Prof. Dr.-Ing. Frank Gillert: New opportunities and challenges for the logistics location ­Berlin-Brandenburg thanks to interdisciplinary exchange

A key competence factor for every business location with export-oriented production is its organisational capacity. Logistics, however, is much more than just transporting goods. Holistic approaches must also take the processes of digitalisation, energy supply and infrastructures as well as demographic developments into account.

The metropolitan region of Berlin-Brandenburg is growing, however this gravitates mainly towards Berlin and the exurbs of the surrounding areas. Brandenburg’s rural regions further away have to cope with the effects of demographic change and a weak industrial character. A strong urban growth coupled with declining population numbers in the surroundings lead to dynamics which have to be understood and, above all, to be steered. Logistics plays a decisive role here. The objective is to understand logistics –sometimes misjudged and reduced to transport operations – as an integral and therefore interdisciplinary field of function and infrastructure.

Thus, logistics has two sides: one that ostensibly mani­fests itself as logistics industry with its logistics service providers and infrastructures and that rises much like the tip of an iceberg. And then it has a subtle side that is present as a necessary function structure in all areas of a company and all spheres of life. These hidden logistics services are hard to quantify; however, they account for a significant proportion of the logistics industry’s overall economic performance.

Board of LNBB and state representatives from Berlin and Brandenburg during the annual meeting in November, 2015.

Board of LNBB and state representatives from Berlin and Brandenburg during the annual meeting in November, 2015.

Among the general public, logistics is often times reduced to the tip of the iceberg and sometimes is seen as bothersome. Only few are aware that logistics play a crucial role in the provision of resources we need in all areas of life. Whether it is foodstuffs, consumer goods or medication: it must all reach the consumer. Many of these goods must be returned or disposed of. And not to forget the healthcare sector with its hospitals and care services, which are shaped by logistics activities. Traditional events such as a “Fan Mile” are essentially logistic feats, not to mention individual mobility in different modalities. All that is logistics, too.

Designing logistics is part of urban development. Future smart cities can only be organised in such a way that all areas are structured in an interdisciplinary manner. In times of penetrating digitalisation, familiar subsectors and industries merge. One example of that is electromobility, where energy supply, automotive industry and logistical mobility concepts converge to form a functioning whole. This will lead to new business models and bring new stakeholders. In modern e-commerce and trading, usually logistics ensure that promises made digitally are kept. Logistic processes are the pillars of the business models; just consider the challenges that returns management brings with it.

Germany is a logistics country in any case and Berlin-Brandenburg will be a driving force in promoting the country’s internationally renowned position in the future. As a bridge between north, south, east and west, it can become a reference metropolis for innovative logistics concepts based on a unique science landscape, and make logistics “made in BB” exportable.

That’s exactly where the activities of the region’s logistics network “Logistic Network Berlin-Brandenburg e.V.” LNBB take effect: it strengthens the capital region’s position as a logistics and business location. The LNBB is the central point of contact for production, trading and service companies when it comes to issues regarding infrastructure, logistic solutions, business models and funding options. The LNBB also provides the platform for articulating interests and informing on the relevance of logistics to raise awareness for the proper changes which affect more than the tip of the iceberg.

The close interconnection of the LNBB and business promoters of the states is a necessary, but ultimately insufficient prerequisite for achieving logistics excellence. On the contrary, the fact that logistics is a key prerequisite for global value chains must be taken into account. Regional aspects alone are not enough here. Companies such as Bayer, Siemens and Daimler think and act globally, and that’s exactly how they want to be perceived. Only in this way can infrastructural developments be made attractive for these companies. Numerous industrial companies in Berlin provide good examples, as being based in the city, they often lack space for expansion. Competitive business activity is only possible by means of innovations and logistics excellence. It’s no coincidence that Daimler invested 500 million euros in its plant in Marienfelde last year to strengthen the location’s innovative strength.

Transport infrastructure projects for extending roads, railways and waterways already exist or are part of the agenda, which is also thanks to the LNBB, which has been driving logistics in the region for more than ten years. However, this can only succeed if stakeholders actively participate and take advantage of the platform.

img_9421Prof. Dr.-Ing. Frank Gillert
The author can look back at 20 years of experience in AutoID/RFID and supply chain management. In 1995, he graduated in mechanical engineering and is co-founder of the Institut für Distributions- und Handelslogistiks in Dortmund. From 1998, he held various management positions in the security industry, before founding UbiConsult in 2005. Since 2008, Frank Gillert has held a chair in Logistics Management at the Wildau Technical University of Applied Sciences (TH Wildau). He has been the chairman of the LNBB I Logistics Network Berlin-Brandenburg e.V. since January 2016.