From the Network

First Parts of the Programme Finalised for the Conference

This year, the International Supply Chain Conference will take place from October 20 to 22, and preparations are already in full swing. The progress of the vaccination campaign and the falling case numbers are cause for hope. The organisational team is being advised by an epidemiologist on the pandemic outlook for the coming months, and the prospects for a hybrid conference this year are looking favourable.

“We are looking forward to a conference where people can once again interact in person. However, it is impossible to reliably predict at the present time what the setting will be and how many people will be allowed to attend. We hope we will be able to welcome the attendees at the venue itself, but this naturally depends on the framework conditions and the official stipulations such as the implementation regulations that will be in place in Berlin”, says BVL Board Chairman Prof. Thomas Wimmer. Given the situation, the organisational team is continuing to adopt a two-track strategy and making all the necessary preparations for both a purely digital and a hybrid version of the conference. These efforts are bearing fruit, as we have already received a high number of registrations for the digital part of the conference and have also confirmed the participation of numerous prominent speakers. The latter include Prof. Julia Arlinghaus, Director of the Fraunhofer IFF, Dr. Marianne Janik, CEO of Microsoft Deutschland, Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd AG, Prof. Siegfried Russwurm, President of the BDI Federation of German Industries, and journalist Dr. Ursula Weidenfeld. The three panel sessions on the Wednesday and Thursday of the conference will focus on the topics “Chancen nutzen – Adapt to Lead”, “On the Road to Real Climate Neutrality” and “Cybersecurity”. There will also be eight specialist sessions with different core themes. A large part of the digital conference content will be simultaneously interpreted into English. Each specialist session will be followed by a 30-minute presentation entitled “Experience New Technologies” in which companies can showcase their solutions. And it goes without saying that the German Award for SCM will once again be presented on the evening of day one of the conference. You can find regularly updated information and details of the speakers and the programme on the BVL website. As always, the social media channels of BVL will be reporting on the preparations for the International Supply Chain Conference and keeping interested parties up to speed. 

Members Approve Strategy of Board and Management

This year’s Members’ Meeting of BVL was originally scheduled to take place during the transport logistic fair in Munich but the decision was then made to hold the event in virtual format via an Internet feed from StreamLab-Studios in Bremen on May 3. Voting was by proxy, with members transferring their votes to the few members who were actually present at StreamLab and therefore able to vote in person. In total, 181 members with voting rights were represented at the meeting.

The Board and the management team reported to the members on an unpredictable 2020, a year that began with an extremely successful Forum Automotive Logistics but in which the outbreak of the corona pandemic meant that in-person formats – such as the Trade Logistics Congress and the Forum Spare Parts Logistics – were rare. “Personal attendance at the International Supply Chain Conference in October then fell victim to the second wave of the pandemic, which constituted a stress and agility test without equal”, said Board Chairman Prof. Thomas Wimmer.

Managing Director Uwe Peters explained that BVL had relied on events for around 75% of its 2019 revenues and that these revenues had declined by a massive 85 percent in 2020. He said that the association was trying to offset these losses with a painful cost cutting and restructuring programme but that reduced revenues from the event business were also expected in 2021. The 2020 annual accounts and the budget for 2021 were accepted and approved by the members, who also voiced their unanimous formal approval of the actions of the Board and the accounts auditors – both of whom abstained during the vote.

The Board and the management asked the members to approve a staggered increase in membership fees for the different membership categories from 2022 and a special levy for 2021, measures designed to strengthen the financial position of the association. Uwe Peters pointed out that the increase in membership fees was no higher than would have been necessary to offset the inflation of the past 20 years, a period during which the association considerably expanded the range of services offered to its members. The members also approved these two measures geared towards underpinning the financial leeway of BVL in the implementation of its future-focused strategy for 2025. The Board and the management thanked the members for their solidarity in supporting the association and ensuring that the burden is shared as broadly as possible.

 The decisions of the Members’ Meeting will entail the following changes:

-         A membership fee adjustment effective from January 1, 2022 – which, in the case of “Professionals” for example, provides for an increase from 140 euros to 190 euros a year.

-         The amended articles of association now include an option to decide in favour of a capped contribution for the membership year in question as an extraordinary instrument.

-         This option will be utilised for the year 2021; a contribution will be levied above and beyond the membership fee that has already been paid. “Professionals”, for example, will pay an additional 50 euros.

The changes for the individual membership categories will shortly be published in detail on the Internet. Members will be informed of the contribution for 2021 by standard mail.

