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DHL Innovation Day 2016 - Challenge The Future

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DHL Innovation Day 2016 - Challenge The Future

This popular event also marked the culmination of the DHL Innovation Challenges launched earlier this year.

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With the theme “Challenge the Future,” Innovation Day 2016 invited 180 senior supply chain professionals, innovators, industry partners, and start-ups to consider a host of ideas that looked to the future of logistics and the wider world. The event also marked the final stage of the DHL Innovation Challenge launched earlier this year.

Opening speaker Tim Leberecht, author of bestseller “The Business Romantic”, set the tone with a thought-provoking thesis: With state-of-the-art machines – such as collaborative robots like Baxter – set to outperform human workers at certain tasks, people must rediscover a “Byronesque” sense of awe and wonder, he argued, referencing 19th-century English Romantic poet Lord Byron.

Harnessing these human traits is a more appropriate response to the “datification of our lives” than to try to compete with machines, said Leberecht, calling for a “new romantic revolution” in business that recognizes the importance of human interaction.

Investment and intelligence
Leberecht’s was the first of three inspiring keynotes that each offered exciting new insights. Dirk Heitmann from IBM described the power of artificial intelligence to fundamentally revolutionize business, and explained the capabilities and potential uses of Watson, IBM’s cognitive technology that “thinks like a human.” Alex von Frankenberg, CEO of investment company High-Tech Gründerfonds, highlighted in his presentation the rise of logistics start-ups that are using technology to make supply chains smarter.

Von Frankenberg also sat on the panel of the DHL Shark Tank, alongside Peer Bentzen of Deutsche Post DHL Group and the well-known German start-up investor Frank Thelen. In a format based on the well-known reality TV show, three logistics start-ups pitched their solutions to the group of investors, with the Celluveyor modular conveying and positioning system winning the confidence of both audience and “sharks”. Celluveyor will be showcased in the Innovation Center’s “Start-up Hall of Fame” area, which is visible to thousands of visiting logistics professionals from various regions and industries.

Responsibility and robotics

Earlier in the year, DHL launched two innovation challenges inviting inventors and visionaries across the globe to generate new ideas in the areas of sustainable logistics and robotics. Out of over 80 submissions from 33 different countries for the Fair & Responsible Logistics Challenge, three finalists from Germany, Chile and Singapore pitched their ideas to the audience on Innovation Day. Anne Gross, a 22-year-old student from Germany, won the €5,000 in prize money for her innovative packaging concept “Air Parcel,” along with a commitment from DHL to pilot the concept.

With the DHL Robotics Challenge, the world’s leading research institutes and start-ups were invited to build a prototype of a self-driving delivery cart. The Innovation Day attendees were gripped as the three finalists put their prototypes to the test along an outdoor circuit, navigating an obstacle course featuring curbs, slopes and puddles of rain, while stopping to deliver parcels along the way. After votes from a four-person expert jury, comprising colleagues from PeP and CSI, were combined with audience votes, the prototype from French company Effidence emerged victorious. The winning team was awarded €10,000 and the opportunity to test and develop the prototype further jointly with DHL.

“I congratulate all our winners for their innovative ideas and effort to influence the future of logistics,” said Bill Meahl, DHL Chief Commercial Officer. “The quality of the ideas and solutions presented during the Innovation Day demonstrates the importance of bringing bright minds together and recognizing them for their hard work.”

Smart solution

The final highlight on the day’s varied agenda was led by Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL Group, who presented Daimler/Smart with the Most Innovative Customer Solution award for the ‘Smart Ready to Drop’ last mile delivery solution. Smart partnered with DHL Parcel to jointly develop a service that enables Smart car owners to have their parcels delivered to the trunk of their vehicle. Beta tests are currently being run in Stuttgart, with the next test-phase to be rolled out in Cologne and Berlin.

As the event came to a close, Matthias Heutger, Senior Vice President DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, reflected on its success. “The Innovation Day is not only about providing inspiration but also acts as a platform to exchange ideas and generate action which is why the challenges took center stage,” he said. “It’s important to recognize and foster these innovations and DPDHL Group looks forward to launching some of the ideas that were presented.”