AI in Logistics: meeting player organizations in the Netherlands

Author: Giuseppina Schiavone

On the 2nd of February 2023, I’ve joined the event ‘Artificial Intelligence en logistiek: kansen en mogelijkheden’ (Artificial Intelligence in logistics: chances and opportunities) at the High Tech Campus (HTC) Eindoven, Netherlands.

Being sustainable logistics a focused sector for SAAC, participating to this event was particularly relevant to get to know players organizations in the Netherlands involved in making logistics more efficient, smarter and sustainable.

I summarize in this post my notes and impression of the event.

The event was organized by the Nederland Distributieland (NDL), De Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM), the AI Innovation Center.

The objective of the event was to highlight the callenges and opportunities of AI in logistics and to show cases some of the AI innovators working in this field at the AI Innovation Center.

Remco Buurman, director of the Holland International Distribution Council (HILDC) or Nederland Distributieland (NDL) opened the event giving a brief introduction to the situation of logistics in the Netherland today. I found relevant his mention about:

  1. the reduction of NDL projects with China due to the Rising US–China rivalry and to the new EU regulatory framework
  2. the shortage of personnel, truck drivers and warehouse workforce, in the sector of transport and logistics .

Eelko Brinkhoff, director of BOM, introduced the activities at the BOM and their role in supporting AI innovation. Interesting, Eelko Brinkhoff is also board member of Dilas (Dutch Industrial & Logistics Association).

Dilas is an association of renowned companies in the logistics and industrial (real estate) sector, initiated by Joffrey Lagaunne, Bas Geijtenbeek, Sander Breugelmans, Eelko Brinkhoff and Tim Beckmann and counting today more than fifteen other parties, including companies and knowledge institutions. Dilas has the ambition to develop logistics and industrial real estate in a future-proof manner, working together on solutions for societal challenges that limit the sector, for example the necessity to store food and medical supply against the undesired traffic congestion at the proximity of warehouses. They aim at providing the government with knowledge about how production and logistics chains actually function and how innovation in the field can bring solutions to energy and sustainability problems, for example using distribution centers as smart energy hubs. Dilas work intends to facilitate the development of policies, for example influencing building regulation, for sustainable integration of logistics and real estate in the Dutch spatial, urban and environmental, planning. This is increasingly relevant in view of the CDA party’s motion approved by the House of Representative in October 2022 to reconsider the regulations for sizes and locations of distribution centers.

As third speaker at the event, Paul van Son, innovation manager at the Hight Tech Campus, gave a wide overview of the HTC with facts and figures about companies, facilities, patents, incubators, people and nationalities at the campus. He showed 5 main applications areas on which innovation is carried out at the HTC: health & vitality, sustainable energy & storage, software & platforms, applied intelligence, smart environments & connectivities. Paul van Son himself was the initiator of the AI Innovation Center, currently hosting more than 10 AI startups.

After the introduction of the organizers of the event, John Adriaensen, head of IT Benelux & ​​Nordics DHL Supply Chain, was invited to give a presentation over the AI applications at DHL Supply Chain, global leader in supply chain management & third-party logistics and active in more than 50 countries worldwide. The presentation showed the increasing number and quality of the digitalization projects within DHL Supply Chain, counting, today, more than 5k projects across all logistics processes, including assisted picking robots, smart tasking systems, digital twins, optimization of inventory management, continuous monitoring of automated warehouse to mention few. Some of the projects are built with the Microsoft warehouse management module. In his talk, I found the following observations insightful:

  1. the use of robots allows the generation of more data, useful to track and monitor processes and eventually prevent and address faults and risks,
  2. the design of digital technologies for logistics needs to ensure that the complexity stays in the system and does not translate into burden for the employees,
  3. the major challenge of the adoption of AI solutions in logistics is employees’ acceptability and adaptability, which require high quality change management approach and appropriate training.

Finally, three residents at the AI Innovation Center pitched their AI projects related to logistics:

  • Datacation, startup offering data analytics, AI and engineering services, presented the application of a cutting-edge deep reinforcement learning algorithm for optimization tasks in logistics
  • Noosware, startup offering cloud intelligence services, presented an open source could platform for orchestrating robots in a warehouse through the cloud
  • TwentyNext, startup expert in Data Science and AI with focus on Big Data, presented several projects involving drones and propose a challenging question about the feasibility of using drones for last mile delivery in the near future.

The first two presentations were mostly technical and the panel of experts including, John Adriaensen, Martijn Kleij, COO of DPD Netherlands, and Toine van Gils, Managing Directeur of Vos Logistics solutions, raised questions related to business models and pricing models, which remain to be better detailed. Regarding the last presentation, while some type of packages transport through drones is definitively feasible, the experts commented on aspects such as safety, robustness to heavy weather conditions, environmental noise which make last mile delivery drones a difficult application to effectively implement in the near future. Still, middle-term solutions could be planning drone delivery at idle times of the day, such as at night, or application for delivery at remote location, across islands and deserts.

I have enjoyed the event and the interesting discussions, I have appreciated the passion of the young AI innovators and their drive to use advanced data analytics to solve complex real problems. Being at the HTC, always gives me the feeling of standing with my feet ahead into the future. I look forward to connecting with the speakers and participating to upcoming AI-events at the AI Innovation Center.


NDL, also known as the Holland International Distribution Council (HILDC), is is a private, non-profit organization, founded in 1987, providing advisory and matchmaking services for supply chain operations in Europe. It is funded by the Dutch government and more than 300 members. NDL is a one-stop-shop for Dutch logistics expertise, offering confidential and free of charge services (such as supply chain design, partnership selection, recruitment, tax and legal implications of trade with the EU) for any international company interested in entry into the European market through the Dutch leading gateway.


BOM is a public organization with no commercial interest, it is one of the 9 Dutch ROMs or Regional Development Agencies, operating within the Province of North Brabant and the Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate. BOM bridges entrepreneurs, knowledge institutes and government; works together with businesses to create a robust, sustainable, and future-proof economy for the province of Brabant. They offer support in business development, in financing for start-ups and scaleups, and in international expansion, encouraging foreign companies to settle in Brabant and assisting Brabant companies to extend their reach abroad. BOM’s focused areas include: Sustainable Food Systems, Healthy Future, Climate-neutral Energy Solutions, Promising Key Technologies.

AI Innovation Center

AI Innovation Center is an incubator and accelerator for AI applications and projects by bringing together the regional AI ecosystem. Located at the High Tech Campus, in the Brainport Eindhoven (the Dutch Silicon Valley), the AI Innovation Center was co-founded by Philips, Signify, NXP and ASML and opened in April 2021 with the mission to industrialize AI in the Brainport Eindhoven region.