Changes in the Personnel Make-Up of the Association Bodies

The members elected Dorothea von Boxberg, CEO of Lufthansa Cargo AG, to the Board for the first time, while Frank Dreeke, CEO of BLG Logistics Group, was elected for a further term of three years. Dreeke was confirmed as Vice-Chairman of the Board and a member of the Financial Committee. The members bid farewell to Accountant Dr.-Ing. Stefan Wolff, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of 4flow AG, following his twelve years of excellent work on the Board. He is succeeded in the office of Accountant by Stephan Wohler, member of the Management Board at Edeka Minden-Hannover and Edeka Foodservice Stiftung & Co. KG. Wohler will therefore join the Steering Committee alongside Board Chairman Prof. Thomas Wimmer and Frank Dreeke. Back in March, Lufthansa Board member Peter Gerber left his position on the BVL Board after taking on a new job in Brussels. Wolfgang Simonis took leave of the two-strong team of accounts auditors. Dr. Maik Speel was re-elected as accounts auditor and is now joined by the newly elected Dr. Andreas Mansch.

Distinctions

BVL relies on the commitment of many members who work on an honorary basis and on the efforts of the full-time staff at head office. Expressing its deep gratitude, the BVL Board bid farewell to Board member Dr.-Ing. Stefan Wolff and Advisory Board member Prof. Frank Straube (TU Berlin), both of whom were also named honorary members of BVL. Straube sat on the BVL Board for twelve years and was subsequently a member of the Advisory Board for ten years. The Board also presented the Badge of Honour in Gold to departing Advisory Board member Thomas Zernechel after ten years of service. Zernechel was Head of Group Logistics at Volkswagen AG up to the end of 2020. Uwe Peters, who left his position of full-time Managing Director of BVL at the end of June 2021, was also awarded the Badge of Honour in Gold for his outstanding work.

The New Honorary Members of BVL

Since it was founded 43 years ago, BVL has awarded 18 honorary memberships in all, with two being awarded this year. With this high distinction, the Board recognises the long-time commitment of Prof. Frank Straube and Dr.-Ing. Stefan Wolff to and on behalf of BVL and the logistics sector.

Prof. Frank Straube headed the concept team for the International Supply Chain Conference for many years and his ideas and inspiration played a key role in ensuring the mould-breaking character of the conference programme. He spent twelve years on the BVL Board, ten years on the Advisory Board – which he is now leaving – and has been Jury Chairman for the Manufacturing Excellence Award for 16 years. Due to the corona restrictions, Frank Straube was unable to be honoured in person during the Members’ Meeting, and the certificate was therefore sent to him a few days in advance.

Dr.-Ing. Stefan Wolff even worked at the International Supply Chain Conference back when he was a student and research assistant at the TU Berlin University. He later became a member of the Research Council, on which he sat from 2001 to 2011, and was appointed Chairman of this body in 2007. He has been a member of the BVL Board since 2009 and was also Accountant of BVL from 2017. Parallel to his work on these bodies, he was also involved in the concept team for the International Supply Chain Conference and headed the team for a number of years. Wolff travelled to the Members’ Meeting in Bremen at the conclusion of his term as Accountant of the association.

Commentary by Prof. Dr. Peer Witten, Honorary Chairman of BVL

Integrative Force

BVL is facing tough challenges due to the effects of the restrictions imposed during the corona pandemic on its event business. The loss of over two million euros in 2020 has caused serious problems for the association. This loss has eaten up around one third of the assets of BVL. So what can be done? As Chairman of the Board from 1999 to 2007 and Honorary Chairman of BVL, I today emphatically support those at the helm of the association in the decisions they have taken – decisions characterised by optimism rather than resignation and geared towards cutting costs and looking to the future, to the development of innovative digital and hybrid formats.

BVL has been able to rely on a solid financial foundation for four decades now, and the figures have always added up. But what are the assets of the association there for if not to fund investment or to build a bridge to the future in times of crisis. We were proud to have come through the 2008/2009 financial and economic crisis unscathed. And we saw the risk of economic stagnation or recession. But we never imagined we would see a pandemic that would hit the association as hard as it has done. The task now is to ensure intelligent and prudent management of the assets that BVL has built up from membership fees and event revenues.

