International Supply Chain Conference

The adaptable logistics sector develops bold new solutions

“Inspire – Encourage – Act” was the theme for this year’s International Supply Chain Conference from October 23 to 25. The 3,207 attendees enjoyed a diverse programme at the 2019 conference with its new corporate design.

Lieutenant General Michael Vetter with author and publicist Sascha Lobo

Lieutenant General Michael Vetter with author and publicist Sascha Lobo

After ten years of growth, the logistics sector is now more sceptical about the outlook for the future. “Central banks used to lower interest rates to stimulate the economy. With interest rates as low as they are now, that’s currently not an option, and this is cause for concern”, said Robert Blackburn, BVL President, in his opening address. He sees the biggest risks for the logistics sector in the global economy uncertainty that is mainly the result of bad political decisions. In his view, this applies in particular to the ongoing and potentially growing trade conflicts – and naturally to Brexit with its implications for the overall fabric of Europe.

The BVL President was speaking at the beginning of the conference in his role as host, and was followed on stage by Alexander
Birken, CEO of the Otto Group, Prof. Michael ten Hompel, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML, and Angela Titzrath, CEO of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG.

On the afternoon of day one of the conference, Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer spoke before the attendees. The
description he had provided for his presentation was as follows: “Inspire – Encourage – Act”: this conference theme is a perfect fit for the policies of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. Our railways, our roads, our waterways and our air routes are the foundation of Germany’s success and of our standing as logistics world champion. If we have the courage to systematically exploit the opportunities presented by digitalization and technical progress, then we can totally reorganise routines, transportation concepts and processes in order to make them more digital, more interconnected and more climate-friendly. We are employing a wide range of measures to achieve these goals, from the “Innovation Programme Logistics 2030” through to the “Action Alliance for Combined Transport”.

Having only recently been appointed CEOs, the panel participants on day one of the conference are responsible for the future strategic development of their companies and research establishments. This year’s panel discussion focused on the issues that call for inspiration and courage on the part of CEOs and underlined the need for them to actively empower those around them.  What challenges do they see for supply chain management and logistics in the 2020s, and how do they intend to master these challenges? The discussion between Dr. Lars Brzoska (Jungheinrich), Reiner Heiken (Hellmann) and Prof. Jana Koehler (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence) provided a number of interesting insights.

Prof. Thomas Wimmer, Michael Müller, Robert Blackburn, Chinese Ambassador Wu Ken, Erich Staake and Prof. Frank Straube

Prof. Thomas Wimmer, Michael Müller, Robert Blackburn, Chinese Ambassador Wu Ken, Erich Staake and Prof. Frank Straube

An international panel moderated by Frank Dreeke (BLG Logistics) and featuring Jessica Hanson (Bosch North America), Nick Vyas (University of Southern California) and Erick Yong (Greentec Capital) looked at digitalization, decision-making under uncertainty, world trade and the role of logistics in the development of Africa from different perspectives.

Many listeners were also fascinated by the discussion between Lieutenant General Michael Vetter and author and publicist Sascha Lobo on the topic of cybersecurity. Their exchange of ideas was the perfect conceptual companion to specialist sessions like “The Potentials Created by New Technologies”, “Artificial Intelligence Meets Logistics”, “The Future of the Logistics IT Landscape” or “Breaking Down Borders – Production and Logistics”. The presentations before full session by EU politician Guy Verhofstadt, Christoph Eltze (Rewe Digital), Martin Daum (Daimler) and Dr. Anselm Eggert (Lufthansa Cargo) rounded off the conference.

The Gala Evening at the Arena Berlin venue once again featured a wide range of highlights. For the first time in many years, the Governing Mayor – Michael Müller – welcomed the conference attendees in person. It’s worth mentioning that BVL has remained loyal to the German capital by staging this major event there for the last 36 years. Müller was impressed by the outstanding setting and the programme for the conference.

Before the German Award for SCM was presented, BVL Executive Board Chairman Prof. Thomas Wimmer talked to Chinese Ambassador H. E. Wu Ken on the stage together with Erich Staake, CEO of duisport. They discussed the potentials and opportunities of the New Silk Road – the “Belt and Road” initiative being developed and promoted by China. From the port of Duisburg, the route goes along the “Iron Silk Road” through Poland, Russia and Kazakhstan to the Chinese cities of Chongqing, Wuhan and Yiwu.

As many as 35 trains are already rolling along the 11,000-kilometre long stretch of rail each week. What is the potential of this
giant infrastructure project – and where do the risks lie? As an aside: the planned project actually comprises two routes. The
northerly “Silk Road Economic Belt” runs from China, through Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and the Russian capital of Moscow
to Central and Western Europe, while the southerly “Maritime Silk Road” is designed to connect China’s maritime trade with
Southeast Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and Europe.

During the Gala, BVL presented the German Award for SCM to the logistics team of the BMW Group. Prof. Thomas Strothotte
welcomed the young winners of the Thesis Awards, who grouped together for a photo. And the “Wirtschaftsmacher” initiative
entered the Arena with a large team of initiators, participants and logistics heroes and presented its activities and successes during
its first year.