Package delivery sounds like a low-tech industry: carry a cardboard box from one location to another. But DHL is finding surprising ways that high-tech can transform the delivery industry.
Amazon made headlines when it received approval to test delivery via drones. The Amazon Prime Air service hopes to deliver packages within 30 minutes. But while the FAA just gave Amazon permission to test its drone delivery service this year, DHL has already tested using drones to deliver packages in Germany. Drones were used to provide delivery service to an island which previously received deliveries by boat. While the flights were autonomous and there was a restricted area set aside for the drone project, a ground station monitored the flights and was ready to take action if needed. The ground crew also stayed in touch with air traffic control.
DHL worked with one of its clients, Ricoh, to use Google glasses to speed the process of creating packages. Instead of working with a paper order list and a handheld scanner to record the selected packages, the order picker can view all the needed info on the glass. Though it was only used for a limited time during a pilot project, the Google Glass-equipped employees filled orders more quickly and accurately.
There's no mention of whether Google's self-driving cars might help DHL deliver packages by truck, but self-driving vehicles might make it into DHL's warehouses in the form of self-driving forklifts.
Printing Products on Demand
In one vision of the future, delivery services aren't needed because home-based 3D printers will create products immediately upon purchase. For higher-end products that need better printers than households could afford, DHL has even considered warehousing high-end 3D printers to fulfill those orders.
The company is experimenting with high-tech software, too. The logistics business is heavily data-driven. DHL has plans to use big data to improve operations through optimizing delivery routes. Big Data may help the company improve customer relations by predicting customer behavior. It might also identify new lines of business by selling market intelligence to its customers.