Next decades will be augmented and automated, according to DHL

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DHL has released the second instalment of its DHL Trend Report ‘Future of Work in Logistics’, which has presented two possible futures – one augmented by technology and one automated by it – and the practical considerations for balancing the implementation of each while leading through change today.

In the report, DHL envisages a future in which some aspects from both the augmented and automated concepts are realised, mostly across the six specific segments of the supply chain: warehousing operations; long-haul transportation; last-mile delivery; back-office operations; customer service; and supply chain planning.

“We know that the digital transformation of logistics is not going to happen overnight, but we are now at a tipping point,” commented Klaus Dohrmann, Vice President Innovation Europe & Trend Research, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “Scaling digital transformation is people-led and technology-accelerated. From this perspective, we must prepare for the realities of augmented and automated futures today, and enable employees to play an active role in shaping the future of work alongside their organisation.”

With augmenting technology, employees such as warehouse specialists and couriers will perform quicker, safer and with less physical and mental effort due to new smart technologies. The workspace primarily used as office space will also reduce, permitting more real estate to be dedicated to logistics functions like warehousing, as technology enables office staff to work remotely.

With automated technology, machines and collaborative robots would perform operational tasks with around-the-clock efficiency and with little-to-no errors, ensuring the continual upkeep, optimisation, and expansion of a fully digitalised logistics industry. We will also see a shift in the workforce towards jobs that keep the supply chain running such as maintenance and optimisation crews.

As augmenting and automated technologies each provide their own advantages and challenges when adopting them into a supply chain, DHL does not expect either of these two concepts to wholly integrate – especially in the course of the next 10 to 20 years.

As with any large-scale change process, the shift to the future of work in logistics will require careful planning, active management, open communication, inspirational and pragmatic leadership, and novel approaches. These, DHL suggests, can be broken down into three key levers of success: new leadership and roles; new learning and development; and new work models and environment.

“We are a people business,” added Jana Koch, Partner and Managing Director, DHL Consulting. “It’s our people delivering the value of our services and of our business, so it’s our core interest to take everybody along on the digitalisation journey. Everyone plays a role.”

It is therefore important that leaders bring employees along and make them an active participant in change. By doing this they can cultivate an environment of preparation and adaption and provide avenues for workers to grow through retraining and upskilling. The logistics industry therefore needs to communicate and collaborate with government institutions, societal organisations, and other industries to ensure that talent does not idle.

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