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It's an opportunity, not a threat


The 34th International Supply Chain Conference addressed the digital revolution as a change in the way the industry has to think and act. In his keynote address, Dr. Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL Group, outlined an arc from production to corporate culture. In his town hall session, Uwe Brinks, CEO of DHL Freight, addressed the power that now lies in the customer’s hands. Digitalization is not fake news. It has long since become a part of the everyday lives of people around the world, both at work and at their workplaces. And this is not limited to just having the latest smartphone in one’s pocket or super-flexible robots in warehouses. Digitalization really means a change in the way humans think and act, with more focus on the customer, faster reaction times, and greater focus on teamwork. The theme of the congress says it in a nutshell: “Think different – act digital.”

34th International Supply Chain Conference The Federal Logistics Association (BVL) hosted the 34th International Supply Chain Conference in Berlin, October 25-27, 2017in Berlin. The theme this year was “Think different − Act digital.” More than 3,400 participants, 130 speakers, and about 200 industry journalists gathered to discuss how digitalization is changing the economy and society and how this is driving innovation in products and services and increasing productivity. The congress not only addressed digital technology, but also those structures that promote agile and creative processes. The BVL is a network of more than 11,000 members who exchange experiences and ideas on all aspects of supply chain management and logistics.
The CEO of Deutsche Post DHL Group, Dr. Frank Appel, during his Keynote at the opening of the 34th International Supply Chain Conference. [Photo: BVL/Kai Bublitz]
The CEO of Deutsche Post DHL Group, Dr. Frank Appel, during his Keynote at the opening of the 34th International Supply Chain Conference. [Photo: BVL/Kai Bublitz]

In his keynote address, Frank Appel described digitalization as the essential global driver of the future for logistics. Technologies and digital business models are going to change logistics from the group up. For those currently in the industry, this means questioning routine processes and rethinking the entire concept of logistics. Those who face this challenge head-on will see digitalization as an opportunity, not as a threat because it makes gains in productivity possible through lean processes. Digital platforms and services create greater transparency and provide for greater interaction with customers. Modern workplaces with flat hierarchies are what the next generation of professionals expects and will be a major plus in the battle to recruit talent.

Frank Appel: Being open to change

The CEO of the world’s largest logistics operation divided the digital transformation into three areas for action (see the box for more):

  1. Using new technologies for smaller innovations within existing business models
  2. Expanding business through individual major, often disruptive innovations
  3. Changing corporate culture to require new freedoms and new capabilities.

“If the culture doesn’t change, digital transformation cannot succeed. An agile organization needs to be learning constantly and rethink leadership with a culture that tolerates mistakes and encourages dialog without fear of hierarchical repercussions,” Appel said.

Uwe Brinks: The customer is the key

Uwe Brinks, CEO DHL Freight, (l.) is being interviewed by Robert Kümmerlen, member of the editorial board of the DVZ, on the renowned red settee at the DVZ booth. [Photo: DHL]
Uwe Brinks, CEO DHL Freight, (l.) is being interviewed by Robert Kümmerlen, member of the editorial board of the DVZ, on the renowned red settee at the DVZ booth. [Photo: DHL]

As guest on DVZ’s red sofa, Uwe Brinks, CEO of DHL Freight, said that it will be the customer who in the future will drive how deliveries are made. For B2C business, this largely concerns delivery times and locations. But in the B2B sector, added services that directly assist the customer will also score points. “We’re seeing a steady climb in Eurapid shipment volume,” Brinks said. This premium LTL product is available for 105 regions in 22 European countries. Customers benefit from very fast, precise delivery timeframes. “Our freight exchange Saloodo! is also in high demand with those sending shipments and the shipping companies. Customers conveniently find a transport service and freight companies make best use of their truck capacities. A win-win for both sides,” Brinks explains. “Without digital tools, neither Eurapid or Saloodo! would be possible.”
Watch the whole interview on the red sofa (german only):

Examples of digital innovations at Deutsche Post DHL Group


  1. Smaller innovations
    - Data analytics ensures better processes
    - Car trunks as mobile delivery address for packages
    - Drones to take inventory and possibly make deliveries in remote regions
    - PostBOT to help carry packages out for delivery
    - Collaborative robots for co-packing
    - Data glasses for more efficient picking
  2. Large innovations to expand business
    - Strategic partnerships (such as the one with Plug and Play, a global start-up und venture funding platform) drive innovative technologies from outside
    - Internal employee programs (e.g. Start-up Lab) drive innovations internally
    - The e-transporter StreetScooter (already 3,400 of which are in operation) puts strong focus on electromobility in Germany
    - The online freight exchange Saloodo! creates a professional transport marketplace for logistics customers and providers.
  3. Culture and capabilities
    - Employees become certified specialists (goal: 80%+ of all DPDHL employees certified by 2020)

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