Carmen Schmidt is our guest interviewee for KLU Business Newsletter #2/2020: the Managing Director of the Logistics Initiative Hamburg (LIHH) knows the concerns and needs of the metropolitan region’s logistics economy during the ongoing coronavirus crisis better than almost anyone else. More than 550 companies belong to the network – including global players, SMEs and start-ups. KLU is also a member, and this year President Prof. Thomas Strothotte was appointed to the board of trustees. We asked Ms. Schmidt how universities can help overcome the current crisis.
Using home office in an attempt to contain the coronavirus – what have been your experiences with it? And what is important to you as a leader in terms of dealing with the crisis?
Carmen Schmidt: Everyone at the Logistics Initiative Hamburg’s managing office has been working from home since mid-March, and my experiences with it have been predominantly positive. The entire team quickly adapted to the new situation, is motivated and has already implemented new ideas for communication with our network. But despite all the digital possibilities, personal networking remains a core element of our work – and that includes within the team. That is why it is important for me, as Managing Director, to promptly inform my employees about the latest developments and decisions. Also, they should know that they can always come to me with their questions. Actually, it should go without saying, but especially when you no longer see each other at the office every day, it’s important not to lose sight of these personal and also informal exchanges.
As Managing Director of the Logistics Initiative since it was founded almost 15 years ago, you know the Hamburg logistics landscape like the back of your hand. What’s the greatest challenge for Hamburg’s logistics sector today?
Carmen Schmidt: It’s hard to give a uniform answer to that question, because individual companies are affected very differently. Right now it’s very helpful that, in many areas of logistics, the level of digitization has increased in recent years. You can tell by the fact that the supply chains are still largely functioning. The opportunities offered by digitization must be implemented operationally even more quickly than before, within an internationally networked economy that is characterized in part by highly dynamic, rapidly changing framework conditions. More than ever, processes must be designed in such a way that companies can react even more dynamically and flexibly to unforeseeable global events. The nature and duration of COVID-19’s impacts on regions around the world can’t yet be estimated. Quickly developing individual strategies for coping with them, and combining those strategies with digitalization, is indeed a considerable challenge.
From the perspective of logistics companies, how can universities as knowledge hubs and places of learning help to contain and prevent crises?
Carmen Schmidt: It’s still too soon to say what long-term effects the current circumstances will have on logistics processes. Logistics research must play an important part here, so that companies can make sustainable decisions regarding their strategic orientation and operational processes during the restart phase and beyond. Another important task will be to develop scenarios for future cases of this kind for and with the logistics industry. But it won’t be enough to tackle this topic through research; it must also be integrated into teaching, so that tomorrow’s managers are prepared for such situations.
In 2020 KLU is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The only present we want is a good motto. Do you have one for us? Or would you like to give us something else?
Carmen Schmidt: Personally, I have been following the development of KLU from the beginning, and I’m impressed by everything that has been achieved in such a short time! As a young university, KLU has established itself very quickly as an integral part of both logistics research and the business world. Therefore Aristotle’s quote that, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work” is a great fit for KLU. My birthday wish is that the spirit and dynamics of its first years will remain hallmarks of KLU for many more to come.
(copyright teaser photo: LIHH/Frommfotograf)