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DPD speeds ahead with robotic measures to deliver 2040 Net Zero target

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett April 5, 2023
Summary:
The delivery firm is expanding use of electric vehicles, robots and mobile sensors.

robotics

Earlier this year, diginomica looked at how DPD has been using Salesforce since the very early days of cloud computing in the enterprise, highlighting the delivery firm’s willingness to invest in technology to innovate and differentiate from the competition. 

Now, DPD is betting big on its investments in sustainability to similarly outperform the market. As Jonathan Pratt, Director of Sales and CRM at DPD, explains, the firm’s current priorities around innovation are specifically around being more sustainable:

A large part of the technology that we're currently looking at is very much in the sustainable space. Right at the top of that list is the use of electric vehicles and the use of robots. We’re looking at ways to get better access to the recharging of the electric vehicles that we have in our fleet. We’re also retrofitting all of our old sites and using LED lighting in all our new sites to reduce our impact.

DPD currently has a fleet of 3,000 electric vehicles (EVs), and plans to keep adding more until it has eventually replaced all diesel or petrol models. Pratt says:

We'll look to replace all vehicles with a 100% electric fleet for our final mile by 2030. We'll have 4,000 EVs by the end of 2023. Currently we have about 25% of our deliveries made on green deliveries. We'll be pushing to make that around 40% as we go into 2024.

Results

The shift away from fossil fuels to electric for its delivery vehicles is already making a positive impact for the environment. 

During 2022, DPD delivered more than 35 million parcels via its all-electric final mile delivery fleet. This equates to over nine million kilograms of CO2e saved, or the CO₂ absorption of 360,000 trees during one year. This was more than double the 2021 total of 17 million green deliveries across the business. For 2023, DPD is targeting 50 million parcels delivered with its electric fleet.

To help meet this target, DPD has ordered a further 1,000 Ford E-Transit delivery vans, scheduled for delivery throughout this year to add to its 3,000 existing EVs.

DPD has already made over 13 million green deliveries so far this year, putting the business on track to meet its 50 million goal. 

As part of its green delivery push, DPD has also been trialling autonomous delivery robots around its Milton Keynes site. The robots are powered by Cartken, whose level 4 autonomy and navigation delivery technology is also being used by Mitsubishi Electric in Japan and Grubhub in the US.

The DPD-branded robots are operating out of the firm’s Knowlhill depot, and can each deliver up to 30 parcels per day in two neighborhoods of Milton Keynes. 

Parcel recipients are notified of a robot delivery in advance, and once they confirm they’re at home, the robot is dispatched. They can then track the robot's progress on a map and get a notification when it reaches their property. Customers are given a code to open the secure compartment in the robot to obtain their parcel; once the compartment is shut, the robot returns to the depot. Pratt adds:

We're looking to roll delivery robots out further across the UK in 2023. We'll have a fleet of robots making deliveries on our behalf across 10 sites by the end of this year. It's new technology, it’s technology that we're looking to enhance better.

Air quality 

It’s not just about reducing emissions at DPD. The firm is using its fleet of vehicles and depots to help monitor and improve air quality in the UK as well. 

Project Breathe, which launched in London in 2020, now monitors air quality across a further five UK cities: Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow. This is made possible by the 370 mobile sensors fitted onto the roofs of DPD vans, and 47 fixed sensors in its depots and pickup shop locations across those six cities. The sensors measure harmful PM2.5 (particulate matter) levels in their locations every 13 seconds. 

The readings allow DPD to visualize the air quality in those locations and identify any hotspots. This data is then shared with local authorities and academic institutions to help shape decision-making and provide the public with cleaner air.

Another initiative that is making the business more sustainable is its out of home model, delivering to a nearby business or location rather than to the recipient’s address. As of April 2023, DPD offers a choice of 6,000 pickup points. Pratt says:

This is becoming more and more popular. Whether to a shop or locker, it takes out that final mile delivery, reducing emissions, but at the same time improving convenience for a number of our consumers.

When it comes to the motivation for all the various sustainability measures the firm is taking, this is prompted as much by internal interest as by customer demand, according to Pratt;

We believe it's what we should be doing as a business. It's the right thing for us to do. Without question, it's becoming more and more important to consumers. Both large enterprises and small/medium enterprises have a firm view and a firm eye on the impact that delivery is making on the environment so absolutely it's the right thing to do.  We continue to deploy the technology that we can, to allow us to aim ultimately to our completely Net Zero target by 2040.

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