DHL Express Deploys AI-Enabled Sorting Robot

DHL ParcelBot400x275

September 6, 2021

International express service provider DHL Express has announced DHLBot, an artificial intelligence-powered robotic arm that automates parcel sortation in two countries in the Asia Pacific region. The DHLBot will replace manual sortation of small parcels and enable hubs and gateways to handle greater volumes, particularly during peak season, while increasing operational efficiency by at least 40%, the company said in a statement.

“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 addresses without a hitch,” said Ken Lee, CEO of DHL Express Asia Pacific. “These innovations, however minor they may 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.”

DHL Express said it teamed up with Dorabot, an AI-powered robotic solution provider, to implement the DHLBot, following a successful pilot that saw a significant boost in parcel sortation productivity and service quality. This is important given the consistent growth in shipment volume witnessed across the region. In 2020, DHL Express said it recorded a 17.3% year-on-year increase in shipment volume during the peak months of November and December. Capable of sorting more than 1,000 small parcels per hour with 99% accuracy, the DHLBot reduces the probability of mis-sorting, removing the need for secondary sorting.

Why this matters

Robots that can perform repetitive tasks at the same rate or faster than humans allow those workers to perform more creative tasks that robots can’t handle. Reducing the “dull, dirty and dangerous” tasks is a worthy goal for robotics.

“Maintaining high customer satisfaction levels is an important measure of success to us,” said Sean Wall, executive vice president of network operations & 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.”

The system uses 3D and barcode scanners to scan the airway bill on each package for its targeted destination as it travels through the conveyor belt. The AI-powered DHLBot, positioned at the end of the conveyor belt, then receives the package’s information and its destination, and intelligently sorts it into respective delivery bins that sit on racks surrounding the robot, each representing an individual courier route. This entire process reduces the dependency on employees to manually read waybills and sort parcels, allowing them to have more time for route planning.

This project is in line with Deutsche Post DHL Group’s Strategy 2025 goal of delivering excellence in a digital world. The Group said it plans to spend around 2 billion EUR on initiatives to derive greater efficiency through automation and robotics, as well as advanced data analytics. An additional initiative includes an Advanced Quality Control Center that uses big data and predictive analytics to monitor shipment movements and flag issues in real time. For more information on the company’s operations, visit this website.

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