Quo Vadis – Logistics 2020?

What will the year 2020 bring for logistics? What challenges are we facing? Logistics is a good reflection of our society and economy. What we are concerned about socially and/or economically usually also has a direct impact on logistics. It is deeply rooted in all areas of our everyday lives either private and in daily business. And “road freight” represents the heart of logistics.

There is no lack of scenarios and challenges. Some talk about how “difficult” and “complex” the year 2020 will be. The better alternative, however, is to actively tackle challenges and be proactive. The four most important issues that concern us as logistics providers and which we have therefore placed at the heart of Deutsche Post DHL Group’s new strategy are sustainability, digitization, e-commerce and globalization.

Environmentally friendly transport and efficient mobility

Sustainability issue: of course our industry will not be able to contribute to the global 2 degree target on its own. But we are setting a good example here. Environmentally friendly transport and efficient mobility are integral parts of our business model. So who – if not us – can set an example and ultimately make a significant difference? As Deutsche Post DHL Group, we have set ourselves the goal of reducing all logistics-related emissions to zero by 2050. We are working every day to make this ambitious goal a reality – not least by setting concrete interim targets until 2025. At DHL Freight, we are testing alternative drivetrains and fuels, among other things. In Germany, Belgium and Sweden, for example, we are using LNG trucks that will be powered by bio-LNG in the future. In Sweden, we have already successfully reduced our CO2 emissions by 50 percent today, thus reaching our target for 2025 ahead of schedule. I am convinced that this will also have another positive effect. These measures will also create greater demand for such sustainable solutions as well as technologies and therefore accelerate the progress. Our sustainability goal is not just a vision, but a clear statement. In the future, we will give preference to transportation solutions that contribute to achieving our environmental goals. I am sure that this topic will never let us go. However, this also means that we must actively turn to alternative modes of transport and be prepared to make compromises. Only then we will not only be prepared, but will also be actively involved in finding solutions.

Digitalization as a driver

Digitalization can also support this, for example by creating more transparency in loading capacities and avoiding empty or inefficient journeys. Here we are facing far-reaching changes, too. It is therefore more important to fill the buzzword digitalization with life and point out the meaning for logistics. At DHL Freight, we have launched our lighthouse project “Terminal for the Future” in this context. Here we are testing and implementing solutions and technologies to demonstrate our vision of future-oriented logistics. These include automated volume measurement, intelligent yard management and partially autonomous transfer vehicles. All these developments are based on a clear approach: we want to make life easier and more efficient for our customers and employees. Technology should support our employees in their everyday work, not replace them. There is an increasing shortage of skilled workers and at the same time the average age of the workforce is rising. Digitalization can help solve this dilemma. We should use the year 2020 to push the topic even further for our industry.

Online trade and e-commerce

In connection with digitization, the third thematic block has already been mentioned: e-commerce. Online trade and e-commerce are not phenomena that simply go away at some point. They are massively changing global trade, but also consumer habits. Customers are developing new buying habits and the customer journey is changing massively. This also transfers from the B2C segment to the B2B sector. Why should a customer continue to accept the lack of transparency and digital services in the B2B segment if they have learned it differently in their private everyday lives? This is where logistics comes into play. We – especially as road transport service providers – must keep pace with developments. And in doing so, we have to offer solutions for the e-commerce segment, but also solutions that meet the expectations adapted from e-commerce by the customer. A good example is our DHL Freight online booking tool or our freight marketplace Saloodo!. We have also worked with our customer BMW to develop the integrated Connected Supply Chain solution, which enables BMW and all its partners to manage potential problems along the supply chain and identify opportunities for further optimization. The demand for such solutions will continue to grow and logistics will be an important partner in the development and integration. In the coming year, we will have to deal even more with transparency, speed and increasing volumes through e-commerce.

Globalization with headwind

Like many sectors of the economy, we as the logistics industry are also keeping a close eye on globalization. In which direction will it develop – especially as we increasingly observe national protectionism? What about brexit and its effects? I am convinced that globalization should continue to be our goal. It has helped to increase prosperity and development worldwide. Even if globalization is currently facing headwinds, it will continue. Perhaps not as quickly as in recent years, as trade conflicts and protectionism, among other things, have tended to dampen economic prospects. But we should not lose faith in globalization because of this – quite the contrary. We should be all more strongly and confidently committed to free trade. Despite all adversities – even like a brexit. As a customs service provider, we at DHL Freight and our customs experts stand by our customers and help them with increasing complexity.

The opening question in the title “Quo Vadis – Logistics 2020?” is therefore entirely justified. Pessimists will primarily look at the difficulties, optimists look ahead and shape the future. This is the more strenuous part, but this is where I see our task and a clear opportunity for logistics as an industry to continue to gain ground. Finding solutions, being active and literally “moving forward” has always been our forte. So will the year 2020 be “challenging”, “difficult” and “complex”? Quite possible, but this is exactly what gives us the opportunity to show initiative – in logistics and for logistics. I am looking forward to this with my team!

Author: Uwe Brinks, CEO DHL Freight

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