It helps enormously that the members are showing their solidarity with BVL and have agreed to both increased membership fees from 2022 and the levy of a contribution in 2021. This enables us to achieve two goals: it will not be necessary to make any cuts to the funding that is necessary for our operations in 2021 or 2022 – and the Board and the management still have the financial leeway they need for the agreed restructuring and innovation course despite the difficult overall situation. Experiences during the pandemic mean that many people have now recognised just how systemically important the logistics sector is when it comes to ensuring the dependable provision and supply of basic goods and services. The image of logistics in the public sphere is changing, and I am convinced that this key sector still needs BVL – as an integrative force and a platform for exchange between logistics managers in industry, trade, logistics service providers and experts in research and academia.

Traditional Fair in Online Format

BVL is a longstanding partner of the Messe München trade fair company in Munich and is traditionally involved in the special-topic programme for the “transport logistic” fair – which this year was staged as an online-only conference rather than the usual in-person trade fair. In the days from May 4 to 6, the online platform for the fair featured a diverse range of formats, and BVL played a role on all three days of the event. The content for the forums organised by BVL focused on “New vs. Old – Are Platform Providers the Better Freight Forwarders?”, “CO2 Reduction in Logistics: Mission Impossible?!” and “Digital Attacks on Supply Chains: Cybersecurity and How to Protect Yourself”. All of the forums were well-attended, with 781 participants for the “New vs. Old” topic, which was even listed as one of the three highlights in the final report of Messe München. “CO2 Reduction” attracted 654 attendees, while 199 people followed the session on the slightly more specialised topic of cybersecurity. Interaction in all of the forums via the chat feature was extremely active, with participants asking questions, providing tips and sharing their own experiences.

In terms of content, everyone agreed that digitalization and sustainability were the issues that are right at the top of the agenda for logistics – also or especially in times of corona. In his presentation, Serge Schamschula, Senior Partner Manager at Transporeon GmbH, outlined the most important levers for CO2 reduction among freight forwarders as well as in industry, trade and the 4 PL sector. “Our problem is that we tend to stick with the things we were doing the day before yesterday”, said Schamschula, adding that “it’s time to move on from talk to action.” Dr. Anton Schäfer, Industry Lead Travel, Transport and Logistics at T-Systems International GmbH and Chair of the BVL Focus Group “Digitalization of Transport Logistics”, described a project for the implementation of a digital delivery note and said he was optimistic that he would be able to present the first concrete outcomes of the pilot project at the International Supply Chain Conference in the autumn. Nicola Rackebrandt, Managing Partner at Sterac Transport und Logistik GmbH and a graduate of the German Foreign Trade and Commerce Academy (DAV), emphasised that it was in particular also the traditional family-run companies that think of the next generation and attach major importance to sustainability. Rackebrandt underlined the importance of the historical, organic relationship between a traditional freight forwarder and its customers as well as the options for customised services but also saw Sterac evolving into a hybrid carrier in the near future. Digitalization appears to not only be a key stepping-stone on the path to greater sustainability; it also paves the way for maximum transparency and forms the basis for automated monitoring processes that help to prevent errors. Which means that, when it comes to the urgent issues of digitalization and sustainability, the motto remains “just do it”!

Outlook for Cooperation between Online and Offline Trade

Humans and machines hand in hand, the catalyst effect of the corona pandemic on trade, the development of the trading sector overall and the outlook for a potential symbiosis of online and offline trading were just some of the topics at the Trade Logistics Congress Log 2022, which was streamed on the Internet from Cologne this year. Thomas Fell for GS1, Michael Gerling for the EHI Retail Institute and Prof. Thomas Wimmer for BVL were present as representatives of the staging organisations and hosted parts of the programme. Regina Haas-Hamannt (GS1) and Dr. Christian Grotemeier (BVL) handled the warm-ups, wrap-ups and the moderation of the specialist sessions.

457 participants came together for the two-day event on the Internet, with more than one in two coming from trade and industry. Some 50 speakers discussed real-world aspects of digitalization, sustainability and new business models from the perspective of trade and retailing – and outlined their own solutions and strategies. Christina Thurner, a member of the Board of Directors at Loxxess AG, provided some fascinating insights into the logistics of the corona vaccines. Further highlights included an interview with Miguel Müllenbach, CEO of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof AG, and a presentation and panel session with Zalando managers Dr. Jan-Hendrik Bartels and Dr. Carsten Keller.

The three trade experts agreed that the city centres of the future will look “different”. Müllenbach was convinced that “the city centres will also be important for social cohesion in future”. He said that the challenge was to create new recreational and logistics concepts –by converting multi-storey carpark spaces into logistics premises, for example. Curated product ranges, advisory and other services, interconnection and seamless crossovers between stationary and digital offerings were his buzzwords. Bartels and Keller picked up on these thoughts and underlined their belief that logistics can generate a competitive edge in a trading landscape in which online and offline are combined in the spirit of “connected retail”. “A store is generally faster than a fulfilment centre”, said Bartels. And this is not surprising, given that 80 percent of households can travel to the Galeria department stores in less than 30 minutes, for example. This means that integrated, partnership-based models could be a promising option for the retail trade.

