DHL unveils competitions aimed at unearthing circular economy innovations

Delivery services company Deutsche Post DHL has called on innovators and visionaries from across the globe to generate new ideas covering the concept of sustainable logistics and robotics, as the firm launches two new challenge competitions to incentivise the circular economy movement.

The “Fair and Responsible Challenge” from DHL calls on universities, students and companies to submit innovative and practical business models and products that cater to logistics and the circular economy. DHL wants all submitted entries to highlight how the solution would facilitate closed-loop models in the transportation sector.

“We are convinced that doing well comes from doing good.” DHL’s chief commercial officer Bill Meahl said. “The challenge is to give fairness and responsibility a business-oriented approach. Our concept is that companies should focus on creating shared value, turning social and environmental challenges into sustainable, fair and potentially profitable business models. The ‘Fair and Responsible Challenge’ aims to find new and innovative ideas to advance this vision.”

Ideas considered for the “Fair and Responsible Challenge” competition can range from innovative packaging to an entire service solution. All entries must be submitted as a written document and video by 28 September 2016.

DHL has also unveiled a second global competition – the “Robotics Challenge” – with the aim of developing a prototype of autonomous delivery carts that can accompany staff during last mile deliveries. The prototypes would be required to carry parcels at walking speed in both urban and rural landscapes.

“Our colleagues have to deal with an ever-increasing number of parcels that need to be delivered. As our couriers are currently required to manually push this volume through the streets, we encourage concepts that support our employees,” Meahl added.

Selected winners will have the chance to present their concept to a panel of 180 senior supply chain professionals during DHL’s Innovation Day (17 November). Each winner will receive a monetary prize from a €200,000 pot, along with potential meetings with DHL to discuss development and deployment opportunities.

Clean fleet

The competition announcement arrived on the same week at the company’s chief executive Frank Appel appeared in Düsseldorf to announce that DHL would begin to implement an operations-wide effort to electrify the company’s entire fleet.

“This isn’t a crazy vision. It’s a reality that in the medium term, we can drive with e-vehicles exclusively,” Appel said.

The company has already started the process and has been using the StreetScooter start-up, which it purchased in 2014, to introduce a variety of e-vans for real world testing, with the first model finally ready to be produced in quantity later this year. In total, around 500 prototype vehicles are being used by DHL across Germany and the Netherlands.

It’s been a busy 12 months for DHL, as its ambition to promote closed-loop models within its operations begins to take shape. In February last year, the company signed up to the Circular Economy 100 initiative to allow for “more effective reuse, remanufacturing and recycling of products” and “avoid waste”.

This ambition was strengthened further earlier this year, when the company teamed up with Cranfield University and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to develop a new ‘reverse logistics’ business model that will allow organisations to map out and develop closed-loop product supply chains.

edie’s Resource Revolution Conference

Industrial applications of the circular economy is a central focus of the edie Resource Revolution Conference.

Taking place on 5 July, the edie Resource Revolution Conference provides resource management, sustainability, waste, product, supply chain and design professionals with tools they need to rethink their approach to resource use and waste outputs, drive organisational efficiencies, behaviour change and profitability, and effect a revolution in their company’s sustainability credentials.

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Matt Mace

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