DHL Receives Delivery of Novel Solutions via Open innovation
An inflatable parcel for multiple mail deliveries and a self-driving robotic concept to help DHL employees deliver parcels.
Parcel company DHL is a firm believer in the potential of open innovation to help businesses and industries to grow. And recognizing the need for innovation in the logistics industry, it has repeatedly turned to the crowd, seeking a diversity of smart minds for breakthrough ideas.
Open Innovation Challenges
One way it does this is with the DHL Innovation Center in Bonn, Germany where customers, business and industry partners are invited to meet and exchange ideas. There is also the DHL Asia Pacific Innovation Center, a customer-centric innovation platform for the Asian market.
Another mechanism by which DHL successfully engages external innovators is through open innovation challenges. In 2016, it launched the Fair and Responsible Challenge to find sustainable logistics solutions for the world of tomorrow, and the Robotics Challenge. This was a request for novel concepts for self-driving delivery carts that can autonomously accompany staff during delivery of parcels to their final destination.
"Our colleagues have to deal with an ever-increasing number of parcels that need to be delivered," said Bill Meahl, Chief Commercial Officer, DHL. "As our couriers are currently required to manually push this volume through the streets, we encourage concepts that support our employees." The robotic vehicle had to be able to easily negotiate urban and rural landscapes at walking speed whilst carrying parcels.
DHL received more than 100 submissions from over 30 countries during a four-month period. Submitted entries to both challenges were reviewed in a pre-selection process based on their functionality, potential to solve the given problem and perceived commercial feasibility. This resulted in the selection of three finalists for each challenge. They were tasked with pitching their idea or prototype in front of an audience of nearly 200 senior supply chain professionals at a DHL Innovation Day.
Open Innovation Contest Winners
The winner of the Robotics Challenge was a startup called Effidence for their self-driving follow-me collaborative robot, which was successfully tested at numerous DHL Supply Chain operational sites. It won after winning the most points at the finals day for navigating its way through a circuit that consisted of four different delivery points and several obstacles.
The winner of the Fair and Responsible Challenge was Anne Gross from the Bauhaus University of Weimar for her Air Parcel idea. This is an inflatable parcel that can be used for multiple deliveries.
Open Innovation Prizes
The winners of both innovation challenges received monetary awards and were invited to discuss opportunities for turning their innovative ideas into joint proof-of-concept.
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