviation at DHL Express Asia Pacific. “This smart sortation robot enables us to manage the increasing growth of shipment and parcel volume driven by the rise of cross-border e-commerce.”
“It also translates to a safer work environment for our employees, as it lifts their efficiency during peak season when labor demand is high,” Wall said.
DHL invests in innovation
The DHLbot deployment follows Deutsche Post DHL Group's Strategy 2025 goal of “delivering excellence in a digital world.” It is one of many digital transformation projects intended to improve the customer and employee experience, as well as enhance operations.
Another project is its Advanced Quality Control Center, which uses big data and predictive analytics to monitor shipment movements and flag problems in real time.
DHL, which has about 400,000 employees in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide, is part of Deutsche Post DHL Group. The group generated revenues of more than €66 billion ($78.2 billion U.S.) in 2020. The group plans to spend €2 billion ($2.37 billion) on initiatives to derive greater efficiency through automation and robotics, as well as advanced data analytics through 2025.
Founded in 2014, Dorabot develops warehouse automation using AI, computer vision, and deep learning. The company said it provides systems for induction, sorting, transportation, and loading in logistics, e-commerce, manufacturing, and other industries.
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