Karl-Martin Pfenning: Strong industry requires powerful logistics

Über 100.000 Quadratmeter Fläche umfasst  das neue Multi-User Logistikzentrum der  Pfenning-Gruppe am Standort Heddesheim.

Über 100.000 Quadratmeter Fläche umfasst das neue Multi-User Logistikzentrum der Pfenning-Gruppe am Standort Heddesheim.

Some things in life we encounter at every turn, yet we don’t spare them much thought as we go about our business. We simply assume that they are there and expect them to work at any time. This applies to logistics more than to any other industrial sector. Across all sectors, logis­­tics ensures that goods and products are always exactly where they are needed. Industrial companies, for example, need bulk goods delivered for production, while consumers depend on the smooth distri­­­­bution of final products to the shops. This makes logistics a central pillar of our specialised economy and of our prosperity. In order to ensure that this pillar re­­mains stable in future as well, it is es­­­sen­­tial to secure its foundations, the con­­ditions for logistics in our country or region, carefully and to further stren­­gt­­­hen them in the long run.

The figures alone show the immense im­­portance of logistics. For example, in 2011 the sector set a new record in Germany by generating an annual turnover of about 220 billion euros, exceeding the previous record year of 2008. Furthermore, with approximately 2.8 million employees, it is now Germany’s third largest employer after the automotive industry and the trade sector. This was made pos­sible by two closely linked economic “mega trends”: the increasing differentiation of the supply chain and the consolidation of regional markets in the course of globalisation.

Der Innenhof des Logistikzentrums mit  insgesamt 110 Verladetoren.

Der Innenhof des Logistikzentrums mit insgesamt 110 Verladetoren.

hese developments have taken place at a fast pace and are certainly not com­­­plete. They began only a few decades ago. As recently as the 1970s and early 1980s, for example, logistics as a business func­­tion was heavily concentrated on the phy­­s­­­­ical processes of the flow of materials and goods. Back then, the focus was on overcoming time and space as effi­­cient­­ly as possible and optimising basic logis­­tic operations such as transportation, han­­dling, storage, packaging and commissio­­n­­­­ing. In the late 1980s, lo­­­gis­­tics started to develop more and more as an industrial sector in its own right. At the same time, there was a shift in how the sector’s impor­­tance within the economy was perceived. Previously, logis­­tics was primarily seen as a normal ser­­vice segment; now it was increasingly being regarded as a key cross-­­sector func­­tion in a value chain becoming ever more complex. It was no longer individual trans­­port processes which took centre stage, but continuous distribution processes to ensure ideal availability of pro­­ducts and goods at all times. This trend continued in the 1990s and into the new millennium, with the control task of logis­­­tics – not only in regard to customers but across all areas and along the entire sup­­ply chain – evolving even more strongly.

Die Hochregallager ermöglichen eine effizientere Nutzung der Lagerflächen.

Die Hochregallager ermöglichen eine effizientere Nutzung der Lagerflächen.

In parallel to this, the removal of tra­­ditio­­nal borders has had crucial benefits for logistics. Considerable progress in the field of microelectronics made it easier to communicate, store and trans­­mit huge amounts of data, thus enabling time and space to be overcome faster than ever be­­­­fore. This was accompanied by foreign trade liberalisation in many western industrial nations and new par­­ts of the world being exploited as eastern markets opened up. These processes, known as globalisation, led to an enormous increase in the flow of goods and pro­­vided logistics with growth rates that were significantly higher than the inc­­rea­­se in overall economic perfor­­mance. They also enabled the development of supply chains reaching around the world, fur­­nishing industry with goods and raw ma­­terials for their production pro­­­­cesses through global procurement stra­­tegies.


Logistics has thus changed decisively time and again within a few decades and gained a key function within the bounds of our economic structure. Today, the ex­­­change of goods is stronger than ever be­­fore. Logistics experts are increasingly growing into new roles beyond their tra­­­ditional tasks of transportation, distribution and warehouse management, as the trend of continuous increases in ef­­ficiency forces companies to concentra­­te on core competencies more and more. This allows logistics experts to take over num­­erous added value services (such as pre-­fabrication and installation) as part of out­­sourcing programmes, eventually making them industry’s “extended workbench”.


Many factors suggest that these developments will continue in the future. Ac­­­­tivities such as supply chain management, just-in-time delivery and outsourcing will in all probability become even more im­­portant. Against this background, it must also be assumed that transportation of goods by road will continue to expand its market share, since it is still able to re­­act to increasing or changing requirements better than rail or inland shipping.


multicube rhein-neckar ausgezeichnet mit Gold für 128.000 Quadratmeter von der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (DGNB e.V.).

multicube rhein-neckar ausgezeichnet mit Gold für 128.000 Quadratmeter von der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (DGNB e.V.).

Even though logistics has not yet exploi­­t­ed its full potential for growth, even to­­day it can be seen that this sector will have to brace itself for new challenges in the coming years. Besides ever more complex safety requirements, these include above all the rise in energy costs and the future topic of protecting resources and the en­­vironment. In light of this, new delivery and goods management strategies, especially concepts for ecologically sustainable, “green” logistics, will enter general consciousness more and more.

For this development to be successful, the logistics sector needs positive conditions, but these can only be achieved and gua­­ran­­teed with the active support of politics and administration. This includes first of all a future-oriented and solidly financed trans­­port infrastructure, the availability of well-­­trained experts and competitive taxes and charges. Important soft location factors shou­­ld not go unmentioned either, for exam­­­ple, reducing bureaucracy and im­­proving public acceptance. Making a com­­­mitment here is worth the effort. Be­­cau­­­se experience has shown that a powerful lo­­gistics sector boosts prosperity and em­­ployment. It is good for the whole country. And it is good for the people of the region where logistics companies are at home.

Karl-Martin-Pfenning-Portrait-KopieThe author studied business economics in Munich and joined the management of his parents’ company in 1975. Since 1996, K.-M. Pfenning has been developing the family business into a modern logistics provider which has secured itself a leading market position as a fresh food logistics com­pany. Today, Pfenning is a managing partner in the second generation of the Heddesheim-based Pfenning Group.