35th International Supply Chain Conference

Logistics combines the digital with the real

The 35th International Supply Chain Conference took place in Berlin from October 17 to 19 with the theme “Digitalization Meets Reality”. 3,539 participants attended the event, during which BVL also celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Carsten Spohr, Prof. Dieter Kempf, Robert Blackburn, Federal Minister Peter Altmaier and Prof. Thomas Wimmer at the opening of the conference

Carsten Spohr, Prof. Dieter Kempf, Robert Blackburn, Federal Minister Peter Altmaier and Prof. Thomas Wimmer at the opening of the conference

“Capacity bottlenecks in transport services and infrastructure as well as a predictable skill shortage: these are just two examples of very real problems currently faced by our sector of the economy”, explained BVL President Robert Blackburn. He went on to say that digitalization creates powerful tools, such as those used in intelligent autonomous systems, and that new digital tools could play a key role in addressing some of the more urgent problems. Blackburn spoke at the opening of the conference, as did Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier, Prof. Dieter Kempf, President of the Voice of German Industries (BDI), Carsten Spohr, CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa, Dr. Robert Bauer, CEO of Sick AG, and Bernhard Mattes, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).

International panel with Andrew Keen, Carole Walker, Søren Toft and Joachim Limberg

International panel with Andrew Keen, Carole Walker, Søren Toft and Joachim Limberg

The major trends that involve and affect logistics are part of an ever-shifting landscape. The big issues in recent years have been complexity, costs and cooperation – but now topics like customer orientation, sustainability, new technologies, disruptive business models and new requirements in terms of personnel management and personnel development are increasingly moving to the fore. "This is based on the realisation that humans and machines will gradually become integrated in what is known as Social Networked Industry", says Blackburn. It was therefore not surprising that five core elements of the conference programme were devoted to personnel issues. Ultimately, companies will only be able to successfully manage technological change if they take their employees along with them on the journey.

Blackburn called on the political decision-makers to finally address the challenges that everyone agrees exist. Twelve slow-moving months after the national elections, the problems remain the same. The investment backlog in road and rail needs to be resolved, intermodality between the different means of transport must be stepped up, and we need high-performing IT networks covering all of Germany. "We need deregulation, faster planning and approval processes, planning dependability driven by stable political processes, and support for business projects", says Blackburn.

"75 years" of BVL

The final session on Friday was opened by former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel with his comments on the “Challenges for Germany and Europe in a Difficult World”. His speech excellently supplemented and provided a German perspective on the controversially received comments of Robin S. Quinville, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Berlin. As the guest speaker at the Gala on the evening of day one of the conference, Quinville outlined the attitude of the US government towards world trade and international security first-hand and in a forthright manner. Following her speech, Quniville engaged in a short dialogue with Frank Sportolari, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany (AmCham), and Prof. Thomas Wimmer, Chairman of the Executive Board of BVL.

As promised on BVL's official birthday on April 18, the Gala Evening on day one of the conference was also a big anniversary celebration. BVL had announced that "we're celebrating our 75th!" – 40 years since the founding of BVL plus 35 years of the conference. In the "Bananenhalle" of the STATION-Berlin venue, it was all about the anniversary of BVL from the moment the guests arrived at the Gala. When the association was founded in 1978, logistics was still in the nascent phase. What has happened since then? What has BVL contributed to the development of the logistics sector? Who else played their part? There was much to discover on a digital journey through the history of the association in images, text and sound. But attendees could also see pictures from the past “in analogue mode” on a photo wall. And they had the chance to add their own pictures to the collection and thereby themselves become a visible part of the BVL story. Many attendees signed their name on a stela crowned by a big number “40” to underline their commitment to BVL. Dorothee Bär, Minister of State in the Office of the German Chancellor and the member of the German government responsible for digitalization, congratulated BVL on behalf of the government.

The founding fathers of BVL and particularly deserving longstanding members of the association had already been invited to a reception in the run-up to the Gala and had been presented with a certificate and medal. Thanks to the farsighted strategy of the founders and the constant commitment of all its members, BVL can now look back on several successful decades. The new record attendance at the 35th International Supply Chain Conference is proof of this success, as is the continuing and steady increase in the number of members.

The shining “40” was the eyecatcher in the Gala area, which was reserved for the big birthday of the association.

The shining “40” was the eyecatcher in the Gala area, which was reserved for the big birthday of the association.