Sören Mohr & Ernst Kreppenhofer: IT and logistics – Innovation, technology and service provision for the northern German economy

765919_original_r_k_b_by_kl-ai_pixelioIT and logistics are among the most important interdisciplinary technologies of the economy and are considered to be decisive business competencies in both Hamburg and ­Schleswig-Holstein. When talking about interdisciplinary technologies, people are referring to services that are provided for implementing and carrying out particular tasks for other sections of the economy. For example, they act as a service provider for various tasks, they launch tasks or provide the foundation for implementing innovations, procedures and product development. 

To take a closer look at the status and significance of these technologies for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, here are some figures: currently, Schleswig-Holstein has more than 14,000 business in the IT-economy sector, which is just over seven per cent of companies registered in the state.

Software development and the e-commerce/online mar­king segment dominate among IT companies.

Schleswig-Holstein is a transit gate to the Baltic countries and Scandinavia when it comes to logistics, and it is also the only state with access to two seas. Logistics comprises around 3,200 companies which employ around 53,000 people. Here, the primary fields of ac­tivity are transport, warehouse management, handling and trans­­shipment. Considering these volumes, logistics is thus one of the important sectors in Schleswig-Holstein.

Both of these sectors have clusters and networks for networking the businesses, exchanging ideas and in­formation, cooperating with public organisations and implementing projects. In IT, this is the Digitale Wirt­schaft Schleswig-Holstein (digital economy of Schles­wig-Holstein – DiWiSH). DiWiSH sums up its mission under the motto of “DiWiSH cluster management, the Verein Digitale Wirtschaft Schleswig-Holstein (the digital economy association of Schleswig-Holstein – DiWiSH e.V.) and the Design-Initiative Nord (north) jointly support the state’s IT, media and design economy”.

The Logistik Initiative Schleswig-Holstein e.V. (logistics initiative for the state) acts as an innovative network for logistics and the supply chain in the logistics sector, whereas NordLogistik acts as a cross-border network for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein in transport and forwarding. In addition, there are also regional agencies and associations, such as logRegio in Lübeck.

More on Hamburg: IT is one of the most important sectors in Hamburg economic, with just under 10,000 IT and communications businesses, which em­­ploy around 50,000 people. On average, more than four billion euros value is generated with this market potential, clearly showing the significance of IT to Hamburg’s economy. “Hamburg@work” is an active network in ITC and new media with more than 1,500 members (internal inquiry).


When you boil it down, logistics shapes Hamburg and vice versa in this economic sector. Hamburg is Germany’s gateway to the world and home to Europe’s second most import­ant harbour – thus, logistics, with its approx. 170,000 em­­ployees (2014), is a major player.

The Logistics Initiative Hamburg, a public-private partnership (PPP) formed by an association and senate-oriented cluster management with nearly 700 members (internal inquiry), is the leading partner in networking and the sector cluster.

Due to its geography and the necessity of including the surrounding areas, the Hamburg metropolitan region must be regarded as a whole. It is both a partner and service provider in logistics and port traffic, employing around 370,000 people (2014) in the city and surrounding areas, who were employed at approximately 11,700 companies (2014). Calling this a win-win situation for the city and region is no misconception.

Another factor that indicates the status working and degree programme quality has for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein is illustrated by the following figures: twelve universities in Hamburg and another eight universities in Schleswig-Holstein represent future-oriented degree programmes in both logistics and IT and communication technologies.

With this in mind, let us consider one of the pertinent future aspects of interdisciplinary technologies like IT and logistics: the digital transformation. Industry 4.0, logistics 4.0 or the digital supply chain are only a few key words describing a fundamental and differentiated use of IT and communication technologies working together with innovative logistics solutions.

As to why: the influence digitalisation has is decisive for society and it changes the worlds of personal life, business and work. But what is this digital transformation? Here is a simplified version of the answer: things, regardless of the type, are to be designed in such a way that they can carry out certain activities and tasks themselves. They should be able to receive data through network com­­munication prior to these actions and then transfer the data on to further network members downstream after these actions.

630891_original_r_k_by_tony-hegewald_pixelioIn the meantime, the digital trans­formation has, more or less, had a strong influence on logistics and the supply chain – with a fundamental impact on the organisation of businesses, handling and business processes. Intelligent traffic management and other such traffic control systems are being implemented based on the Internet of Things (IoT). Self-driving vehicles and loading equipment as well as sensor-­driven, light-driven or speech-driven systems are part of smart logistics, which are implemented with the corres­­ponding hardware and software.

After this little trip to the technical environment of IT, logistics and the tasks and challenges of today and tomorrow, let us take a look at the circumstances and current state of the northern states: coordinated by the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, Hamburg established a Forum 4.0 with an In­­dustry 4.0 competence centre. The industry, science and pub­lic organisations search for ways and also carry out developments in order to face the challenges of the future with innovative solutions for the corresponding sectors of the economy.

Schleswig-Holstein´s state government developed a model concept with its new “Bündnis für Industrie.SH” (alliance for the industry in Schleswig-Holstein) and called on its partners from economy, science and public organisations to participate actively in this alliance. It also includes the creation of an Industry 4.0 competence centre for the state.

The northern states are taking on the challenges and requirements needed to actively shape the economy and create innovative solutions for the technology sector – and do so by involving various players in this implementation. Interesting and economically feasible and successful concepts for competence sectors and by and for interdisciplinary technologies will pave the way, and secure it, for a positive future for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.

Sören Mohr
Sören Mohr was born in 1968 and studied business administration in Kiel. From 1993 to 1994, he was the spokesman of the Hansapark Sierksdorf, where he was also Head of Marketing until 1997. Afterwards, he became Head of Customer Consulting at fluxx AG and in 2000, he founded the Kiel-based advertising and marketing agency New Communication. He has been a member of the Verein Digitale Wirtschaft Schleswig-Holstein e. V since 2005 and has been its Chairman since 2007.
Ernst Kreppenhofer
The author is Head of the DiWiSH cluster’s specialised group for IT & Logistics in Schleswig-Holstein.