Chicago / Columbus / Miami / New York
Retailers are preparing for another record holiday season, with sales predicted to top USD 1.1 trillion in 2018, boosted by promotions such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To support them, the logistics industry will be ramping up capacity. DHL’s logistics divisions handle up to 40% more volumes in the peak season than in the rest of the year. With e-commerce expected to grow at an even faster pace – 22% vs. 17% last year – and the US economy close to full employment, logistics companies are also introducing more automation and other technologies in order to boost productivity and handle the additional peak volumes.
In New York, DHL couriers will be collecting packages from automated delivery depots and beating the traffic to get them to customers’ doorsteps.
Says Greg Hewitt, CEO for DHL Express U.S.: “We define peak as the period right after Thanksgiving through to Christmas. We really see volumes go up around the globe at this time. In the U.S., our busiest day of the year for outbound shipments is November 26 – Cyber Monday. Our busiest inbound day will be December 17 – the last Monday before Christmas.
To ensure shipments arrive on time, Hewitt says “first think about your product and how to protect it. Ensure you have the right packaging to move through our network. Next, ensure that your staff is accurately portraying content on the shipment’s commercial paperwork and declaring the proper value – if you don’t know how to do this, ask someone in our team. Most importantly, plan early and ship early, in order to beat potential delays due to weather or customs hold-ups. The assurance we can provide is, if it gets to our stations by December 24th, we’ll deliver it. We don’t close our doors until every package is out and on its way to the final destination.”
DHL eCommerce’s new highly automation distribution center in northern New Jersey, one of the company’s 19 distribution centers along with four large fulfillment centers in the U.S., provides the last mile delivery solution for online retailers. For these merchants, logistics is the back-end support that provides a significant part of the consumer experience.
Says Lee Spratt, CEO for DHL eCommerce Americas: “This season will probably be stronger than 2017. The market is growing at 10-15%. I expect a minimum of 10% growth on peak volumes vs. last year, but wouldn’t be surprised to see it hit 20%. The peaks are Black Friday and Cyber Monday – around these days we see a dramatic increase in orders. The volumes usually show up on the Saturday and Tuesday directly after these days. This is when we need the highest amount of labor in our facilities and our operations at full power. Consumer expectations are high – they want to receive their orders just as on any other shopping day – and this is a defining moment for many retailers in winning and retaining business, so it’s critical that delivery providers meet their commitments.”
In Chicago’s O’Hare airport and JFK airport in New York, DHL workers will be loading American goods onto pallets and freighters for export to consumers in Asia and Europe.
Says Mike Parra, DHL Express Americas CEO: Many of our customers are shipping to the UK, Australia and China. These are key trade lanes, but the rest of the world is still important. A large portion of our growth is now coming from e-commerce and our fast-growing retail channel. In line with the growth we’re seeing over the first and final mile, we’ve made recent investments, for example, in expanded facilities in Tucson, Arizona, Ontario, California, and Baltimore, Maryland. We’ve also invested in air capacity – our customers want speed to market for their own customers, so we have invested in new flights to Vancouver, Lima and Bogota.
“To improve the customer experience, we are also looking at more automation in our facilities, robotic process automation for customs clearance and billing, and chatbots and voice assistants. These enhance the end-to-end customer service experience. You can now opt to speak to someone live or to go through one of our tools that is integrated with Alexa, WhatsApp and other applications to find your package or get other information from DHL Express.”
At the Port of Miami, DHL staff will be supervising the offload of containers filled with consumer goods from trading partners around the world.
Says David Goldberg, CEO for DHL Global Forwarding U.S.: “The peak season usually starts a bit earlier for the forwarding industry, as customers reposition inventory to their fulfillment centers in the U.S. ahead of time in consolidated freight consignments. Last year, we saw an extremely strong peak in the fourth quarter, with a capacity crunch in air freight and ocean freight, and rates going up by more than 100% versus previous months. Now, with the tariffs, inventory is getting pushed forward, so the peak has started even earlier and become more elongated. We are seeing tight capacity in transpacific ocean freight, in particular, which is one of the main trade lanes during the holiday season. And air freight capacity has tightened in recent weeks. Both capacity and rates are tight overall.”
