Picturing digital logistics

Reading time: approx. 7 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Illustrations: Grażyna Ostrowska-Henschel

Have you ever thought about logistics in images? Give it a go! It can offer some fascinating new insights. We present five inspiring perspectives on the changes in the industry, which the speakers at the Wiehler Forum 2019 at BPW Bergische Achsen shared with the top decision-makers from transport and logistics.

»As we move into the digital, networked future, we need fitness and stamina. Only those who train regularly will be truly fit for the challenge.«

Johannes Berg, managing director of Digital Hub Logistics Hamburg

If you want to be fit for the digital future you need to train regularly for it – by gathering knowledge, looking for good instructors, getting into the ring with partners and pitching ideas. ‘We all know what happens when you are a member of a gym but treat it more like you are sponsoring the business,’ explains Johannes Berg, managing director of Digital Hub Logistics Hamburg. ‘Muscles don’t grow all by themselves. You actually have to put the work in to achieve your goals. That means you have to get on the equipment! You need to learn how to use it correctly and then build up the strength needed to tackle the challenges you are facing.’ Digital Hub Logistics in Hamburg is a sort of gym for innovation and digitisation – bringing together companies, start-ups, research and education in one place to shape the logistics of tomorrow together. And this only works with regular training. In other words, when companies rent a space in the hub, they use its infrastructure and its network to develop new business models, come up with ideas and work with partners to make them a reality.

You can also organise this under your own steam, for example by linking up with start-ups or other industry players through your own contacts, associations or initiatives. ‘You just have to be open and ensure that you keep the necessary capacity available for this, or create that capacity,’ says Berg. ‘Some medium-sized companies manage this. Others say they have full order books, no resources and they would like the gym membership to be free … that’s when things get a bit complicated.’ He advises companies who are evolving to pause every three to six months and think about a new training plan. This can correct the course they are taking to various degrees – so that they always keep their eye on the goal.

»Data is worth its weight in gold for companies!«

Roman Rapoport, CIO BPW Bergische Achsen

‘Google turns over around 400 million euros in a single day – with a lucrative profit margin too,’ says Roman Rapoport, CIO of BPW. ‘And this money is predominantly earned with data. Logistics companies need to be aware that data is a precious resource for them too!’ He advises that businesses should take a close look at how they can benefit from existing data. These findings should also play a role in the development of future products and services. Rapoport sees a strong future for the logistics industry when it comes to the targeted and intelligent use of data, as the digital transformation is reflecting a massive trend in this direction. For example, the number of Internet of Things units in the industry has increased significantly in just a few years: ‘What are the potential data-driven business models here that you could make use of your logistics expertise for?’ asks Rapoport. If businesses manage to put together the right knowledge and attract the right partners for innovative collaborations, they will enable profitable new business models.

»When you climb a big mountain, you often lose sight of the summit on the way.«

Julia Miosga, managing director of ‘Die DigitalLandschaftsGärtnerin’

‘When we set ourselves personal goals, I like to compare this to a mountain we want to climb,’ explains Julia Miosga, managing director of the consultancy firm „Die DigitalLandschaftsGärtnerin“. ‘When you look at the mountain from a distance, it doesn’t look so big and you optimistically think it will be no problem to climb it. But when you are hanging off the rock face on your way up, you can quickly lose sight of the summit – and that causes doubt.’ In such moments, she believes it is important to have faith in your own strengths and keep believing that the summit is still up there waiting for you to reach it – and above all, that you will be rewarded with a great view when you get there. For Miosga it’s clear that everyone who makes it to the top has courage and a pioneering spirit. She references the American writer Brené Brown, who researches human behaviour and has studied how businesses manage to lead courageous and innovative teams. Brown believes that appreciation for each individual employee is important. ‘Because if I as an employee am accepted as I am with my strengths and weaknesses and if my work is noticed, then I am also able to develop innovative ideas,’ explains Miosga. ‘I can’t have any fear of being disparaged, even if nothing comes of an idea. You need to be able to do the wrong thing sometimes, without having to expect harsh consequences. Then you will be able to climb to the top of the mountain. So, I ask you to keep on being brave!’

»When skills merge and you dare to do something new, sometimes one and one makes three.«

Alexander Lutze, head of the BPW Innovation Lab

Partnerships are hugely powerful: you can combine skills, exchange ideas and knowledge – and achieve more together. ‘There are many excellent medium-sized companies operating in the transport and logistics industry. I would like them to be more open in entering into partnerships,’ says Alexander Lutze, head of the BPW Innovation Lab. ‘I would really encourage them to join forces, particularly in uncertain, economically difficult times.’ He is constantly working with customers to seek out innovative solutions. This is how the BPW CargoTracer came about, for example, which enables cost-effective digital tracking of goods. ‘When you work, think and pursue objectives with others in a team you can, for example, figure out even better where there might currently be fertile ground for new digital business models that differ significantly from the usual logic in the industry and break with the established rules of competition,’ believes Lutze. Then it’s a matter of bringing together the partners’ resources and skills and trying something new: ‘You have to be ready to invest in it – not just with money, but above all with time and a clear mind. Then one and one doesn’t just add up to two – it can quickly make three as well.’

»Innovations emerge when you break the rules.«

Dr Bert Schröer, head of fleet management at AWB Köln

‘Logistics is and remains an extremely conservative industry,’ believes Bert Schröer, head of fleet management at Cologne’s municipal waste management company Abfallwirtschaftsbetriebe Köln GmbH (AWB). ‘We prefer to have a common theme in our fleets and a high degree of standardisation.’ There isn’t much room left for innovations: ‘These really only come about when we break these rules and decide to go in a direction that others aren’t pursuing yet.’ AWB has, for example, collaborated with BPW to convert a diesel Mercedes-Benz Vario to an electric drive system. It is being used in Cologne as a team vehicle for street cleaning. AWB is focusing more on alternative drives in order to reduce emissions: for instance, employees are using electric cars, electric bikes are being employed as cargo bikes and small electric vans are being deployed in green spaces. ‘When we decided to raise the profile of this topic in our company and also on the city’s streets, we set a trend in motion. The cooperation with BPW is also something out of the ordinary for us – you have to have faith and take a chance on new things. And I think this is the only way to make progress in future.’ Schröer also looks to the world of politics, saying that it should take greater action to reduce emissions: ‘But if we simply wait for that, we will definitely be waiting a long time. That’s why we should keep on providing examples of how we have achieved success off our own back.’ And he believes there are plenty of these examples – you simply need to present them clearly: ‘We need to hold them up at the right time and say, “Look, we did it!” – and we need to do it on a large scale. If we can manage this, we will have achieved what the future needs of us.’

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