2019-03-06

'Dematic PackMyRide' bridges the gap between intralogistics and the last mile

Online retailing is rapidly expanding and the growing volume of packages presents service providers with increasingly more challenges. One particularly sticky challenge involves the 'last mile' – the final stage from the distribution center to a customer’s home. Keeping pace with the fast-moving digital world requires an integrated solution. A joint project between Dematic and DPD promises to provide the necessary edge.

At 6 a.m. on a January morning, it is still chilly in the DPD distribution center in Nagold, a German town in the state of Baden-Württemberg. In fact, it’s cold. But the drivers of the delivery vehicles in the vast hall are too busy to notice as they sort hundreds of packages to be transported to the sorting and loading areas by conveyor belt. Despite the cold, they are working up a sweat loading their delivery vehicles.

PackMyRide has the potential to give us an edge in the race for the last mile. This solution can help us meet the major challenges of eCommerce.

Thomas Steverding

Thomas Steverding, senior group manager for process & development at DPD Germany, notes that,“While our conveyor systems are highly automated, package loading in the last mile is still done manually.”

This final step to the customer eats into a range of resources. Not only is it hard physical work, but it also can take up to two hours per vehicle – valuable time could provide the competitive edge needed in the last mile. The solution was obvious: develop an automated process to replace the manual one; a challenge Dematic and DPD readily accepted when they launched their promising PackMyRide development project.

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Automation for the most demanding requirements

There were many factors the project team had to consider during the concept phase, including route logic, varying weights and non-standard package sizes. “Working with DPD to bridge the gap between intralogistics and the last mile was an exciting proposition for us,” says Dr. Daniel Jarr, PackMyRide project manager at Dematic.

After five months, the initial vision evolved into a specific design. First, the subsystem picks up the packages via a conveyor belt from the existing intralogistics system. A scanning unit then verifies the weight and barcode data. Finally, the system sorts the packages into the required order and transfers them to mobile racks. Automated guided vehicle systems then transport the racks to the delivery vehicle fully automatically. Modules have been developed for the individual processes, countless lines of code have been written and a prototype for the first step into the real world has been built.

From theory to test phase

The Dematic team installed the first pilot system at the DPD distribution center in Nagold. During the test phase, Dematic PackMyRide was put through its paces under real-world conditions. The subsystem handled the bulk of DPD’s package range without a hitch but it is also prepared for the unexpected. “If there’s a problem with a package, the system passes it on to the manual processing area,” Dr. Jarr explains. The goal is to handle up to 80 percent of all packages via the fully automated loading system.

“Our innovative solution not only reduces the physical demands on the drivers, but it also provides a considerable time savings that will benefit the company further down the value chain.” The system is also capable of sorting and loading the packages for multiple delivery routes. This results in time savings for all delivery routes and significantly increases DPD’s efficiency.

World premiere at the 2019 LogiMAT

Dematic first presented the concept to the public at the tradeshow in Stuttgart calling it “Dematic PackMyRide.” The main focus was on the concept’s huge potential. The system’s modular nature offers maximum flexibility and comprehensive compatibility with existing automation systems and other Dematic products.

“PackMyRide is not only suitable for package delivery companies, but it can also be used in other areas of industry where manual loading takes place. Our automation solution leads the way when it comes to optimizations that increase productivity in the last mile across a wide range of industry sectors,” Dr. Jarr adds. Bridging the final manual gap at DPD is potentially the first step toward other innovative approaches and exciting collaborations.

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