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DHL Supply Chain has teamed up with Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies to launch an Internet of Things (IoT) trial project at an automotive manufacturing facility in Liuzhou, China.
The narrowband (NB) IoT investment will look to “facilitate and streamline yard management for inbound-to-manufacturing logistics, leading to significant improvements in inbound processing time at the site” and will run until the end of September, involving 100 DHL drivers at 30 loading docks.
DHL Supply Chain Greater China chief executive Yin Zou said: “In leveraging Huawei’s and China Mobile’s NB-IoT technology, we were able to design and develop this unique solution. Supported by a range of industrial, multimedia IoT protocols and interfaces, it offers connectivity, smart operations and device management functions.”
He explained that inbound automotive manufacturing processes can be subject to time-consuming inefficiencies at sites that have a high turnover of deliveries which are crucial to the manufacturing process.
Lager facilities can have a large turnover of trucks and delays occur when shipments need to be handled at a different dock at the manufacturing site – such as when tyres arrive at the beginning of the assembly line rather than the end. It is essential trucks are directed to the right locations so docks are used efficiently and shipments are unloaded at the right places.
In response, DHL and Huawei are integrating NB-IoT chipsets that use normal cellular telecommunications bands and are simple and cheap to implement. Vehicle detectors are embedded with these chipsets and the data transmitted using existing public base stations which have been upgraded to support NB-IoT.
Within each terminal, DHL Supply Chain will automatically collect clear dock availability, providing visibility to dispatchers and drivers – on arrival the truck driver checks in via a mobile app which sends a queue number and an estimated waiting time.
The yard management system automatically screens docks for availability and as soon as a dock becomes free, the driver is directed accordingly, resulting in inbound trucks being prioritised to the site’s needs and shipments unloaded at the most appropriate dock.
The aim is to halve truck waiting times from an average of 40 minutes, “significantly reducing the risks of manufacturing delays as materials arrive in time and resources are optimized appropriately”.
Markus Voss, chief information officer and chief operating officer of DHL Supply Chain, said: “By 2025, IoT will have the potential to generate up to €1.77trn in additional value for the international logistics industry. Together with Huawei, we want to pursue this path in developing cellular-based IoT technology able to connect to multiple devices across long distances.”