Dynamic route planning is what the SmartTruck is about. This state-of-the-art delivery vehicle saves time, money and emissions by intelligently navigating the best route in real time.
Bangalore, the “Silicon Valley of India” and the country’s third largest city, is also one of its administrative, industrial, commercial and service centres. You have to know the city’s maze of streets and alleyways well to find your way around here, even more so to find the quickest way to get from one place to another and avoid congestion. Now try to do that amongst the flood of around 4.2 million vehicles toiling through the streets of this megacity – a number that’s growing all the time. Traffic jams and delays, not to mention the pungent smell of exhaust fumes, are as commonplace as the cars.
|(left) Couriers can now find the fastest route through traffic using GPS-based route planning. |
(top right) Vehicle movements are tracked in real time. (bottom) The open road: GPS guides the SmartTruck along the optimal route.
A number of the couriers at DHL’s subsidiary, Blue Dart, of which DHL holds an 80% share, now have it a lot easier. Their SmartTrucks help them navigate the quickest route through Bangalore’s busy streets. India’s largest air express provider has been taking part in a trial project to test these intelligent vehicles since summer 2011. What is so special about the SmartTruck? “Shipments are sorted automatically before the vehicles leave the distribution centre,” explains Anil Khanna, Managing Director at Blue Dart Express Ltd. Once sorted and loaded, the parcels arrive at their destinations faster than ever with the SmartTruck’s help. The vehicles are equipped with dynamic route-planning software that uses GPS technology to calculate the optimal route based on the current order situation in the van. The GPS unit follows the van’s every move in real time, automatically reacting to current traffic information and incoming orders.
After successful tests in Berlin, Bonn and Cologne, the plan was to integrate the system into the global IT infrastructure and test the SmartTruck in a megacity outside Europe. Bangalore presented an ideal test location. The city and its 8.5 million residents are experiencing an economic boom. Blue Dart operates an 84,000m2 logistics centre at the airport just 40 kilometer outside the city. Routes into the city are long and the streets are almost always congested.
Designed in Germany, the SmartTruck system required considerable modification before it could be used in Bangalore. After all, Indian cities are quite different from German ones. For example, many streets in Bangalore do not have names and there are no house numbers. Delivery addresses are often incomplete and postcodes missing. Teams from Blue Dart and DHL worked together closely to flesh out the differences that impact the software and develop solutions that led to a custom-built SmartTruck concept for the Indian market.
By May 2012, SmartTrucks should be covering all incoming shipments from the Asia Pacific region on five separate inner-city routes in Bangalore – but results are already coming in. “We are seeing higher parcel processing capabilities, shorter transit times, synchronised letter and parcel processes and fewer kilometres being travelled by each vehicle,” says Anil Khanna. This means one thing for our customers: better service. The SmartTruck thus offers a solution for one of the most important future challenges for the express business: the growing complexity of logistics, especially in chronically congested cities and megacities. That is a considerable competitive edge. “Our customers’ primary concern is that their parcels are collected and delivered on time,” says Mr Khanna.
|(top left) DHL’s subsidiary, Blue Dart, is the largest air express provider in India. (bottom left) The system uses GPS to calculate the optimal route. |
(right) DHL holds an 80% share in Blue Dart.
Yet SmartTrucks fulfil another, equally important, goal. They reduce our carbon footprint. In 2008, Deutsche Post DHL was the first global logistics provider to set a clear, quantifiable goal with its environmental protection programme GoGreen. By 2020, the Group intends to improve the carbon efficiency of its own operations as well as those of its subcontractors by 30%. Katharina Tomoff, Head of GoGreen at Deutsche Post DHL, points to the importance of this target, particularly in the Asian region: “In emerging markets such as India, we absolutely have to find solutions to grow in an environmentally friendly way.”
The SmartTruck is one of the solutions that will reduce CO2 emissions in our daily operations. Although we are not yet able to quantify the savings from our ongoing test project in India, the results of our tests in Germany are encouraging. In Berlin, for example, our intelligent transporters drove on average 15% fewer kilometres and routes were completed 8% faster. Shorter routes mean reduced fuel consumption and lower emissions. “Solutions such as the SmartTruck help us reduce fuel consumption and underscore our leading role in environmental protection,” says Katharina Tomoff.
The test project was first presented in March 2009. Two vehicles equipped with dynamic route planning commenced delivery operations in Berlin’s Mitte district. Since October 2010, the Group has also used SmartTrucks for express delivery in the Cologne/Bonn region. In the summer of 2011, Bangalore became the first test region outside of Europe. DHL also presented the intelligent delivery vehicle at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.