It was all hands on deck on DHL’s peak shipping and operations day, Dec. 18, at the Carrollton warehouse. The international shipper estimates that it handled 26 percent more packages on the peak shipping day this year compared to Dec. 19, last year’s peak shipping day.
International e-commerce from Amazon and other online retailers is driving the rapid increase on that day as the shippers business-to-business work stays relatively steady during the holiday season, said Preston Piper, station services manager for DHL’s Carrollton facility.
DHL’s service partners, who provide ground transportation in Texas, had to rent extra trucks and vans to ensure they could handle the Christmas rush. On that peak shipping day, they made about 2,500 stops out of the Carrollton facility alone. DHL hired seasonal help to handle the increased demand.
“It’s our busiest day of the year so far. We cover everything east of D/FW Airport," Piper said.
What may look like an overwhelming amount of packages is actually a smooth process involving conveyor belts, computer logistics and sorting.
The Carrollton facility opened in August, relieving DHL’s existing distribution center near D/FW Airport, which serves the western half of the Metroplex.
DHL plans to continue growing logistics in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2018, adding a Fort Worth facility that will be similar to the one in Carrollton. Company officials wouldn’t comment on the location or specifically when the Fort Worth facility could open.
Once it does, DHL plans to convert the Grand Prairie facility near D/FW Airport into an International Gateway. Right now, the majority of all international packages fly in and out of the Cincinnati Airport where DHL’s main hub is located. Then, they are sorted and shipped out on domestic flights to hubs like D/FW.
D/FW Airport will become DHL’s fourth international gateway in 2018, joining Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which gained that designation in September, and Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“It relieves volume from our hub in Cincinnati,” Piper said. “We’ll be able to get a direct flight from Asia Pacific, Latin America or Europe to come directly through the gateway at D/FW Airport.”
Becoming an international gateway not only means more yellow and red aircraft flying into D/FW Airport but there could be more small domestic flights departing for destinations in West Texas or Louisiana, Piper said.
Small businesses are becoming more global than ever as the shipping industry becomes democratized. Piper pointed out several pallets full of products from China that are bound for a seasonal home business in North Texas.
The rise of e-commerce and the expectation that people expect products to arrive from anywhere around the world quickly and efficiently have made global shippers like DHL more critical than ever, said Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo.
"There's a lot of growth and innovation that's taken place so the lines are blurring a little bit between what's widely thought of as a consumer-driven industry to shippers that really serve businesses," Vitner said. "Before, you needed to have a certain scale before you could ship product efficiently. Now you don't really have to do that."
In addition to handling an increase in e-commerce, DHL has been busy delivering supplies to hurricane ravaged areas in Puerto Rico and Houston. The company sent 50 generators and several pallets of bottled water to Puerto Rico in aftermath of Hurricane Maria. They also offer 30 percent off shipping for packages sent to Puerto Rico, an effort that Piper said makes it easier for churches and nonprofits to send donated items to the island.
DHL also responded similarly to Hurricane Harvey in Houston.