Sustainability in a Silicon Economy

Last year, it was postponed due to the pandemic, but on June 15, 2021 it finally got underway: The 10th International Scientific Symposium on Logistics (ISSL) took place as an online event under the title "Logistics for a Sustainable Future - Contributions from Science". The symposium’s program was prepared by the Scientific Advisory Board of BVL, chaired by Prof. Kai Furmans, and organized by the Logistics Department of TU Dresden, headed by Prof. Thorsten Schmidt. Co-organizer was the Fraunhofer IML under leadership of Prof. Michael ten Hompel. 176 participants from all over the world came together online, making the symposium – held in English as always - more international than ever before.
Keynotes by Prof. Dirk Helbing (Solving Sustainability Problems: Lessons Learned in Transport and Logistics), Prof. Nils Boysen (E-commerce warehousing: Order fulfillment in modern retailing) and Prof. Michael ten Hompel (Silicon Economy - The Autonomous Ecosystem of Logistics) were the highlights of the day. "The world is no longer divided into East and West, but into digital and non-digital”, said ten Hompel . The credo is whatever can be digitized will be digitized. He was confident about the control of information in the network and outlined the dimension of the approaching changes: "Due to secure communication and data spaces, this will happen without losing sovereignty over data. All in all, an autonomous logistics ecosystem will emerge - in short, the Silicon Economy. This is too complex an undertaking for one company alone, so open source development and open innovation (must) take on a central role."
After more than five hours of content, Kai Furmans and Thorsten Schmidt were very satisfied with the contents and the course of the symposium, but expressed the wish that the scientific community will be able to meet again in person in the near future. A "remote beer", to which Furmans invited in his closing remarks, brought back memories of the end of analog events in pre-Corona times.

Read the Conference Volume

New Face at the Helm of BVL’s Communication Activities

June 1, 2021 saw a change at the helm of the Press and PR unit of BVL, with Ulrike Grünrock-Kern handing over to Christian Stamerjohanns, who reports to BVL Board Chairman Prof. Thomas Wimmer. Christian Stamerjohanns was previously Head of Corporate Communications at photo service provider CEWE in Oldenburg. Prior to that, the political science graduate held a PR management role at ECE Projektmanagement in Hamburg and at the Hamburg State Ministry of Economic and Labour Affairs.

Ulrike Grünrock-Kern, who has headed BVL’s communication activities since August 2006, will be leaving head office at the end of 2021 at her own request. “We greatly regret Ulrike’s decision”, says Thomas Wimmer. “Driven by her ideas and her actions, her feel for issues and people, her clarity of thought and her precision in the formulation and implementation of goals, she has significantly furthered not only the interests of BVL but also the quality of communication in the logistics sector overall. The Board and the management of BVL would like to thank her for her efforts and commitment. And in Christian Stamerjohanns, we are delighted to have recruited an outstanding new colleague to our team.”

Conny Pintat Celebrates 30 Years at Head Office

Her anniversary fell on the same date as she joined BVL 30 years ago – on the public holiday of Labour Day on May 1. Back in 1991, the still small head office had moved to new premises on Bremen’s historic Contrescarpe road in January– and it was in October of the same year that the 8th International Supply Chain Conference took place in Berlin. Conny Pintat has now been working at the head office of BVL for three decades, spending the first 27 years in the member services team and moving to the Event Management unit in 2018. The qualified legal and notary assistant faced totally new work-related challenges when she joined the association. Her friendly nature and effective communication skills stood her in good stead in her many contacts with people in and around BVL. At the same time, the association benefited from the sensitive and painstaking manner in which she handled issues such as membership data and invoices as well as membership and participation fees.

Conny Pintat has seen far more members come than go and has at one time or another been in direct contact with practically all the members of BVL – either by letter, fax, mail or phone. Her colleagues see Conny as the “BVL Wiki”, the memory of the association. Her motivation and commitment to the work of BVL has never faltered. She is loyal, reliable and always willing to help. And when things get really tough, then she listens closely, has a friendly word for her colleagues, or sometimes makes a funny remark that helps to defuse even the most stressful of situations.