And in Columbus, Ohio, DHL warehouse associates will be working with several innovative technologies that help them make sure that the right products are in every order and get them on the road well in time for Santa’s visit. Vision Picking is among the technologies that DHL is using. These “smart glasses” is an augmented reality tool that provides staff in warehouses with the location of products needed to fill orders; helps reduce pick time and increases order picking accuracy thus providing productivity increases of up to 10%. It also helps reduce employee training time.
DHL is also working with collaborative robots which can see, move, and work alongside people. Made by Locus Robotics, LocusBots are used in e-commerce fulfilment operations, helping staffers locate products for orders and ferrying them from warehouse aisles to the shipment prep area. With the bots, order pickers don’t have to push carts or carry heavy bins. LocusBots are used in several DHL warehouses.
Says Scott Sureddin, CEO for DHL Supply Chain North America: “The expectation of next-day or 2-day delivery is compressing order cycle times and challenging everyone in the supply chain to become more efficient and adaptable to change. The first thing our e-commerce customers want is quality and operational excellence with a continuous improvement culture. They also want experts who are leaders with emerging technologies, who can help them to find ways of improving efficiencies and productivity. And they want agile solutions, which will allow them to respond to changes in their market and business needs.”
– Ends –
0:01 – 1:34 Location: DHL Express Manhattan service center
Shipments daily are trucked in from JFK to the five boroughs of New York City.
– Containers are unloaded, put on conveyor belts to be sorted, couriers load up their vans and start to hit the streets of Manhattan with their deliveries just as the work day is getting started.
0:59 – 1:34 Location: Manhattan
Courier doing deliveries in Manhattan. Some deliveries are done by DHL Express walking couriers.
1:34 – 2:23 Location: DHL Express gateway at O’Hare International Airport
Vision — Unloading air freight and express shipments, packages being sorted on conveyor belts, scanning packages, shipments in airplane containers being loaded on air freighters
2:24 – 2:58 Location: DHL Global Forwarding air freight facility at O’Hare International Airport
Air freight shipments in DHL warehouse being readied for shipping
2:58 – 3:33 Location: DHL Supply Chain warehouse in Columbus Ohio
Operations in warehouse,
3:09 – 3:12 – Using autonomous forklifts/tugs to move large loads inside warehouse
3:13 – 3:21 – Using Vision Picking/smart glasses – an augmented reality tool that provides staff in warehouses with the location of products needed to fill orders; helps reduce pick time and increases order picking accuracy
3:22 – 3:33 – Using LocusBots, mobile robots which can see, move, and work alongside people. The robots are used in e-commerce fulfillment operations, ferrying products for orders from warehouse aisles to the shipment prep area. Made by Locus Robotics, LocusBots are used in several DHL warehouses.
3:34 – 3:52 Location: Port of Miami
Overseeing DHL Global Forwarding ocean freight operations
3:53 – 4:43 Location: DHL eCommerce distribution center in Avenel, N.J.
Vision of operations at the distribution center, which is a highly automated new facility.
4:10 – 4:14 – Vision of packages on conveyor belt pass through infra-red barcode scanners to be scanned and sorted.
4:15 – 4:43 – View for conveyor belt (camera is sitting on one of the packages) shows packages being automatically sorted
4:44 – 5:05 Location: DHL Aviation facility at JFK Airport, New York
4:44 – 4:54 – Vision of cargo being towed out to planes; planes being loaded with containers full of packages.
4:54 – 5:05 – DHL helicopter being loaded and taking off from JFK. The helicopter service flies each weekday morning from JFK and makes two stops in Manhattan – financial district in lower Manhattan and midtown Manhattan
5:06 – 5:12 Location: Brooklyn, NY
Vision of a DHL Express courier delivering a package.
5:13 – 5:35 Mike Parra, CEO, DHL Express Americas
5:36 – 5:55 Lee Spratt, CEO, DHL eCommerce Americas
5:56 – 6:22 Greg Hewitt, CEO DHL Express U.S.
6:23 – 6:42 David Goldberg, CEO, DHL Global Forwarding
6:43 – 7:00 Scott Sureddin, CEO, DHL Supply Chain North America