RLC Foundation Round Table Event At DHL – 6 March 2017

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RLC Foundation Round Table Eevent At DHL on Monday 6th March 2017

On 6 March the RLC Foundation held it’s 2017 launch event at Crick, Northamptonshire. It was generously hosted by Mark Parsons, Chief Customer Officer, DHL Supply Chain. The RLC Foundation theme for 2016 was ‘harnessing data and technology’ and the theme for 2017 is ‘people’.

The DHL Round Table event focused in on “the boundaries between human and autonomous systems in the logistic domain” and attracted a large audience of industry and military delegates. The event was opened by the RLC Foundation Chairman, Maj Gen (Retired) David Shouesmith who spoke about the aims of the Foundation and the need to foster strong relationships with industry to develop future military logistic solutions.


Mark Parsons gave a fascinating insight into the use of robotics and autonomous systems within the DHL environment. He explored the components that are driving these changes and the market challenges of increased customer expectation, an ageing population and the lack of skilled workers. Currently 80% of warehouses are manually operated and it is envisaged that 47% of all jobs will be automated by 2034. Interestingly, DHL have one of the most advanced collaborative robots (Sawyer) in the current market. Sawyer is a smart, adaptable and piece picks in support of warehouse staff and has perpetual recognition for human detection.

Colonel Mike Caldicott, the Assistant Head of Combat Service Support Capability Plans and Resource at Army Headquarters, Andover gave an overview of future autonomous robotic capability which embraced distribution, supply and information systems, and decision support within the military environment. Challenges highlighted a lack of capital investment for semi-autonomous and autonomous systems, IT incompatibility and legislative challenges.


There was discussion on use of autonomous systems to fill current capacity gaps but the need to retain current military manpower. There followed a lively Q and A session which brought out interesting analysis of market challenges, future business impact and how to overcome the barrier’s that lie ahead. The delegates then divided into discussion groups to further evaluate the key differences between the military and commercial organisations.

This was an excellent event. Thank you DHL!