TNB: Can you tell our readers a little bit about DHL Supply Chain?
DHL: Of course. DHL Supply Chain is part of the DPDHL Group and is the global market leader in the contract logistics industry.
Around the world we have a presence in more than 55 countries but here in the UK, we have 41,000 employees supporting 400 operations and a fleet of over 9,000 vehicles.
TNB: And what does the business do exactly?
DHL: In essence we provide solutions that span the product lifecycle.
To begin with, we help manufacturers produce more by managing the inbound flow of components from supplier collections, sequencing and lineside delivery.
Then, once the product is made, we are able to get it to where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, helping our customers to reduce their order-to-cash cycle.
Likewise, if the products need servicing we can store and distribute parts to our customers so they can be back up and running as quickly as possible.
TNB: And how is business?
DHL: Well, now more than ever, the importance of supply chain operations has come into sharp focus across the UK and we’re incredibly proud of the contribution that we’ve made over the last few months to support our customers and the country through the Covid-19 crisis, as well as the role we’ve been able to play in the industry.
Whether by joining the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium or supporting the creation of emergency field hospitals across the country, or setting up pop-up fulfilment centres to support surges in demand in the ecommerce sector, we’ve played a key role in helping others navigate the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the last year we’ve been able to extend relationships with key customers, such as Aston Martin, as well as acquiring new customers such as Sunseeker, the luxury yacht brand.
TNB: What’s the picture like for you in the coming months?
DHL: The global pandemic has created a monumental challenge not just for the supply chain industry, but for the business community as a whole. No one knows exactly what the next 12 months has in store, but it is clear that we’ll need to demonstrate agility and draw on all our resources as well as the strength and experience of our people across the business, to respond to the needs of our customers as they pivot or rebuild their operations.
TNB: Looking further ahead then, what are the big issues or technological advances that fill you with positivity?
DHL: We are focused on a number of technology and digitalisation initiatives across our business designed to keep us at the forefront of our industry. We currently have more than 1,300 digital initiatives running in more than 340 warehouses worldwide. By the end of this year we expect that nearly 80% of all our 2,200 warehouses will be using some kind of automation.
In particular we continue to innovate in robotics and automation as these areas of technology have the potential to greatly improve our efficiency and safety. An automated warehouse has the ability to work 24 hours a day, seven days, without the need to be trained or briefed on shifts. This brings a new level of flexibility for warehouse managers who want to optimise output.
Likewise, we’re looking closely at the role of data analytics and automation to maintain and repair the warehouse environment, as this will minimise downtime and lower costs.
Automation with collaborative robots is the most important physical technology to change the logistics industry and supply chain environment. We are increasingly seeing companies combine physical equipment with support software to maximize the mountain of new data created by automated technologies.
Finally, in the post-covid environment, access to cash and the ability to invest in capital equipment is becoming ever more prominent. As a result, we are focusing on this area to provide flexibility for our customers. For example, our investment in flexible lease options means we can offer a significantly reduced capital overlay and an improved gearing ratio for the customer, allowing them to treat assets as an operating lease as opposed to an item on their balance sheet.
Mike Bristow, Managing Director, Manufacturing Logistics for the UK & Ireland region of DHL Supply Chain