Digitalization was the focal point of the presentations and discussions at the 34th International Supply Chain Conference. 3,424 participants attended the event in Berlin and were delighted with both the content and the range of communication and networking options.
The theme for the event was "Think different – Act digital". The presentations, panel discussions and conversations among conference attendees showed that logistics managers in all sectors of the economy are in the process of putting the new options offered by technology into practice – in order to optimise processes, adapt routines and develop new concepts and business models along the entire supply chain. "Think different, Act digital is about viewing digitalization not as a technological concept but as an intelligent driver of change – and actually implementing this change in the day-to-day operations of companies", said Prof. Raimund Klinkner, BVL President.
The list of prominent speakers reflected the breadth of the topics at the conference. They included entrepreneur Prof. Klaus-Michael Kühne, Dr. Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL, Dr. Richard Lutz, CEO of Deutsche Bahn, Martina Koederitz, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of IBM Deutschland, Dr.-Ing. Joachim Damasky, Managing Director for Technology and Environment at the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and Prof. Achim Kampker, CEO of Streetscooter. All in all, around 120 experts spoke during the 65 hours of the conference programme.
"Think Different", "Act Digital", Movers in Logistics" and "Science & Research" were the four overriding theme areas for the 16 specialist sessions at the conference, which supplied in-depth insights and provided information and ideas for day-to-day operations. The topics included: what might a mass-compatible, sustainable inner-city delivery concept look like in the near future? One approach was to view electromobility as a combination of the individual elements "vehicle", "energy supply" and "transport infrastructure". Further topics: what is the outlook for world trade in the era of Brexit and protectionist tendencies? How can an "old" business model can be turned into a "new" one? The sessions gave attendees advice on the choice of the right digital technology for the warehouse, outlined hands-on examples for the deployment of artificial intelligence and machine learning, featured experience reports on the development of a "digital factory", and provided an introduction to the modus operandi and the benefits of blockchain technology. Other areas that were addressed were solution approaches for smooth processes in omni-channel logistics and successful concepts to meet the logistical challenges in the online market, where customer-friendly fulfilment at the lowest possible cost is essential to build customer loyalty.
The theme "Think different – Act digital" continued into the Gala on the evening of day one of the conference at the Estrel Congress & Messe Center, where a varied and interactive programme awaited the guests – along with the presentation of the German Award for SCM 2017. The guests of honour at the Gala were former German President Joachim Gauck and Prof. Klaus-Michael Kühne, President of the Kühne Foundation. In conversation with Prof. Thomas Wimmer, Chairman of the Executive Board of BVL, they talked about humanitarian logistics, social cohesion and civil society initiatives. Entrepreneur and benefactor Kühne presented the newly created award of the Kühne Foundation for achievements in the field of humanitarian logistics to scientist Prof. Helmut Baumgarten, who has been involved in this area for many years. Baumgarten donated the prize money to an SOS children's village project in South Sudan.
Former German President Joachim Gauck encouraged the conference attendees and the employees in the logistics sector not to let themselves be overwhelmed by technology in a fast-changing working environment: "We won't be without work, but we must be ready for new forms of work", said Gauck. "We need the courage to build our own competencies – even in the face of our inner resistance.
At the end of the conference, BVL put on a firework display in honour of Prof. Raimund Klinkner, whose last term in office as BVL President came to an end at the close of 2017. The 34th International Supply Chain Conference was the eleventh conference under his leadership. The big team of honorary and full-time conference employees and the student helpers at the event gathered around him on the big stage in the main conference hall.