The change remains

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Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: BPW

In view of the current challenges, how can transport and logistics remain competitive in the future? Science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar provided some exciting impulses at the Wiehl Forum of BPW Bergische Achsen and explained how companies should react to the most important influencing factors.

Pandemic, rising commodity prices and uncertain energy supplies: especially over recent years, we have all been confronted with major challenges that also have an effect on transport and logistics in particular. Science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar drew on a quote from Max Frisch at the Wiehl Forum of BPW to discuss how to deal with change: “Crisis is a productive state. You just have to take away the aftertaste of disaster.” Yogeshwar is convinced: “This change will remain. I personally assume that the processes of change that are currently taking place will continue – and also at their enormous speed.” The most important influencing factors for him: the change in the labour market, the rapid development of technology and globalisation. On stage in Wiehl, he also revealed what he considers to be the most important secret of success for the German economy.

New rules on the labour market

“Generation Z”, the under-25s, are changing the rules of the labour market by wanting flexible working hours. Furthermore, even after the Corona pandemic, many office spaces are no longer used on a daily basis. “This is probably one of the greatest revolutions in the labour market and it has many consequences,” says Ranga Yogeshwar. “Among other things, it raises the question as to how closely people are tied to companies.” He assumes that in 20 years’ time his grandchildren will decide upon an employer primarily according to the testimonials of their employees. “Even more so than today, it will be the companies that compete for young talent, not the other way around. In order to position oneself well for this, it is all the more important to cultivate a good culture in one’s own company, to practise values and to be authentic and honest – for example, not only to promise sustainability but also to consistently implement it. Yogeshwar is also convinced that mature companies such as BPW, a family business with 125 years of history, have many advantages. “Only a few companies around the world can boast such a successful history.” And its location in the verdant Bergisches Land can be highly attractive compared to crowded, smoggy cities such as China’s Shenzhen or Shanghai.

»Even more so than today, it will then be the companies that compete for young talent, not the other way around.«

Ranga Yogeshwar, science journalist and author

Remain open to technological developments

The storage capacity of computers and thus their performance has grown tremendously over the last decades. A qualified elementary particle physicist, Yogeshwar can recall data centres in the 1980s where a 500-megabyte memory was as big as a washing machine. “Nowadays, my smartphone has 256 GB, so I carry 512 times that capacity in my pocket.” The huge increase in computing power is the basis for the spread of artificial intelligence.

And it is getting better and better at creating neural networks that function on the model of nature: “Each of the approximately 100 billion nerve cells in our brain is connected to about 10,000 others and can process correspondingly complex signals,” says Yogeshwar. With the increased power of computers, digital neural networks can process a very large number of signals and are capable of learning. This can be used in medicine, for example, where X-ray images can be easily interpreted using artificial intelligence.

In logistics, artificial intelligence can improve efficiency in the various processes of the supply chain, increase their precision and save costs. Whether tracking goods in real time, route optimisation, automation in the warehouse, Predictive maintenance or customs clearance: AI is being used increasingly in many areas. And iC Plus, the new trailer running gear generation from BPW, is also operating for the first time with artificial intelligence. When combined with the cargofleet 3 telematics platform, it helps to reduce cost and time pressures and allows forward-looking fleet maintenance.

Yogeshwar continues to see great potential for the industry in the topic of AI: “Therefore, the most important thing for companies is to keep an open mind and to explore the individual possibilities for themselves.”

Existing in a globalised economy

For a long time, Germany’s reputation in the world was clearly one of quality, engineering and innovation. “Nowadays, we are in a world where innovation also happens in other countries,” says Ranga Yogeshwar. He refers to an OECD study which predicts that in 2030, 37 per cent of all scientists and engineers will come from China, almost 27 per cent from India – and only 1.4 per cent from Germany. “In other words: the rest of the world is not asleep.”

»In other words: the rest of the world is not asleep.«

Ranga Yogeshwar, science journalist and author

Yogeshwar concludes from this that the German economy needs to reflect on where its strengths really lie. “The figures do not spell disaster. But it means that we have to maintain a clear focus and regain a clearer sense of our strengths. Because we definitely have these strengths. And one of the most important is that German engineers are particularly good at dealing with complexity: “We can deal with complexity, right down to the finest detail. Others can’t do that.”
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