‘Fully network the supply chain’

How can blockchain be used in the supply chain? Dr Kerstin Höfle will chair a discussion on this topic at Hypermotion. At Körber Logistics, the logistics expert also researches new concepts for traffic in the city as part of the end-2-end networking of the supply chain. In this interview, she reveals what such concepts could look like

Dr Kerstin Höfle's main goal is developing the supply chain of tomorrow (Photo: Körber Logistics)
Dr Kerstin Höfle's main goal is developing the supply chain of tomorrow (Photo: Körber Logistics)

‘Fully integrated applications for optimising complex internal and external logistics processes’ is how Körber Logistics describes it services. What does this mean in concrete terms?

We have expertise in the areas of automation and system integration, product solutions and software. Thanks to the consistent digitalisation of our group of companies, we are a driver of innovation in the logistics industry. This is why, as an active end-2-end designer of the supply chain, we can optimise the flow of information and goods in a sustainable manner along the entire supply chain for our customers.

What are the requirements for logistics in the context of a new, sustainable mobility mix? What innovative solutions are you working on?

We're focusing above all on city logistics: main traffic arteries in inner cities are permanently overloaded, while delivery traffic congests central shopping streets and places a strain on the road network. And it is not just the volume of supraregional online mail order companies that is overrunning inner cities. Local retailers are also developing new delivery models in order to offer alternatives to e-commerce. The increasingly short-term, flexible delivery that ideally is sustainable, can be tracked in real time and monitored at every stage has long been regarded as an important competitive advantage. The last mile to the end consumer proves to be a central logistical sticking point in this respect.

This also down to the demands of customers.

Exactly. While the general conditions for logistics service providers are becoming increasingly difficult over the last mile, consumer expectations are growing. Next-day delivery is already regarded as standard. Consumers now expect new concepts for same-day or even next-hour delivery. But this doesn’t sit well with the model of the classic central warehouse. We are in intensive discussions about these changed requirements with customers and partner companies. This is not primarily about alternative logistics concepts such as delivery drones or robots. The discussion starts much earlier with land use, for example with the idea of converting parts of an inner city supermarket into storage space for on-site distribution.

What do the logistics of the year 2040 look like in your mind’s eye? Will there be any four-wheeled transporters at all conveying parcels from A to B?

It is very difficult for us humans to make predictions about such a long time horizon. Körber Logistics has a clear target for the coming years, which is the end-2-end networking of the supply chain from production to the end consumer using the latest technological developments in both software (AI, analytics, ML) and hardware (in particular robotics). We're also looking at seemingly unrelated technologies such as 3D printing. Perhaps in 2040 there will no longer be a need to transport packages from A to B as we'll be able to produce everything on demand on the spot using 3D printing. Ultimately, it's not about the number of wheels, but holistic supply chain concepts.

A question for you as a private user: what do you associate with the term “new mobility” and which aspect of digitally driven traffic in large cities appeals most to you personally?

I think it's exciting what's happening right now: different suppliers, whether it’s well-known automotive OEMs like VW with MOIA in Hamburg, Sixt with its new mobility concept or of course the electric pedal scooters we’ve seen around recently. Up to now all we’ve seen unfortunately is isolated solutions and I'm looking forward to the day when we can really talk about new mobility. Seamless and simple. I myself commute between two homes and yes, you always carry a lot around with you. The combination of electric scooter, bus and train is simply not practical. Unfortunately I can't do without my car yet, and I'm also not one of those people who demonise the car. But I do wonder about the fact that almost every car on the motorway is occupied by only one person; there must be better solutions for this. A few weeks ago, I was thinking about using a ridesharing option. Unfortunately, the meeting point was so remote that it could only have been reached by taxi, which made it completely uneconomical.

Dr. Kerstin Höfle
As Head of Technology Management at Körber Logistics Systems, Dr Kerstin Höfle and her team develop innovative solutions based on new technologies such as additive manufacturing and advanced robotics. Her personal goal: to develop and shape the supply chain of the future. She has a wealth of international expertise in logistics. After completing her doctorate at the University of St. Gallen, she developed digital strategies in Switzerland before joining Körber Logistics Systems in September 2018.