A Quick Word...

Logistics needs more IT power and IT people

In putting together this issue, which has a major section on finished vehicle logistics in North America as well features on purchasing in Europe with Volvo Truck and Mercedes-Benz, I was struck by a few distinct themes. While global purchasing and logistics is moving towards more advanced IT; many executives I spoke to bemoaned the ‘lagging behind’ of IT development in inbound and outbound logistics in the automotive industry, they also commented on a lack of manpower.

One OEM logistics leader at a major carmaker in the US expressed the IT problem as: “When Amazon will be delivering by drone, we [the auto industry] will still be using pivot tables on Excel.”

Given the rapidly-accelerating pace of connectivity within every new vehicle above a base model, it would seem somewhat myopic not to harness this power and integrate it to an end-to-end supply chain IT network. 

A recent visit to BMW showed me how it can be done; the German carmaker is approaching logistics from a completely fresh mindset. It has not followed conventional transport models within and without the plant but has recruited technical ‘whizzkid’ ideas from Silicon Valley and MIT. The approach that these young experts take is rooted in their world and they are not hampered in their thinking by traditional logistics culture. The use of virtual reality in training and implementation of picking and packing, automated and autonomous movement of semi-trailers in yards at plants, autonomous forklift trucks and many more solutions show a refreshingly open-minded approach.

Where manpower of this new shade is welcome in IT and technology development, it is also lacking in truck driving, railroad personnel and port operatives. As you will read inside this issue, there seems to be the will to invest in new trucks, railcars, locomotives and ships but finding the people to operate them is proving more and more difficult, and not only in North America.

For too long driving and operating jobs have been seen as low-skilled occupations. This has to change, and the change will be forced by the increasingly technical nature of the jobs. For when IT finally makes its full invasion of or disruption to the logistics industry, we will still need more personnel than we have now, and those men and women will need to be more highly trained to be conversant with the advanced technology of tomorrow’s supply chain. 

Simon Duval Smith

Editor: Simon Duval Smith
Editor-in-Chief: Peter Wooding
Editor-at-Large: Paul Singh
Additional Journalists: Lawrence Davies, Robert Jones
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system without the written permission of the publishers. Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this publication, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or changes since going to press, or for consequential loss arising for such changes or inaccuracies, or for any other loss direct or consequential arising in connection with the information in this publication. The views expressed by the contributors are not necessarily also those of the publisher.
Additional images: freepik.com   |   pexel.com  |  unsplash.com  E&EO

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