DHL Plans $160M U.S. Hub Integration, Automation

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DHL began a $160 million hub automation and integration project to enhance letter- and parcel-processing operations and tracking capabilities across its U.S. network, the express delivery and logistics company said last month.

Rollout, which includes the express delivery and logistics industry's largest single purchase of tilt-tray loop systems for sorting letters and parcels, starts at the end of spring 2005. The initiative should be fully operational by fall 2006.

The program will provide customers and company operations nationwide with greater accuracy and shipment visibility while letting DHL adapt rapidly to changing technical shipping requirements, the Plantation, FL, company said.

The integration will synchronize the operations of letter- and parcel-processing equipment at DHL distribution facilities in Wilmington, OH; Allentown, PA; and Riverside, CA.

State-of-the-art conveyor and sorting hardware, together with proprietary software, will enable more rapid processing of shipments and increased efficiency at each facility while also producing cost savings.

"This latest investment in our U.S. network will give our customers the ability to track letters and parcels even more effectively, and we're specifically making these state-of-the-art improvements at facilities that serve the greatest percentage of our customers," said Fred Beljaars, executive vice president for operations at DHL Americas.

The automation process will involve integrating software and hardware, including conveyors, walkways and terminals that link all of the equipment. Components include proprietary sort software, which controls machine operations and manages package flow and information, and new sort equipment featuring hardware such as tilt trays for moving letters and parcels, dimensional and image scanners, singulators (mechanisms to individualize the flow of letters and packages), loaders, unloaders and video-coding devices, which are used to read labels on packages.

DHL said it will announce shortly the automation and system integration partners that it will use.

"In addition to increased accuracy and providing opportunities for DHL customer service to quickly correct and process incomplete or incorrect shipping labels, we will have a flexible platform that can be rapidly adjusted to new business technology and customer requirements," said Steve White, senior vice president, hub & gateways, gateway management, DHL Americas. "This will include adapting to continually emerging barcode standards, radio frequency identification technology and other developments."

In other news, DHL announced last month the expansion of its service partnership with Formula 1 racing. DHL will establish mobile logistics centers at all 19 Formula 1 racetracks worldwide for the 2005 racing season, providing 24-hour express transportation services to teams at each track. As Formula 1's global logistics partner, DHL will transport all materials for the Paddock Club, the exclusive racetrack VIP area, to all races.

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