Success Story DHL Sorting Center GmbH

Parcel numbers delivered by German companies have been rising for years. In 2020 alone, DHL, Germany’s largest logistics corporation, delivered 1.6 billion parcels – a new record. The Bonn-based company has been building new parcel distribution centers, on average one per year, to ensure custom-ers continue to get quick delivery of their parcels de-spite the growth in volume. Responsible for the task is the subsidiary DHL Sorting Center GmbH, which was founded in 2014 specifically for this purpose.  “The parcel centers we are currently planning and building are highly efficient and technologically very advanced. They sort and distribute around 50,000 packages every hour,” says Frank Fisser, Manag-ing Director of DHL Sorting Center GmbH. The DHL subsidiary has been working with CIDEON since 2014 on digitalizing planning processes and increas-ing efficiency. The two companies have now jointly developed and implemented a concept on further digitalizing planning.

Planning efficiency for high-tech DHL parcel centers

Identifying potential and determining ROI in Discovery Workshops CIDEON initially began working with the DHL subsidiary when it implemented Autodesk packages into DHL’s system. “These represented key steps towards making processes more digital and achieving genuine workflow consistency. But there was so much potential for more effi-ciency, especially in the complex, interdisciplinary planning processes,” says Christof Ott, Principal Solution Manager at CIDEON. Frank Fisser also saw the need and was open to options. But return on investments (ROI) were needed be-fore going ahead with any investment in large-scale software and digitalization changes. 

CIDEON therefore provided Discovery Workshops. The first step here was to take stock of where the company currently stood, what could be optimized, and the monetary value of any optimization. “It was about identifying the potential for efficiency gains through digital transformation and applying new methods. We went through the individual points in the process, and could say, for example, ‘We can reduce work-loads by half by using automation and highly efficient tools’. We were then able to determine the savings we would get from the solutions and how much we could then invest.”

Discussions and close attention to detail are key 

As the main areas with optimization potential, CIDEON and DHL personnel identified planning efficiency and suppli-er connectivity. To build parcel distribution centers, DHL works with up to 20 suppliers, such as steel construc-tors and conveyor equipment providers. The distribution centers are built under major time pressure so everyone needs to work together in parallel on their part of the pro-ject. Factory and plant modeling therefore requires coor-dination and management by DHL. “Sending the models and drawings of detailed components individually by mail to suppliers doesn’t work here,” Fisser states. “We there-fore required a central communication platform through which models, plans, changes and info could be quickly communicated to our partners. Automating and systema-tizing that was a major goal.” 

Another key issue in planning concerns the required high level of precision. Since parcel centers are primarily need-ed in urban areas where space for warehouses is limited, planning has to be extremely precise. Approximately 40,000 m² of space is available in a parcel center. “This is a big challenge because we won’t just be putting one or two machines in there. Sorting centers have an extremely high concentration of equipment. We have to work to the nearest centimeter within the building’s structure. This requires extremely close coordination with all suppliers,” explains Fisser. “Steel construction, conveyor equipment, sprinkler systems, lighting all need to be smoothly integrat-ed with everything also being approved for safety.” 

Integrated, sustainable planning concept rather than just software

To meet the requirements, CIDEON developed an inte-grated, sustainable planning concept: “It wasn’t about just installing software. The aim was to achieve optimum coordination between the various areas, with a consistent database, structured and automated tasks, and signifi-cantly faster planning times,” Ott explains. The concept involved CAD conversion and optimization, implementation of an internal data management system, and connecting the data management system to a cloud-based Common Data Environment (CDE), which acts as an information exchange platform for suppliers.

Optimized layout planning thanks to CAD conversion

Planning in DHL is based on CAD. CIDEON therefore im-plemented the Factory Design concept with Inventor and Navisworks. Navisworks is an especially practical, intuitive tool for merging and visualizing CAD files. “We often have large files. Displaying these requires a computer with a lot of power. Navisworks is however able to reduce the power needed and has a high-performance viewer. This means viewing can then be done with a simple laptop,” Fisser explains.

