THANK YOU FOR SUBSCRIBING
Thierry Golliard serves as the Director of Open Innovation and Venturing at Swiss Post, the national postal service of Switzerland. Golliard started his journey with Swiss Post 12 years ago as the Senior Innovation Manager. With over 15 years of industrial experience and a solid academic background, Golliard leads a team developing open innovation and venture capital initiatives with external partners. His extensive industry knowledge and zeal for innovation have assisted him in achieving Swiss Post’s vision of powering Switzerland with trustworthy services in the digital and physical worlds.
In an interview with the editorial team at Logistics Tech Outlook Europe, Golliard sheds light on some of the challenges prevailing in the logistics and supply chain industry and how organisations can turn these challenges into growth opportunities
What are some of the current challenges affecting the logistics and supply chain industry?
The increased volume of parcels during the pandemic challenged us considerably and pushed us to our limits. Operations were severely affected, and the staff testing COVID-19 positive caused a shortage of resources.
The emerging competition in the logistics and retail sector are well funded and have advanced digital capabilities. Those assets enable them to learn extremely fast in new markets, which poses a threat to the existing players.
At the same time, we have also experienced revenue decline in some of our core markets as the financial services, due to low interest rates and of course the mail business. Being a Swiss government-owned organisation, we also have to abide by government regulations that mandate public service activities that are not commercially profitable.
What are some of the technologies that you leverage to overcome these challenges?
We use multiple technologies to optimise employee productivity processes and procedures. Currently, we are for instance piloting exoskeletons manufactured by different start-ups. This is a mechanical support structure worn on the body to help users lift heavy loads with better support. The technology minimises the workload for our employees, especially those who handle heavy and bulky parcels. In a time-consuming and laborious industry, technologies like exoskeletons make the job more attractive and draw the attention of job seekers.
We are researching AI with some of the most prominent universities in Switzerland to optimise our algorithms for dynamic routing. The technology will enable us to develop highly customised services for our clients and deliver to the right place, at the right time, as per the customer’s preference. We have also invested in start-ups to ensure the continued development of new solutions and business models that challenge and streamline the current fulfilment, transport and delivery processes.
Could you walk us through some of the steps you have taken to ensure sustainability practices in your organisation?
The first step is to understand what sustainability means internally and how we use resources. Our aim is to be a leader in sustainability. And to this degree we invest to a great extent to engage with the employees and educate them on the sustainable use of internal resources, for instance regarding recycling or mode of transport. As corporate, we leverage solar energy to power our building. Furthermore, we comitted to makes our delivery fleet full electric by 2030 and our extensive public transportation systems operated by PostBus, carbon neutral by 2040. This ambitious goal pushes us to experiment new technologies like hydrogen.
“We are researching AI with some of the most prominent universities in Switzerland to optimise our algorithms for dynamic routing. The technology will enable us to develop highly customised services for our clients and deliver to the right place, at the right time, as per the customer’s preference”
Moreover, Swiss Post strives to develop new services and business models in the circular economy.Coffee producer Nespresso selected Swiss Post as their logistics partner for their Recycling at Home service. As part of the program, Swiss Post’s mail carriers collect used aluminium capsules from letter box storage compartments across the country and hand them over to Nespresso for recycling.
Could you shed light on one of your recent projects and the process you followed to achieve the desired outcomes?
One of our recent projects, Mixed Mail, is aimed at addressing the challenges associated with sorting parcels. The parcels coming from Asia through various websites are packaged using different materials like paper, cartons, and plastic. As our machines were only used to paper letters and big parcels, sorting mixed mails became a hassle. Together with our supplier and the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) we developed a new sorting device that uses artificial intelligence and robotic arms to efficiently identify and sort each shipment.
What is your sage advice to your counterparts in the logistics or supply chain industry?
The logistics industry today is very active and engaging. The supply chain has become extremely strategic and holds the potential for significant innovations. Ecommerce businesses mastering logistics has expedited the digitisation of supply chains. A digital supply chain will provide access to numerous technologies, such as IoT for tracking and tracing shipments, AI to streamline old-fashioned customer clearance and support processes and autonomous technology, such as last-mile delivery robots, to enhance customer experiences.
The logistics industry’s challenges cannot be solved by a single organisation as they may not possess all the skills, capabilities, and competencies required. As a result, open innovation is very much a requirement. By partnering with start-ups, academic institutions, and other big corporations, we combine our internal talent with external expertise to accelerate our growth and provide the best-in-class services to our clients. In other words, there is no innovation without collaboration.