Navigation and Content

Can logistics companies drive true customer-centric innovation?

To develop customer-centric solutions, you need to center innovation on your customers. Sounds simple, right? There’s much more to it than that.

Where is your center of innovation?

Exploration. Discovery. Innovation. Repeat. People have always looked beyond the horizon – challenging the status quo and embracing the new. That’s because they understand that most of what we will ever know is yet to be discovered.

In today's interconnected world, discovery doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Breakthroughs no longer come from brilliant inventors pondering over problems deep into the night. In fact, they haven’t in a long time. Even Thomas Edison wasn’t the solitary genius many believe him to be. His Menlo Park laboratory was a state-of-the-art research and development facility – and the first of its kind. The Wizard of Menlo Park altered our understanding of innovation forever.

Edison and many innovators since have taught us valuable lessons about customer-driven innovation and customer-centric solutions. The problem is that “customer-centric” is now often seen as an empty buzzword – a trendy catchphrase that simply means understanding your customers’ needs. Anyone can do that. But the true innovators know that customer needs are only the tip of the iceberg.

The original innovation center

Have you ever wondered why we say “a light bulb went off in their head” to describe a moment of inspiration? Also known as a “light bulb moment.” The dictionary doesn’t attribute it to Thomas Edison, but it probably stems from the myth that there was ‘a moment’ when he invented the light bulb. Though Edison is often credited with the invention, he did not discover the technology. The incandescent light bulb was developed before he was born. What Edison did was improve and turn it into a commercially viable product.

In his book, The Age of Edison, Ernest Freeberg writes: “The inventor does not pull insights from a void, like a bulb suddenly illuminating a dark room. Invention is a complex social process.”

Thomas Edison understood this, which is why he pursued his goals in a high-tech research laboratory backed by a team of specialists – the world’s first innovation center. He was fortunate to have an advantage: he was already a famous inventor – and that fame attracted the resources to build Menlo Park and bring in people to power it.

The man who lit up the world also knew that a solution only succeeds if it sells. He had to balance both consumer and business needs to develop an affordable product that could be mass-produced.

Innovation in action

Vision Picking

DHL has successfully carried out a pilot project testing smart glasses in a warehouse in the Netherlands as a first step in their Augmented Reality journey.

Resilience360 Annual Risk Report

With Trade sanctions, activism and ‘black swan’ events  among the key risks businesses must prepare to manage the unpredictable.


EffiBOT from the French start-up Effidence is a new, fully automated trolley that follows pickers through the warehouse and takes care of most of the physical work.

Customer-centric innovation in logistics

The history of the first commercially manufactured light bulb is both inspiring and sobering. While it, pardon the pun, illuminates the power of potential and how innovation can change the world, it also demonstrates what needs to come together to lead – or perhaps reinvent – an industry.

To outsiders, logistics is about moving things from one place to another. We know it’s much more than that, of course. Fortunately, many business leaders also understand that supply chains can make or break a company’s success. That’s why many businesses look to the logistics industry to develop solutions that go beyond meeting their needs. They want innovation that helps them drive their business forward, stay ahead of the competition, or even transform their industry.

It sounds like sales talk, but Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn launched DHL in 1969 based on a customer-centric solution. Together, they tackled a problem, discovered a solution, and ultimately invented a new industry: international air express. Today, that spirit is alive and well at DHL Innovation Centers around the world, where we put customer-centric innovation into practice. The results speak for themselves.

The Power of DHL Innovation Centers


Start-ups engaged per year


Visitors per year


Innovation project sites


Exchanges with subject matter experts

360° Walkthrough

Want it Delivered?

Why go looking for the latest logistics trends and business insights when you can have them delivered right to you?

DHL Innovation Centers

In our Innovation Centers, we spearhead the future of logistics and drive customer-centric innovation across the world.

Inspired by the power of what could be – the power of potential – we began opening DHL Innovation Centers to spearhead the future of logistics and drive customer-centric innovation across the world. We consider these our think tanks, where we bring together customers, partners, and other innovative thinkers to exchange thoughts and ideas, concepts and designs, and experience and expertise.

Like Edison, we believe customer-centric innovation takes getting everyone at one table to dream big and, where possible, put those innovative ideas into action. Business leaders, supply chain managers, and logistics providers find many ways to share knowledge and solve problems at DHL Innovation Centers. We have DHL Innovation Centers in Chicago, Cologne, Singapore, and now Dubai.


the latest solutions in logistics


about the most important industry trends


workshops to identify and implement value-adding ideas


with counterparts from other companies and industries


from leading innovators

Innovation that moves

Our most recent addition – the DHL Middle East & Africa Innovation Center – is itself an innovation. This mobile, state-of-the-art facility, which debuted in Dubai in 2021, will tour the region on a journey of discovery through 2027. The modular, 450-square-meter building – a first of its kind – can be easily assembled and disassembled.

The center showcases key technologies and customer-centric innovations that will shape logistics in the future, alongside proof of concepts. The exhibits reflect the unique requirements of our customers in the region, with a special focus on internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, bionic enhancement, and data analytics in the areas of supply chain analyticswarehouse digital twins, and last-mile delivery optimization.

With the right people together in the right place, anyone can go beyond potential. That’s a center of innovation. And that’s how you drive true customer-centric innovation.

DHL’s global innovation footprint extends even further with the DHL Mobile Innovation Center in Dubai. 

Visit the Innovation Centers

DHL Innovation Center, Cologne

The DHL Innovation Team is happy to host your visits, workshops, and events, both live and virtually. Contact us and we will get back to you to find a timeslot and the right format.

DHL Americas Innovation Center

For fifty years, DHL has been a bold change-maker in the world of supply chain and now DHL’s global innovation footprint extends even further with the all-new DHL Innovation Center in Chicago, Illinois.

DHL Middle East & Africa Innovation Center

The DHL Middle East & Africa Innovation Center is a mobile state-of-the-art facility where customers, partners, academia, and thought leaders can experience the next generation of logistics in an interactive showroom environment.

DHL Asia Pacific Innovation Center

The Asia Pacific Innovation Center is strategically located in Singapore and reflects the dynamism, complexity, and growth potential of Asia Pacific with its curation of the best examples of technology use cases from our partners in the region.

Published: March 2022

Related videos, links & information