Holistic understanding of the digital world of the future

Digitalization was the focal point of the BVL events and publications in 2017. The major "Trends and Strategies" study was followed by position papers from the Scientific Advisory Board as well as a BVL whitepaper prepared jointly with the World Economic Forum.

On the first day of the CeBIT, the leading fair for digital business, the Scientific Advisory Board of BVL headed by Prof. Werner Delfmann handed over its position paper to Prof. Johanna Wanka, Federal Minister of Education and Research. In this paper, the authors call for intensified research on the topic of Logistics 4.0 – because Industry 4.0 is unthinkable without logistics. Logistics is a "first mover" and as such both a driver and a foundation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Logistics requires the creation of a joint theoretical and methodological basis for technology and economy – as well as for strategy in the operational field.

The position paper, authored by Prof. Werner Delfmann and his colleagues Prof. Michael ten Hompel, Prof. Wolfgang Kersten, Prof. Thorsten Schmidt and Prof. Wolfgang Stölzle, focused on two central research topics – first, the structural and methodological change as a result of Logistics 4.0 and Logistics 4.0 as a sociotechnical system. The core themes in the first part of the paper are objectives, rules, modes of operation, effects and principles of resource utilisation. The second part of the paper is about the human/machine interface, the distribution of risk and responsibility, and the new requirements in terms of the qualification of employees.

 Prof. Werner Delfmann (right) and Prof. Michael ten Hompel (2nd from right) hand over the position paper of the Scientific Advisory Board to Federal Minister Prof. Johanna Wanka.

Prof. Werner Delfmann (right) and Prof. Michael ten Hompel (2nd from right) hand over the position paper of the Scientific Advisory Board to Federal Minister Prof. Johanna Wanka.

The close link between logistics science and logistics practice is self-evident, and it was therefore only logical that the position paper of the Scientific Advisory Board was backed up by a more hands-on position paper prepared by the BVL Board. The latter paper entitled "Digitisation in Logistics" provides detailed answers to 14 concrete questions facing today's companies, such as: "What are the main advantages of digitalization for the logistics sector?", "What role will data play in future, and what business models can be derived from this role?" or "Will digitalization make everything uncertain?". The paper was authored by Board members Frauke Heistermann, Prof. Michael ten Hompel and Dr.-Ing. Torsten Mallée.

The whitepaper "Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Supply Chains" was prepared at the end of the year in cooperation with the World Economic Forum. The authors, who included Wolfgang Lehmacher from the Forum and Dr. Christian Grotemeier from BVL, came to the conclusion that the borders between different value added stages are becoming more fluid, and the lines between conventional industrial production and logistics ever more blurred. This creates major opportunities for logistics service providers. The traditional business model of a third-party logistics provider can be extended even further than was the case in the past. The vision is a model that encompasses both production and logistics expertise.

In the words of BVL President Prof. Raimund Klinkner, "with these papers, BVL provides its members and the public at large with a holistic resource that helps them to find their bearings with regard to the topic of digitalization".