The Road to Smart Logistics

Faltering manufacturing processes, production downtime, delivery problems, frustrated customers: anything that takes time and costs money in mechanical engineering or the automotive industry, also delays the process along the entire supply chain in the logistics sector. The solution: Transport Logistics 4.0.

In the noughties, Germany’s logistics providers were confidently proclaiming: “Logistics is not everything. But without logistics everything is nothing.” Now, 20 years later, this bon mot is more relevant than ever before. Because let’s be honest: nobody wants to think of the consequences if logistics were to take a break. Nowadays, everything needs to be done faster, and be available everywhere immediately [German: sofort]. In 2007, the Austrian writer Peter Glaser gave this acceleration a name: Sofortness [literally: immediate-ness].

Readiness – the superlative of acceleration

Nothing can be quicker than immediate. For logistics providers, readiness reflects that they have no time at any time – on the internet, this is known as real time. This is extremely convenient for your customers. For you as a company, on the other hand, this presents an immense challenge, because supply and value chains are now extremely complex. But in order to remain competitive, business owners need to be able to react to modern consumer behavior in an agile way: short delivery times, one hundred percent delivery reliability and business resilience have become key distinguishing features. To master this complexity, you need transport logistics which allow you to react to the requirements placed on you in a quick, agile and flexible manner. Transport Logistics 4.0 can be the solution to this.

What is Transport Logistics 4.0?

In a 2017 study “Transport Logistics 4.0” the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) defines the term as follows:

“In line with the term “Industry 4.0”, we understand Transport Logistics 4.0 as the application of the principles of cyber-physical systems for the improved control, self-organization, and optimization of inter-company transport. Using modern technology, data is collected and evaluated during loading and unloading, as well as from the initiation and commissioning of the transport process. Based on this, a direct digital image can be produced in order to subsequently establish, on the one hand, measures for company-wide increased efficiency of real-time networks, as well as self-controlling subsystems, transport processing, and billing, by linking it with additional information from IT systems, camera systems or sensors. The aim of Transport Logistics 4.0 is efficient, decentralized, flexible and agile transport processing.”

The significance of Transport Logistics 4.0 for companies

Whether it's processing involving the transport of goods or physical assets which are used in the transport process: the significance of Transport Logistics 4.0 for companies is multi-layered. Above all, the improved availability of the vehicle fleet should be an important factor in Transport Logistics 4.0 for transport operators. A crucial lever here is the transformation of reactive and time-based maintenance planning, control and implementation into intelligent preventative maintenance based on predictive insights. The English term for this is smart predictive maintenance.

Automatic status analysis with smart predictive maintenance

"Alexander Frigo is someone who knows his stuff in this area, he is responsible for Vertical Market Solutions and Digital Services at A1 Digital. Together with his team, the 33-year-old develops digital solutions for logistics providers, for example for their asset management. When it comes to the maintenance of a truck fleet, if you ask him how digitization can help improve processes, plan more efficiently and make the vehicle fleet more available, his answer is clear: “Smart predictive maintenance is a key factor here.” Behind it is the transformation of unpredictable truck breakdowns into preventative maintenance work based on automatically generated status analysis during operation. “Transport operators can, therefore, better monitor their entire fleet and can anticipate, whether, when and to what extent the maintenance requirements of their vehicles are becoming apparent.”

Cut costs with asset intelligence

Many logistics providers are already focusing their digitization strategies on the interlinking of system data with vehicle data collected by sensors in a cloud platform. There are considerable benefits: the quality and speed of transport can be significantly improved based on more precise diagnoses and reliable forecasts. Furthermore, this step has the advantage of simplifying the pooling of interests with suppliers, warehouse staff and end customers by exchanging visualizations and analysis. In cooperation with the industry, this method will also make it easier to digitally connect existing facilities and provide exact interfaces to ensure the stability of the entire infrastructure. “Transport Logistics 4.0 offers many advantages,” says Alexander Frigo. “It can not only determine the maintenance strategy but also respond to exceptional situations in a smart way.” For example, when several error messages are received, it can decide which one should be given priority.“

Continuous monitoring of infrastructure and the vehicle fleet

Many logistics providers are already focusing their digitization strategies on the interlinking of system data with vehicle data collected by sensors in a cloud platform. There are considerable benefits: the quality and speed of transport can be significantly improved based on more precise diagnoses and reliable forecasts. Furthermore, this step has the advantage of simplifying the pooling of interests with suppliers, warehouse staff and end customers by exchanging visualizations and analysis. In cooperation with the industry, this method will also make it easier to digitally connect existing facilities and provide exact interfaces to ensure the stability of the entire infrastructure. “Transport Logistics 4.0 offers many advantages,” says Alexander Frigo. “It can not only determine the maintenance strategy but also respond to exceptional situations in a smart way.” For example, when several error messages are received, they can decide which one should be given priority.

Greater customer satisfaction thanks to Transport Logistics 4.0

For such a project to be feasible, there are two crucial elements: digitization and transformation. “The core objective in the digitization of transport logistics is selecting the right technologies to make the still largely manual processes at many freight companies fit for the future. The workforce is at the forefront of this transformation. It is particularly important to provide each individual employee with the right digital support.” The strategic goal behind this is clear to Alexander Frigo and his team: “On the one hand, what we want to achieve is increased availability of vehicle fleets, which has a direct impact on product quality and in turn customer satisfaction. On the other hand, we ensure that the processes along the entire supply chain of our customers are automated and even more reliable.”