DHL charters B747 freighters ahead of US holiday record rush

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Tightening freight capacity between Asia and the US in the third quarter is a clear indication that major retailers are ramping up their imports and expect strong e-commerce demand over the holiday period, says a senior DHL official.

DHL Global Forwarding’s vice president of sales and marketing, Paul McMillan, reports that the carrier is chartering twice-weekly, round-the-world B747 freighters to provide “reliable uplift between Asia, the Americas and Europe during peak season”. 

His colleague, DHL Express senior vice president of network operations, Travis Cobb, confirmed: “Cross border e-commerce growth continues in the US as consumer demand for overseas products increases, driving both our imports and exports. To prepare for a busy 2017 holiday season, we have continued investment in US facilities as well as expanding our intercontinental air capacity.” 

With US retailers posting record sales of $6.6bn on Cyber Monday, e-commerce is bringing new revenue opportunities — and operational challenges — for the retail and logistics industries, says DHL. It is forecasting volume growth of 15%-40% across its four logistics business units in the US in the 2017 holiday season. 

DHL eCommerce chief executive Lee Spratt said: “E-commerce is fundamentally changing the way in which logistics companies operate. To help our retail customers in the US meet the demands of online shoppers for greater transparency, convenience and speed, we have to balance increased capacity with improved efficiency and to offer flexible omni-channel solutions.”

DHL Supply Chain president, retail, Jim Gehr added: “US retailers’ success for the entire year can hinge on sales and supply chain execution over the last eight weeks of the year. With fast-changing consumer habits, rapidly increasing volumes and a tight labour market, we see significant potential for new technologies, such as robotics and augmented reality, to drive productivity improvements within our customers’ supply chains.” 

DHL is hiring additional staff and expanding its capacity in the US ahead of the anticipated record holiday season. It will hire about 6,000 seasonal workers for its four business units to support its contract logistics, fulfillment, freight transportation and express delivery operations in December.

It is also introducing new customer applications and piloting warehouse robotics to increase productivity. 

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