February 15 saw the conclusion of “Forum Automobillogistik” (Forum Automotive Logistics), a joint event organized by the German Federal Logistics Association (BVL) and the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). More than 500 experts and executives from the automotive and logistics industry met in Bremen for two days. The regularly occurring event was hosted by Mercedes-Benz AG, which provided the customer center located at its plant for this purpose. Together with Dr. Joachim Damasky, Managing Director of VDA, Prof. Dr. Wimmer, the Board Chairman of BVL, welcomed the participants under the motto “Smart instead of reactive – on the path to digital dimensions”.
Motto: “Smart instead of reactive – on the path to digital dimensions”
A more suitable motto could not have been chosen: the presentations and discussions during the sequences made it quite clear that the topic of digitalization is at the very top of companies’ agendas. Indeed, numerous presentations outlining current or even completed projects demonstrated that it is already in the implementation phase. The sector has already progressed far on its journey towards the digital future.
All doors open for free trade
In his keynote speech held on the evening of the first conference day, VDA President Matthias Wissmann addressed all the issues currently facing the sector. These include the trade restrictions that are being discussed at the moment as well as the related problems that would not only arise for logistics but also, as he saw it, would exert a strain on growth in the sector as a whole. Furthermore, he cited examples convincingly showing that protectionism was liable to particularly harm those economies that attempted to impose rules in an effort to secure advantages for local industries. He cautioned that the opposite was the case.
Audi this year’s award winner
This year’s VDA Logistics Award went to Audi AG for the smart driverless vehicles (FTS) that support the outbound logistics of its finished vehicles. To the applause of the audience, the award was presented during the evening event.
Digital transformation results in impressive process improvements
Generic terms such as “digitalization” or “Industry 4.0” were consistently explained in such a way as to highlight the content and added value of the projects that were presented. Dr. Wolfgang Rudorfer (BMW) explained that the core issue for automotive logistics specialists is coming to terms with the “black box” between the communication of requirements to the supplier and the incoming goods. This calls for joint activities with partners responsible for physical transportation, i.e. not only the suppliers furnishing the goods but also the forwarders, logistics service providers and carriers involved. Thanks to the resources that are now available, it is possible to implement ideas that had previously only been discussed in the sector. It is possible to tap considerable savings potential with respect to storage and transportation costs, while also achieving a more efficient and, hence, more environmentally friendly utilization of the necessary resources. In fact, Matthias Steiger (LuK, a Schaeffler Group company) went one step further: describing a project that was currently already being rolled out, he was able to demonstrate precisely the process improvements and efficiency gains that all automotive logistics specialists are seeking.
Or, as Prof. Dr. Raimund Klinkner (IMX GmbH and BVL Board Chairman) explained, the next major step after lean is transparency in the supply chain, which could be implemented with the possibilities afforded by the digital world. Intelligent systems offering predictive analysis capabilities and generating recommendations for logistics on the basis of current conditions in the processes and environment (web analysis/risk management) are just around the corner.
Efficient collaboration is becoming more and more important
Given the improvements that can now be achieved, an efficient network that integrates all parties involved in terms of the processes as well as with respect to the collection and provision of data is growing increasingly in importance. Companies that are considering the operational implementation of such collaborative approaches beyond purely functional aspects are shying away from or even shunning the roll-out of a customer-specific solution. It is almost as if the idea of electronic market places, which stems from the late 1990s, is experiencing a renaissance.
What other sectors are doing – interesting digitalization approaches from the retail industry
The insight into activities in other industries was also interesting: Frank Wiemer from the REWE Group impressively showed how his company was interpreting and implementing “Industry 4.0”. He explained that the focus thereby is on smart and highly efficient processes facilitating shopping for customers and additionally offering the retail company remarkable potential.
While Kai Derda of CHEP outlined an award-winning project that allows retailers to secure significant efficiency gains through the use of pallets fitted with bar code labels and beacon technology in the provision of special POS displays. Both the ability to monitor the performance of such promotion activities and the potential available for optimizing logistic processes were impressive. As Wiemer clearly stated in his presentation: “Do not regard digitalization costs as an expense but as an investment in the future” he recommended, to which the audience responded with agreement and applause.