Baden-Württemberg is not only innovative and inventive, it is also logistically well positioned. With increasing turnover, geographical changes and increasing exports, the logistics sector is in a state of change.
In a sectoral comparison, the logistics sector in the state of Baden-Württemberg has advanced quietly and almost unnoticed to third place by gross domestic product and in the number of employees. It took a long time before government, promoters of business development, regional planners and the population finally recognised the significance of the logistics sector. While acceptance increased over this period, the logistics sector is probably still the most underestimated sector in Baden-Württemberg. The negative clichés that reduce logistics to a few stereotypes like environmental pollution, backed-up traffic and noise are still only too real.
The actors in the industry have much work to do. They want to see the irreplaceable function of logistics become a focal point for a prospering export industry in any debate on logistics. And yet the history of logistics in Baden-Württemberg is a success story par excellence, as a few facts strikingly confirm. For example, some 180,000 people were employed in core areas of the logistics industry in Baden-Württemberg in 2009. This corresponds to 4.7 per cent of all employees. If one includes those employees also performing logistics functions in manufacturing and trading companies, there are some 380,000 people employed in logistics functions in Baden-Württemberg, which corresponds to 9.8 per cent of all employees in that state.
Turnover in the logistics sector in Baden-Württemberg is increasing constantly. The crisis years of 2008/2009 have been overcome and turnover now resembles former successes again, so that, while this period represented a dent from a long-term point of view, it never became the feared end of the success story. On the contrary, experts forecast growth in all areas of the logistics industry. With the eastern expansion of the European Union, its logistical and geographical centre is also shifting eastwards, from which Baden-Württemberg is also benefiting through its geographical position.
But there is also another side of the coin, namely the heavy increase in transit traffic. Baden-Württemberg’s successful logistics development is due to a large extent to manufacturing companies, which include the numerous market leaders in the motor vehicle manufacturing and mechanical engineering industries. The products from these sectors are sought after all over the world and demand is increasing. While in 1970, Baden-Württemberg’s export quota made up some 21 per cent of all production, in 1980 it was 24 per cent, in 1989, 29 per cent and in 2009, over 36 per cent. An essential requirement for further positive development in marketing products from Baden-Württemberg around the world is the close link between logistics and manufacturing. In short: logistics makes a crucial contribution to preserving Baden-Württemberg as a business location.
Last but not least, Baden-Württemberg offers positive development opportunities for distribution logistics companies which function as suppliers for the population in the conurbations in the state. Besides Karlsruhe, Mannheim und Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg is home to six further cities with more than 100,000 residents. The consumer potential is more than ten million people. The supply radius of the distribution centres based in Baden-Württemberg is continuing to expand beyond the state borders and is now reaching European dimensions. Baden-Württemberg occupies another top position in intra-logistics, which covers all processes of the intra-company materials flow of one or more companies. In relation to its size, Baden-Württemberg arguably has the highest intra-logistics company density of all states in Germany and probably worldwide.
A study by Prognos, a German polling company, assesses the economic players in Baden-Württemberg as confident; in other words, southwest Germany is not only Germany’s economic powerhouse, it also has the best prospects for the future. Of 25 top economic regions in Germany with future-capable industries, ten such locations are in Baden-Württemberg alone. This locations study describes an axis for the future which runs from Mannheim through Stuttgart to Biberach and Tuttlingen to Lake Constance.
In the land of inventors and tinkerers that is Baden-Württemberg, the current logistics tertiary education scene can stand any comparison. Besides the traditional universities in Heilbronn, Mannheim and Lörrach, which specialised decades ago in training logistics managers, a dense network of universities which offer numerous courses in logistics has formed. A state-wide logistics network will now improve cooperation between companies, universities, research centres and other logistics players. With this purpose in mind, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs initiated a competition in order to entrust an initiative worthy of funding with the task of forming a cluster. The logistics cluster is intended to reinforce technology transfer between companies and business-related facilities, integrate external knowledge into the company innovation process, ease the exchange of information between logistics players and improve competitiveness and innovative strength of smaller and medium-sized companies in particular.
However, due to the neglect of the transport infrastructure in Baden-Württemberg for many years, one Achilles heel remains. This applies mainly to road transport but also to rail, inland waterways and Stuttgart Airport. Given the constantly growing volume of goods carried by road and heavy increases in transit traffic, industry associations and chambers of industry and commerce ensure that public funds earmarked for expansion of the transport infrastructure are invested where bottle-necks need to be removed.
The author has a degree in business administration from Heilbronn University, where he majored in transport management. After graduation he worked as an assistant to the managing director at the Verband Spedition und Logistik Baden-Württemberg e. V., whose deputy managing director he became in 2000. The author has been managing director of the association since 2009.