Thursday 29th Sep 2016 - Logistics Manager

How DHL harnesses innovation to deliver value

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Novelty, invention and revolution: all hold connotations of innovation, but innovation is about improvement and modernisation, Mark Landmann, DHL’s head of product development, told delegates at the 3PL Conference in Birmingham on Thursday.

“Words are just that, but words are not innovation,” said Landmann. “Innovation is about improving. We can do the big bang stuff, but if that bang is all it provides, there is no point.”

DHL Innovation Centre

DHL Innovation Centre

Innovation must come at a time that is right for both customer and provider. And for this to be the case, Landmann said it is important that the provider understands both its own maturity and that of the client.

“There is a right and wrong time to innovate,” said Landmann. “The wrong time is when your boss or your client comes to you and says ‘go out and innovate’.”

When innovating, Landmann said, you need to deal with varying hurdles. Not least of which is convincing both your superiors and the client that they can have trust in you – trust in terms of development and delivery.

Sometimes, this means recognising shortfalls and bringing in outside parties.

“You cannot just ignore the hurdle,” said Landmann. “You must ramp up before reaching it so that you have the capability to clear it.”

Landmann, DHL has not had big bursts of innovation, but rather has been on a continuous journey. Forever updating and evolving to compete in an industry that is constantly, particularly in the past 30 years, changing.

“It’s about being able to provide a one-stop shop,” he said. “And for a one-stop shop to work, you must have confidence in it.”

With 3PLs, though, there are additional issues. If all you provide is delivery, it is difficult for the customer to see how you add value to their business.

“It is about going beyond being just a delivery firm, you need to integrate and collaborate,” he said. “From here, you can deliver value.

“Where does DHL deliver value? Through lower emissions, improved warehouse equipment, zero-landfill and enhanced technology.”

Innovation, said Landmann, needs to be contextualised because it means different things to different people.

“Since 1985, when my mobile phone was as mobile as the wire allowed, we have changed and innovated significantly,” said Landmann. “It just it may not always be as visible as the gimmicky drone.”