Creating a Culture of Continuous Innovation
Working with the right partner allows you to accelerate your supply chain digitalization to meet customer expectations.
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Executive boards increasingly recognize that digitalization is a journey rather than a destination. As technology advances, there are always new solutions emerging that enable greater efficiency and productivity across your business. Capitalizing on these technologies in a timely manner—early enough to create competitive advantage but not so early as to introduce risk—requires continuous innovation. At DHL Supply Chain, we’ve created a culture of continuous innovation that has positioned us as the leader in supply chain digitalization.
Here are four keys to success that we have applied as we've accelerated digitalization across the supply chain for our customers.
Creating a dedicated, executive-led innovation team can be an important first step in advancing digitalization. This doesn’t mean creating a silo for innovation. In fact, it produces the opposite effect. The innovation team serves as a hub that connects specialists from across the organization to ensure all stakeholders are represented in technology selection and implementation processes.
At DHL Supply Chain, our innovation team works with representatives from finance, operations, IT, safety and solutions design to ensure the new technologies we introduce deliver the value we expect before they are deployed across our network. Having a dedicated team also focuses accountability for achieving digitalization goals and ensures well-defined processes are in place for technology implementation, including designing new processes around automation, rather than attempting to automate manual processes.
2.Know your needs
With more than 500 sites in our net work, DHL Supply Chain has a diverse set of use cases for emerging technologies. To streamline our evaluation process, we developed a technology selection tool that captures all relevant parameters for each site in a sor table database that allows us to quickly identify potential use cases for a new technology. When we identify a large number of use cases for an emerging technology, that use case is prioritized and accelerated. This was the case with our recent autonomous forklift installation. Because forklifts are used at virtually all of our sites, we moved forward aggressively on our first North American deployment of autonomous forklifts in the warehouse.
3.Leverage your expertise
When we move to active engagement with a technology startup, we often find that they lack the in-depth understanding of supply chain processes required to maximize the value of their innovations in our applications. By bringing our supply chain expertise to their development process, we can help influence their development and provide insight on how to enhance the value of the solution before it gets to market. Not every organization is in a position to influence the technology development process for third-party suppliers, but every organization should evaluate emerging technologies based on the specific requirements of their business and not assume technology providers understand those requirements.
4.Trust your processes
Failed technology deployments can be costly and disrupt operations. That can lead some organizations to be overly cautious in advancing digitalization. In our experience, risk and opportunity can be properly balanced by establishing well-defined processes for technology selection and installation, including carefully designed and controlled first deployment programs. For our first autonomous forklift deployment, we intentionally chose the highest value and most complex use case for this technology—high-reach, double-deep putaway and picking—to provide a true test of the viability and maturity of the technology. This first deployment has proven successful, and we can now confidently scale this solution to improve productivity and agility for customers where applicable across our network.
Digitalization is reshaping processes throughout the supply chain and creating opportunities to reduce costs, improve service levels and adapt resources within an increasingly challenging labor market. At DHL Supply Chain, our culture of continuous innovation allows us to partner with leading technology providers to assess and integrate solutions that are flexible, scalable and meet your business needs.
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