Danny Van Himste (DHL): ‘Innovate, but always with both feet on the ground’
DHL recently became a partner of Log!Ville. The company presents its renowned Trend Radar there, as well as a number of innovations it developed together with partners. “We strongly believe in collaboration and cross-fertilisation as an accelerator for the development of innovative solutions. Log!Ville is a perfect environment for that reason,” said Danny Van Himste, CEO of DHL Express BeLux, chairman of VIL and vice-chairman of Log!Ville
DHL, a division of Deutsche Post Group, is the global market leader in the transport and logistics sector. Today, the company counts a total of 395,000 employees in 220 countries. It has six divisions: Express, Parcel, eCommerce Solutions, Global Forwarding, Freight, and Supply Chain. DHL is known for investing structurally and intensively in innovation and trend research.
How important is innovation to DHL?
Innovation is ingrained in the Group’s philosophy because we consider it essential for logistics and the supply chain. Continuous innovation is part of our DNA to create tangible long-term value for our customers. There is always a better way to work, plan, implement and share. With innovative tools and new approaches, we help them build a competitive advantage and reduce their impact on the environment and climate.
As a market leader, we owe it to ourselves to play a leading role in the logistics sector and to structurally invest in trend research and solution development. However, innovating for innovation’s sake is not part of our identity: innovation is only interesting if it passes the ‘customer check’. In other words: we believe in ‘doing things differently’ but always innovate with both our feet on the ground.
We also consider collaboration essential to accelerate and implement innovation. We realize this by bringing together customers, research and knowledge institutes, industrial partners and our logistics experts. This happens, among other things, in the DHL Innovation Centres.
What are they?
DHL Innovation Centres are places dedicated to logistics visions, trends and solutions where those partners and DHL experts come together to dive deep into the logistics of today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. We now have four centres worldwide. The first, in Bonn, opened its doors in 2007. Then Singapore followed together with, Chicago and Dubai. As in Log!Ville, we show how innovative projects, technologies and solutions can have an impact and inspire new ways of working.
These innovation centres have four core activities. First, we organise workshops there in an inspiring environment. In our meeting facilities, we brainstorm with customers, partners and innovative thinkers to gather and explore solutions. We discuss challenges facing customers – and in this we go as broad as possible – and see what solutions are applicable.
Secondly, we organise tours in the centres to show and let people experience some of the solutions we are developing – mostly with partners. These should encourage inspiration and make companies aware that some applications can help them.
A third activity is organising innovative events. Around certain themes – such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, sustainability, security and much more – we go into depth with industry leaders, strategists, innovators and futurists.
And the fourth is knowledge diffusion. We do this by publishing newsletters, whitepapers or our now well-known biannual ‘Trend Radar’. Recently, the sixth edition was released.
There are many similarities with Log!Ville?
Yes, in the sense that DHL’s Innovation Centres aim to inspire and stimulate the industry through knowledge sharing and demonstrations. There is a difference though: they are ‘closed’ innovation centres while Log!Ville is an ‘open’ centre. As DHL, we mainly want to advance our customers, while Log!Ville goes broader: it is an initiative of VIL, which by definition seeks to reach the widest possible audience to serve the whole industry.
So why did DHL become a partner of Log!Ville?
As previously said, as a market leader, we owe it to ourselves to play a leading role in the logistics sector. That includes knowledge diffusion and inspiring the sector entirely as an innovation ambassador of some sort. In our booth, we, therefore, present several innovations that we brought over from Bonn and that we want to make more widely known. We also intend to inspire startups and possibly set up co-creation projects with them.
What will DHL present in its booth?
Essentially, we present our Trend Radar in a very interactive way. It provides an overview of 40 key trends that we expect to influence the logistics sector over the next five to 10 years. The Trend Radar is thus a dynamic and strategic forecasting tool for logistics professionals, which fits perfectly in an environment like Log!Ville.
We also propose an automatic sizing system to choose the ideal packaging for a shipment according to its volumetric weight. This tool, developed together with a partner, is used not only to transport as little air as possible but also to optimise the loading volumes and loading rates of planes, trucks and vans.
Two other innovations will be installed in May. The first is a Virtual Reality system to optimise air cargo container loading. This solution works even better than scanning and we already use them intensively to train staff. The second is reusable packaging for pallets, a type of sleeve that allows us to avoid using plastic film which was also developed together with a partner.
Do you always work with partners for new solutions?
In our pursuit of innovation, we more or less always rely on partners. Collaboration leads to win-wins: DHL can benefit from the partner’s specific knowledge and for the partner, DHL creates a support base which enables them to bring their solutions to the market faster. Incidentally, this philosophy is closely aligned with the Log! Ville concept, which aims at co-creation, among other things.