DHL Express AI Bets Pays Off

Image credit: iStockphoto/Ekaterina79

While express service providers have always looked to drive innovation in specific business areas, much of these efforts were made for efficiency and cost control.

With 3,200 facilities across more than 220 countries and territories worldwide, DHL Express is taking a different route. It is taking the lead by adopting emerging technology to change how cross-border shipment deliveries are done across its entire business.

One example is its Advanced Quality Control Center (AQCC) system. It uses machine learning to analyze ship movements and highlight issues in real-time. Red warning lights pop up across its dashboard in its global operation centers when shipments become stalled in transit (also called exceptions).

Once alerted, analysts will analyze these exceptions and map out their projected routes using advanced data analytics. They will then use recommended corrective actions to ensure these shipments still arrive at their destinations on time.

Before AI, this entire exercise would have taken an enormous effort. Coordinating the information for tracking every ship and finding the right solutions would have taken days. Lack of immediate data would have also clouded the company’s visibility, making it reactive to unfolding situations.

DHL Express did not take the longer route via incremental improvements to achieve this level of decision-making and analytics. Instead, it led with its Strategy 2025, which aims to deliver excellence in a digital world and shape how it delivers close to 500 million shipments (2020 figures).   

"We've introduced solutions to streamline vital processes, automate time-consuming, repetitive tasks, and helped our teams become more productive. These include autonomous guided vehicles to enhance our operations, chatbots to complement customer service operations, and shipment sensors with track-and-trace capabilities," said Ken Lee, the chief executive officer at DHL Express Asia Pacific.

The DHL Group invested over EUR 2 billion into diverse digital transformation efforts from this year to 2025 as part of Strategy 2025. The AI-based AQCC is one part of this multi-year groupwide effort, which looks to increase the level of experience for customers and employees.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed how important Strategy 2025 is for the company’s future. The various efforts helped the company manage the surge in cross-border e-commerce demand and drive greater efficiency and productivity.

"Before the pandemic, we were cognizant that digital transformation was an imperative to maintain and elevate our service levels as a logistics provider. The pandemic accelerated our plans to allow our workforce to collaborate and work virtually from any location. We also fast-tracked our adoption and rollout of technologies, such as live chat and digital assistants, which were crucial in helping us cope with an unprecedented demand surge worldwide," explained Jimmy Yeoh, chief information officer at DHL Express Asia Pacific.

Such capabilities will prove crucial as the global economy emerges from the pandemic, with logistics players playing critical roles.

Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends. He is always curious about all things digital, including new digital business models, the widening impact of AI/ML, unproven singularity theories, proven data science success stories, lurking cybersecurity dangers, and reimagining the digital experience. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Ekaterina79