Interview with Manoella Wilbaut, Head of Global Commercial Developments and Sustainability , DHL, by James Bourne
Like many organisations, logistics giant DHL continually looks at ways business and employee efficiency can be improved for a better working environment. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is no ordinary opportunity.
In April, DHL and Cisco released a joint report which argued the technology could give a $1.9 trillion (£1.29tn) boost to logistics and supply chain operations over the coming decade. Among the initiatives DHL is exploring in new technology include ‘vision picking’, successfully trialled last year whereby warehouse operators use augmented reality and smart glasses for more efficient pickups, as well as utilising smart inventory management, damage detection, real-time visibility and accurate inventory control into its warehouses through IoT.
Manoella Wilbaut, speaking at the IoT Tech Expo Europe in February, is head of global commercial developments and sustainability at DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. She explains the key opportunities for IoT in the logistics industry can be put into three categories; warehousing operations, freight transport, and last mile delivery – the final leg of delivering a service to a customer, which is often less efficient than the previous steps.
To that end, DHL is introducing Parcelbox, which allows users to install a personal locker at their front door to ensure parcels are delivered instead of the dreaded ‘sorry we missed you’ slip of paper. The product is already available in Germany, with several other European countries in the testing phase.
Where the IoT fits into this, Wilbaut argues, is through temperature controlled smart lockers for groceries – perhaps even through a smart fridge which orders products when it checks supplies are low. “Last mile delivery is characterised by high dependency on labour, and growing demand for more convenient delivery points,” Wilbaut explains. “As parcel volumes grow and increasingly more people order their grocery supplies online, we can imagine a future in which temperature-controlled smart lockers eventually replace traditional mailboxes to accommodate this development.”
Even though DHL predicts the outlook looks good for the IoT transforming logistics, there are still challenges to overcome. “We must establish clear rules and protocols on the right to collect, own, transfer and process data that is collected from sensors and other devices,” says Wilbaut. “Successful implementation necessitates collaboration between different players with a shared goal to create a thriving IoT ecosystem. At the heart are privacy and security concerns, and the ownership of data.
Clearly, there is a difference between predicting figures in 10 years time and hard business objectives. Going back to the vision picking example, the trial was a success after 25% greater warehouse efficiency was noted. In the company’s words, it ‘proved that augmented reality offers added value to logistics.’
Wilbaut argues the need for reliable IT systems and sharing mechanisms in this mix. “Even if all those challenges are overcome, IoT applications need to deliver a real business case around technology with significant bottom line improvements for the company,” she says.
So long as this occurs, the possibilities are limitless, with the healthcare, energy, and automotive sectors ripe for change. Wilbaut singles out the latter as most exciting. “We are already entering the phase where partially automated systems will improve vehicle safety and fuel efficiency, but drivers remain in the vehicle,” she says. “Today, the world’s leading automotive and technology companies are showcasing prototypes and many vehicles on our roads have already adopted a number of the key technologies required for autonomous driving.”
Wilbaut is speaking at IoT Tech Expo on February 10 within the Connected Industry track on the subject of predictive maintenance, and she notes the importance of this subject. “A sudden and unexpected breakdown of a truck can have significant consequences for transport companies and their customers,” Wilbaut explains. “Our goal is to leverage data analytics to estimate asset failure and automatically schedule maintenance.
By doing this we aim to improve fleet productivity, optimise vehicle utilisation, and improve safety which in turn translates into additional value for our customers,” she adds.
Manoella Wilbaut is speaking at the IoT Tech Expo within the Connected Industry track. Register your pass here: http://gateway.iottechexpo.com/europe/central-grid/register/