Digital logistics. Automated logistics. Logistics automation. (I)IoT in logistics. What is your current favourite buzzword for digitalization in logistics? Feel free to add it to this list. It’s constantly growing and changing.
If changes clearly happening in the market are clouded by too many buzzwords, it is time to pause, keep a cool head and focus on the core of the matter. What does digitalization mean for logistics? What are the advantages and how can I benefit from them most easily? That’s what our blog article is about.
What is digitalization in logistics and how do you do it?
“Better is the enemy of good.” – Voltaire
Logistics is the art of creating added value from new connections between known objects. In the digital world, these are the company’s in-house systems, their customers’ systems and third-party services. In the analogue world, these are storage locations, load carriers, modes of transport and transloading points. When we talk of digitalization in logistics, we mean the digital linking of these two worlds.
The foundation for this is data. It’s not for nothing that people talk of data-driven business. We consider consolidating and making data available crucial for digital logistics. The goal is to make the supply chain as transparent as possible to have it fully under your control. Your journey towards that may involve consistent integration, being open to new ways of doing business, considered use of cloud solutions in your own logistics or even the technology-driven approaches in (I)IoT and logistics 4.0. Each of these approaches will lead to greater sustainability in logistics, as any improvement in the processes where the digital and analogue worlds interact ultimately reduces resource consumption.
Easier said than done? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s have a look at the easiest way to drive digitalization in your logistics company.
Data solutions for digital logistics
“In God we trust. All others must bring data.” – W. Edwards Deming
Data makes the world go round. Unfortunately, data is often stuck in huge quantities in various formats and quality in a variety of systems, with limited availability.
Do you know at a click what products are available at what quantities at which locations? Or how about a detailed explanation of each location’s KPIs?
Do you know exactly where your goods are at any given time? Do your customers have 24/7 access to this information in real time, or do they need to call during office hours?
We consider making data available to be used in these types of ways both within and beyond your organisation, sometimes in real time, to be an integral part of digital logistics.
Digitally transforming processes in logistics
“One of the major challenges in the digitalization of logistics processes will be to not only network the participants in a value chain with each other (integration), but also to map cross-company business processes in integrated IT workflows.“.
That’s what it’s been about for 50 years now. What makes it so difficult? Each industry and not infrequently each company in that industry uses a different set of communication standards, whether through classic EDI or newer API-based solutions. This is the challenge in facilitating data exchange along internal and external supply chains. As an example, if we needed to integrate four business processes each involving three in-house systems for 1,000 customers or suppliers, this would result in 12,000 connections.
What would it cost you to set up and operate 12,000 connections? Working with SEEBURGER, in our example scenario, you’d be responsible for setting up and controlling seven processes (the three internal processes and four external). We would do the rest.
Using cloud solutions in logistics
“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills.“ – Chinese proverb
You can of course run up against walls, but the era of “do it yourself” is over. In today’s agile markets, requirements are too individual and diverse for that.
Do you use established web-based apps for quotes for land-based, marine and air transport? Are these services integrated with your systems? Have you done that yourself?
What you need is tailwind. Extend your logistics services for you and your customers by using third-party cloud services over standardised interfaces.
Operating models for digital logistics
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.“ – Albert Einstein
Digital solutions are one thing, operating an integration platform is another topic. How easy may we make it for you?
- On-Premises: You operate the SEEBURGER platform on your own terms with your own team and your own hardware – either from your own data centres or in those operated by third parties (including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform). Remote support is available for this model.
- Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS): Leave the secure, highly available operation of the integration platform to SEEBURGER. Mappings, processes and configurations remain in your hands. You can concentrate fully on expanding your strategic logistics network.
- Fully Managed Service: You set the specifications to which SEEBURGER develops and operates your integration platform. SEEBURGER takes on the community management, onboarding and operation of your partner network including electronic invoicing, customs procedures and archiving. We also get digital transformation projects off the ground for you.
- Hybrid Integration Platform (HIP): Our experience has shown that in practice, the best solution is often a mix of different operating variants. At its core is the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite, in whole or in part. You decide what, when and how you want to delegate, and for how long. Call it freestyle rather than compulsory.
The result will be an agile, centrally controlled logistics network that always meets your growing requirements.
‟Everything that can be digitalized will be digitalized.” – Carly Fiorina
For many in logistics, projects in (I)IoT and industry 4.0 are the driving force that leads to digital transformation. Logistics 4.0 is where logistics and industry 4.0 combine. The old ways just don’t cut it any longer, as real-time, automated decision trees and machine learning enter the logistics world.
A key success factor is mastering the complex work of integrating networked products and resources in existing processes, system landscapes and business eco systems.
Ensure transparency in your supply chain with digital logistics
‟If I’m given enough notice, I can also be spontaneous.” – Mr. & Mrs. Panda
Whether you start with data solutions, with digitally transforming your processes, with integrating cloud services, with innovative operating models or whether you go straight for a logistics 4.0 approach, each step will bring you closer to your goal. Greater transparency is crucial before you can improve and scale up internal and cross-company processes.
You determine to what extent and in what order you want to work towards digital transformation. We at SEEBURGER will ensure that you don’t run into any walls.
Drive sustainability with digital logistics
‟Anything that is against nature will not last in the long run.” – Charles Darwin
Every improvement conserves resources. This applies to every step in the supply chain, whether the result is reducing energy or materials consumption or more efficient ways of obtaining resources.
Digitalization is all about the optimal orchestration of these resources. Processes become leaner, more efficient and more environmentally friendly and sustainability increases through better packaging, warehousing and transportation management. Just the approach taken by green logistics.
To this end, every step towards digitalization becomes a step towards greater sustainability in logistics.
‟You get to know yourself with a demanding partner at your side.” – Heinz Körber
Standardise the small stuff to support the big stuff. That’s what SEEBURGER has been doing since 1986. A trusted partner at your side who will push boundaries to meet your organisation’s needs.
A central data hub such as the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS)
- integrates data flows within and beyond your organisation, enabling data on demand (real-time/non real-time)
- offers a range of pre-configured integration modules to digitally transform processes and integrate partners‘ systems
- lets you configure cloud connectors to expand services (provide/consume)
- sets the path for new digital services and business models enabled by industry/logistics 4.0
- has a range of operating models, which lets you offload unwanted IT tasks
SEEBURGER BIS supports all digitalization requirements
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Written by: Dr. Volker Schäffer, Dirk GawlickDr. Volker Schäffer and Dirk Gawlick are the core logistics team at SEEBURGER. A mathematician and computer scientist, Volker has been with SEEBURGER since 2004. The projects he has initiated for process optimisation in the supply chain have received several external awards. Dirk initially gained logistics experience at several well-known logistics companies and has been SEEBURGER Account Manager since 2017.