On May 3, Managing Director Mike J. Holtkamp presented the celebratee with a certificate and a big bunch of flowers – expressing the gratitude of BVL and with many good wishes from all her colleagues at head office. He said: “Dear Conny, thank you for your 30 years of loyalty to BVL. We’re happy that we have you, and we hope you’ll be with us for a long time to come!”

Badge of Honour in Gold for Uwe Peters

The BVL Board presented long-time Managing Director Uwe Peters with the Badge of Honour in Gold at the Members’ Meeting on May 3. As has long been known, Uwe Peters will be leaving BVL at his own request at the end of June 2021. He joined BVL on October 1, 2002 as Head of the Personnel, Finance and Controlling unit, later being appointed Managing Director responsible for BVL finances, IT and personnel, member services, the BVL Chapters and subsequently also BVL Campus.

From March 2020, he was the sole Managing Director of the association for just under a year after his fellow Managing Director Thomas Wimmer took over as Chairman of the BVL Board. It was also in March 2020 that the first corona lockdown was imposed – with far-reaching consequences for the work of BVL, even forcing the association to stage the International Supply Chain Conference as a purely virtual event. “In this difficult situation you once again proved your worth as a crisis manager, with your analytical approach, your conceptual mindset and your strong implementation focus – with the emphasis always on the ‘BVL 2025’ strategy”, said Thomas Wimmer in his tribute speech. Uwe Peters has been in the process of passing on the baton to Mike J. Holtkamp in mid-February and is always on hand to provide advice and support to the new three-strong management team.

“Your responsibility for member services and the Chapters means that you held the heart of BVL in your hands, so to speak”, said Thomas Wimmer. He thanked Uwe Peters on behalf of the Board for his exemplary commitment and efforts in the management of BVL, BVL Campus and all the subsidiaries. This gratitude was coupled with the wish that Uwe Peters will continue to stay in contact with BVL after the end of his full-time endeavours in the service of BVL.

Logistics Indicator in Q2 2021

Commentary by Prof. Thomas Wimmer, Chairman of the Board

Out of Lockdown with Momentum

The economy was fortunately spared the so-called “Easter Rest” – the temporary tightening of the lockdown that the German government was hoping to implement at the end of March. This meant that logistics managers in industry, trade and services were able to work on kick-starting their activities without any additional burdens – even if overall volumes were down and there was a shift in core logistics activities. On the whole, the logistics sector has come through the crisis with lower turnover losses than other industries and is now rebooting with a high level of motivation and momentum.

While the February survey of the ifo Institute described the Logistics Indicator as “resilient”, this rating can now be upgraded to “dynamic”. A favourable business situation and even better business expectations have pushed the overall indicator back up to the “normal level”– with the result that it is now above the pre-crisis score. The business climate is far brighter, and the primary indicator showed a strong increase and stood at 102.5 points in May.

The respondents in trade and industry gave favourable assessments of current business, which has grown substantially. Expectations for future business were also more optimistic, with companies predicting further business growth in the coming months – and planning significant price increases. Industry in particular experienced a strong recovery in the prior quarter, and the trading sector has now followed suit. Optimism was voiced above all in the retail sector in response to relaxation of the corona restrictions. Wholesalers also expressed their more positive assessment of the current business situation, albeit not at the same level as their retail colleagues.

Industry faces new challenges as a result of the changes in demand volumes during the lockdown months: there is a worldwide shortage of semiconductors – and the same applies to plastic granulate, speciality steels or wood. Then there are the higher prices for oil and gas. Consumer prices in Germany rose by 2.5 percent in May – the highest figure since September 2011.

Very few logistics service providers are still concerned about insufficient orders on books and, on balance, they assess the current business situation as favourable. The outlook for future business is becoming ever more positive, with the result that the majority of companies plan to recruit new personnel. The business climate has improved noticeably, and the corresponding indicator re-entered the positive zone for the first time since mid-2019. There is still hope that the phase of lockdowns will finally come to an end during the next quarter.

There is much to support the belief that we will see a continuous uptrend in the second half of the year – such as the fact that logistics managers on both sides of the market are once again planning to expand their personnel. Germany’s Federal Employment Agency reported 84,000 fewer unemployed people for May than in April and an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent. Logistics is playing a key role in the recovery of the labour market.

BVL is feeling this momentum and is also experiencing a brighter mood. If we continue along the road to recovery, we will be able to return to network events with in-person attendance. While the all-clear has unfortunately not yet been given, a hybrid-format International Supply Chain Conference this October in Berlin appears far more probable today than just four weeks ago. Let us all cross our fingers that this remains the case.