DHL to load test IT systems at $120m Sydney campus

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DHL to load test IT systems at $120m Sydney campus
An automated Dexion crane in test operations. (Credit: Thomas Klockseth)

Head of IT lays out DHL's strategy.

Logistics giant DHL Supply Chain is preparing to load test a new $120 million warehouse campus in Western Sydney to see how its technology systems stack up.

Vice president of information technology, Andrew Weyer, told iTnews that the company had made a "significant" investment in IT systems and resources at the new campus at Horsley Park.

One of the major pieces is a Dexion real-time distribution system (RDS), an automated system for storing and retrieving cartons in the warehouse. Similar systems are also used by Kellogg's and Linfox.

Fashion distributor True Alliance - which manages logistics for brands including Coach, Ben Sherman, Speedo, Ugg and Nautica in Australia - is to be the first customer to benefit from the Dexion system.

"The intention is to expand it and utilise it across other customers," Weyer said.

Customers that could benefit from the automated system in the future may include the likes of HP, Oracle, EMC, IBM and Dell, for whom DHL manages service parts logistics, and pharmaceutical companies.

Weyer noted that automated systems were already used for automated picking, conveying and sortation of pharmaceuticals at other DHL sites.

The Dexion system at Horsley Park is still in commissioning and is expected to go live in June 2015. Between then and now, a series of load tests are planned.

"March-to-April is a testing and proof period where we really need to throw this thing through its paces," Weyer said.

"We're going to push as much volume as we can through there, and make sure it can handle the volumes that we need."

Weyer said the load would be a combination of test and production volume.

"We've got a couple of live brands already going into this facility," he said.

"True Alliance distributes a number of different brands. We won't throw the whole lot in [to the Dexion system at once]. We'll take it on in phases."

Enterprise systems

Aside from the Dexion system, DHL has deployed a Manhattan Associates warehouse management system (WMS) as the other major technology component at the site. The configuration of the WMS is similar to other instances of the system at DHL facilities worldwide.

"We adopt a philosophy across the group where we simplify as much as we can and we standardise as much as we can so we can reuse [configurations]," Weyer said.

Data is able to flow between DHL's enterprise systems and its customer's systems via an integration platform hosted in Prague, called DHL Link.

Weyer focuses most of his attention on making sure customers can interconnect their systems with DHL Link.

"When we're communicating externally we use a whole myriad of integration format and standards," he said.

"Generally, whatever the customer needs, we output in that format, so that it makes it simpler for them to integrate [with us]."

Another internal system, Connected View, provides DHL and its customers with real-time visibility of what Weyer calls "end-to-end supply chain execution". For DHL, the system is effectively a way to measure its performance against contracted KPIs.

DHL Australia's staff are standardised on Windows 7 PCs after a global rollout that was completed at the end of 2014. All desktop services, server environments, and cloud service brokerage and governance is run out of Kuala Lumpur and Prague, rather than being handled in-country.

"They really take that complexity away from the countries," Weyer said.

"When we're in a country we want to focus on how do we manage our customer's goods and what are the supply chain-enabling technologies.

"I don't really care about the underlying technology on desktops or servers. There's a whole organisation that does that, and quite frankly I'd be wasting time on worrying about what version of software was running on a server - it doesn't matter to me.

"I want to make sure the governance and controls are in place and I really want to focus on the value added services [for customers]."

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