Leipzig hub improves efficiency for DHL Express

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DHL Express’ Leipzig hub has now been operational for two years following a 300 million euro investment by the company.

The facility at Leipzig airport, which is the company’s largest, now handles 90 per cent of all European DHL Express shipments, and ten per cent of all shipments.

Over the course of a night shift aircraft land every few minutes carrying up to 1,500 tonnes of tonnes of parcels and documents. Some 150,000 items are resorted and transhipped within a couple of hours each night. Average handling time is less than 120 minutes, with the offload to reload process taking just seven minutes.

On entering the hub, shipments a sorted into conveyor items and items that cannot be fed into the sorting system, such as dangerous and bulky goods, which are carried to an adjacent reload area.

All sortable items are carried into the reload area and scanned using one of eight six-sided scanners. They are first scanned in the offload area and automatically separated into parcels and documents and then transferred to the upper floor of the warehouse on one of the four main conveyor belts.

The Vanderlande sorting system, which measures 6.5km in total, cost 70 million euros to install making it the largest single investment in the hub.

All documents are sorted separately and automatically land in red bags marked with the relevant destination. These are then conveyed to the bagload area. The fully automatic flyer sorter sorts documents for 500 destinations and is capable of handling some 36,000 items per hour.

In addition to unloading, sorting and reloading, DHL has an area dedicated to customs clearance where pre-marked items are sorted and checked individually by customs inspectors. Items are then put on a shelf which will show a green light if the item has been cleared and it is then ready to be rescanned and returned to the sorting line.

The hub also has a “hospital” area for damaged items which after undergoing repairs will be returned to the normal process.

Once parcels and red document bags pass through the final stretch of conveyor they are sent down yellow slides into the reload area where containers for various destinations await.

A final control scan is carried out to confirm items are headed for the correct destination. Containers are then moved onto trailers outside the hub before being driven to waiting freight planes.

Each container is then loaded onto the planes based on weight, or if it is destined for anywhere within a 300km it will be taken by truck or train.

The hub has 52 aircraft parking spaces with plans to extend the apron to accommodate four more.

Some 2,500 employees currently work at the site, 90 per cent of which come from the region around the airport. According to DHL, two thirds were previously unemployed. An additional 1,000 are also expected to be created.

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