Logistics has built up a rock-solid reputation for being conservative, lacking dynamism, trailing other industries in many ways, thus falling behind developments in automotive, trade or
This may apply to the past. Meanwhile, the wind has changed, evidenced at the 35th German Logistics Congress held in Berlin last week and organized by Bundesvereinigung Logistik (BVL). During the three-day event, the 3,539 attendees were presented a wealth of innovations.
Interestingly enough, it was predominantly small and medium-sized companies that had been in the limelight thanks to keen and forward driving concepts to further enhance the supply chain, improve
the flow of goods and enable different players to exchange their data across company boundaries. Admittedly, there was no player presenting an all-in-one solution to take the industry to the next
level, but the sum of the many individual innovations tabled in Berlin could result in a big bang once the many new solutions have proven their worth in everyday processes, paving the way for
pioneering new grounds and changing the reputation of the industry from boring to exciting, thus bettering its public acceptance.
Small, smart and agile
One of these many no name companies displaying their services in Berlin was TUP.COM. A company of 130 staff that has developed from small beginnings to a hidden world champion in planning, developing and managing entire warehousing systems and the flow of materials through tailored IT solutions. Customers are Adidas, Bosch, Rhenus or Zalando to name only four.
Another newcomer presenting its products in Berlin was TriLaTech GmbH. Their amazing innovation is a pallet made of special recyclable and waterproof fibers that are 20 percent lighter compared to traditional wooden pallets. Cargolux has become their launching customer while Lufthansa Cargo is currently evaluating this innovative, extremely durable and waterproof product for everyday use.
A third player worth mentioning, that drew much attention at the Logistics Congress was IT provider RIO that developed tools enabling all supply chain participants sharing their specific transport data, making the route planning and physical transport of goods extremely transparent, allowing truck drivers, shippers or forwarders the exchange of real time information across company boundaries. “Rio means river in Spanish, symbolizing the constant flow of water, which in our case are goods. That’s why we named our company that way,” explained Director Marketing & Communications Joachim Wallenstein during his firm’s presentation.
Admittedly, these are just three examples of innovations among many presented by rather little-known companies last week in Berlin. But they indicate a promising trend that will ultimately catapult the logistics and cargo business to new heights.
This pioneering spirit coupled with a positive self-awareness could be sensed throughout the entire show and it ran like a thread right through all exhibitor groups. To put it briefly, the logistics industry demonstrated its ability to master major challenges and even grow its economic influence further by developing user friendly man-machine interactions, new electronic information exchange systems and transport solutions based on self-learning algorithms, this way broadening its range of services day by day.
Airbus of Artificial Intelligence
Which prominent role this industry is meanwhile playing in the Germany and EU economy was evidenced inter alia by the presence of high-level politicians such as German Secretary of Commerce Peter Altmaier and former Secretary of State Sigmar Gabriel. In his remarkable contribution Altmaier called for building an “Airbus of Artificial Intelligence” by bundling European AI know-how to not only defend but extend the EU’s global position in sustainable value creation.
Simultaneously, the politician warned of a creeping loss of industrial competency in case the EU lags behind technical developments: “Roughly 90 percent of added value in traditional automotive engineering still occurs today in Germany and other European countries. In the case of electric powered cars, the share has come down to only 60 percent.”
Positive outlook despite tariffs and trade barriers
But despite some Cassandra and siren voices heard at the BVL Congress, the Berlin-held event clearly showed the adaptability of the logistics industry in a fast-changing political and economic environment, threatened by tariffs and unilateralism. Also the industry’s ability to identify and react to new trends is remarkable, emphasized various panelists. While in recent years, topics such as complexity, costs and cooperation stood on top of the industry’s agenda, now it’s mainly about sustainability, new technologies, robotic systems, disruptive business models, artificial intelligence, and new requirements for personnel management and personnel development. “We have a close eye on this: humans and machines are gradually becoming partners in a social networked industry," exclaimed BVL's CEO Robert Blackburn.
The overall economic conditions for this gradually changed industrial focus are positive and BVL’s latest logistics indicator reflects a cautiously optimistic mood. "Despite all prophecies of doom - and despite the small economic slump last summer: The logistics sector remains on its successful course," Mr Blackburn exclaimed.