Uncomplicated cloud sharing via BIM 360 

Communications with external partners and suppliers was moved to the cloud using BIM 360. The platform enables each supplier to get their own directory where they can upload and manage documents. Authorized users then have access to the latest files, regardless of time and location. The Large Model Viewer is integrated into the platform, which both DHL employees and suppliers can use to view 3D models without having to install anything else. “This has made coordination and communications with suppliers much easier and faster,” says Fisser. Fault tracking and task assignment can also be performed via BIM 360. “You can practically walk through the plant with your tablet and, if you spot any problems, you just take a photo and send them to the supplier via the cloud instead of writing emails. You can also assign the task of rectifying the problem to a specific person or group. The entire process is then recorded and trackable centrally via the platform.” 

Internal data management consistency us-ing Vault and the CIDEON Toolbox

CIDEON implemented Autodesk Vault as another tool. Vault not only optimizes internal data management, but is also linked to BIM 360. This means that internal as well as external files are always synchronized. For example, when a DHL employee creates CAD planning data in Vault, it is synchronized with a defined revision status with the cloud and automatically made available to suppliers in BIM 360. “This is where CIDEON is providing us with really good advice. Currently, for example, we are looking at how to improve the programming and automation of certain functions. It’s an ongoing project where the solution is also constantly undergoing adjustments to meet our needs,” says Fisser. CIDEON also expanded the Vault Standard using the CIDEON Vault Toolbox. This includes a collec-tion of add-ons that automate routine tasks, such as the organization, management and documentation of process data. This has accelerated the planning process.

Benefits of the planning concept in ongoing operations

The planning concept, Autodesk solutions and the addi-tion of CIDEON tools have enabled DHL to achieve the desired improvements in efficiency and supplier commu-nications. “It wouldn’t have been possible without digital tools. We now have user friendly, intuitive software and simpler processes. The data is available centrally to all participants and I can directly assign tasks. This is a huge plus,” says the DHL Sorting Center Managing Director. Planning also benefits from being able to perform detailed planning earlier in the process and detect problems at an early stage. “When I get the model for a piece of equip-ment from a supplier, the safety engineer can look at it and immediately determine whether it meets construction and safety specifications. This means, for example, that you won’t first install a railing before realizing that it needs moving by another 20 cm. What previously was talked about on the construction site, we already now do in the planning phase. It also makes everything faster,” says Fisser. “This of course requires that all involved work together.” 

Digitalization as an ongoing project

Despite many improvements already having been achieved in current projects, digitalization is for Frank Fisser a work in progress. “We are still having ideas and I am certain that we’ll be able to get a lot more out of the solutions. We are working with CIDEON and Autodesk to see how the software can be further developed. VR and spare parts management are two exciting topics for us, which will enable us to further enhance digital models. Vault is also to be expanded with more functions and additional pro-gramming.” All this will continue to be done with CIDEON. “Working together is straightforward and focused on customer needs. I don’t get the impression of just being sold a product. CIDEON’s contact persons are also mainly interested in the solution,” Fisser concludes.

DHL Sorting GmbH

DHL Sorting Center GmbH was founded in 2014 as a tech-nology start-up by Deutsche Post DHL Group. DHL Sorting Center GmbH is headquartered in Bonn, Germany, and is highly dynamic in developing and building innovative new parcel sorting centers. The company employs proven techni-cal and IT specialists to design and implement forward-look-ing, complex and innovative system solutions.

Ann-Kathrin Fritsche, Customer Success Manager

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Ablösung PDM-Altsystem (Productstream Professional) im laufenden Betrieb, Aufbereitung der Konstruktionsdaten, Prozesssicherheit bei Kollaborationsszenarien intern/extern, Erfassung und Wiederverwendung von Konstruktionswissen, Automatisierung nicht wertschöpfender Tätigkeiten, Zukunftssicherheit.


Substitution PDM-Altsystem durch konstruktionsnahes Autodesk Vault.


Intuitive und einfache Datenverwaltung und -verwendung durch die Konstrukteure, Einsatz CIDEON Add-Ons für mehr Datenkonsistenz und kürzere Projektlaufzeiten.

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