Text: Joachim Geiger
Photos: Silvia Steinbach
ELVIS juniors have very little to do with rock ’n’ roll – but all the more with digitisation. In fact, junior logisticians at the European Cargo Federation of International Freight Forwarders would rather kick-start the future of digital processes today. But which tools are required to get a company on the right track? The juniors collected tips at a workshop held within BPW’s ideas workshop.
A little mistake and the conference chair comes crashing down to the ground. The young people – eight women and three men – look around the group, slightly irritated. Their faces pose a key question: what on earth is the point of this strange experiment? It’s the second Saturday in August and it’s just gone 9 a.m. Welcome to BPW’s ideas workshop in Wiehl.
Usually, employees from different fields of work meet here – in this friendly location kitted out with all kinds of electronic equipment – to share ideas undisturbed. In fact, some teams have come here with an idea and left with a project. However, the juniors from ELVIS AG, the European Cargo Federation of International Freight Forwarders, have been invited here today for a workshop entitled ‘Digitisation in logistics’. The programme promises a whole lot of food for thought – after all, digitisation of the transport and freight-forwarding sector is a huge priority right now.
Training ground for the future’s top managers
ELVIS AG is also active in this field. Founded in 2006, the cooperation of small- and medium-sized freight carriers and shippers has its headquarters in Alzenau, Lower Franconia. The juniors are young professionals at ELVIS partner companies, and to a certain extent, are in training to become managers who will have to handle digital logistics in the future. They’ve certainly got what it takes. The juniors – almost all of whom are yet to turn 30 – are already ambitious logisticians or are about to embark on a career in logistics. Most of them have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration under their belts, while others are traders in the forwarding and retail sectors. Within their companies, these young professionals work in sales, marketing, fleet management or insurance.
Where does the digital journey go?
ELVIS organises a network meeting for the juniors two to three times a year. It is an opportunity for further logistics training and to discuss future management themes. ‘The juniors are particularly interested in methods and tools that help bring medium-sized logistics providers onto the right digital track,’ explains Denise Boike. She works in ELVIS’ Central Purchasing department and also organises activities for ELVIS juniors. Company and factory visits are very popular among the young logisticians. The workshop in Wiehl is one of this year’s highlights. ‘The ELVIS Purchasing department has been working together with BPW for 18 months. As the company has developed into an innovative leader in the transport and logistics industry, it is exciting to understand the digital concepts behind this change in more detail,’ says Denise Boike, explaining the approach behind the event. It’s therefore logical that the ideas workshop is just the right place to grill BPW’s digital creators.
New perspectives on logistics issues
The juniors are still currently fiddling about finding a solution to their chair problem. Alexander Lutze from BPW Innovation Lab is following his guests’ activities with interest. The task he has set at the beginning of the workshop does not sound particularly difficult: the juniors are to form a circle and balance chairs on the two front legs with their fingers on the backrests. They then have to move clockwise around the chairs, going round the entire circle until everyone is back in their original place. Between letting go of one chair and grabbing the next backrest, there is just a brief moment when the chair is not ‘managed’ in any way. As the group gets to work, the problem quickly becomes clear: some are moving too quickly and others too slowly. And it results in a loud banging, and chairs tip over once, then again. ‘I’ll count to three then we’ll all take a step to the right,’ suggests Denise Boike to her fellow attendees. Said and done – this time, the chairs stay balanced. The rotation becomes smoother with every command.
Better together than alone
It is clear to the logisticians early on that the chair backs require organisation, cooperation and coordination. But can it be used to develop a template for new digital processes within the company? ‘One success factor in digitisation is partnering. With the right partner, digitisation projects can be implemented that one company alone wouldn’t be able to realise,’ explains Alexander Lutze. He also believes another determining factor is the motivation to introduce new processes. In this case, customers’ interests should always be the focus. Lutze also knows that all digital beginnings are difficult. ‘When a company sets foot in the world of digitisation, the potential for setbacks is particularly high in the initial phase. Digital technologies do not yield results overnight. You simply have to be a little patient.
The digitisation triad is ‘structure, transparency and change’
The juniors nod in agreement. In the meantime, dozens of colourful Post-it notes with key words have been stuck to both boards: ‘Breaking through the digitisation blockade’ and ‘Getting staff on board with new structures’. In summarising the notes, the ELVIS juniors define three key milestones along a company’s digitisation path. Firstly, functioning structures are required, upon which digital processes can be built. Secondly, digital creators must demonstrate a high degree of transparency when seeking approval for their projects. Thirdly, there is also the challenge of constantly motivating staff and colleagues for their journey into the digital future.
‘Digitisation means change. To implement that change, there needs to be a willingness to change within the company,’ says Pia Bless, who completed a dual degree in logistics and process management with the L.I.T. Group in Lower Saxony. For the 23-year-old, it’s all about promoting attitudes towards digital processes through proper interaction with staff. Of course, every company must find the right way to do this for themselves. But perhaps ELVIS will soon be making the joint integration of digital processes its mission? By the end of the workshop, the group is in agreement: not doing anything is a bad solution. Alexander Lutze agrees, too: ‘Digitisation is your thing. The field has been tilled, it’s now down to you.’