Digitalization Is Changing Our Lives and the Economy

Strothotte, Hero, Kolbe and Streibich on stage

Industry 4.0 is not only changing the very fabric of production and services, it is also posing completely new challenges for the IT and logistics sectors. The first Kühne Logistics University Forum attended by over 100 experts in the IT and logistics in Hamburg yesterday (July 7, 2015) reached this conclusion. The theme of the day was: “Digitalization & Logistics – Challenges of the next decade.”

In the course of their talks, Franz Hero, Senior Vice President Supply Chain & Logistics Development at SAP, and Karl-Heinz Streibich, CEO Software AG, made the high degree of digitalization in the economy and everyday life very obvious. They predict that the speed of the changes will accelerate. E2E process management, smart autonomous assets, 3D printing & virtualization, digital workflows and platforms, new kinds of human interaction and big data are the new themes that will require more and more of our attention in the coming years.

Twenty years ago, the IT industry served the economy but today IT is an integral component of all the economy’s sectors. It has become essential for production. “The paradigm shift in this area is now complete. It is posing entirely new questions and requires very different answers,” said President Thomas Strothotte of KLU, whose degree is in information sciences. “When IT drives the economy, everyone – from technician to top managers – must think in IT categories in order to understand the core economic processes. In the same manner, IT experts must acquire knowledge about the special features of the industry they work in. After all, an automotive company needs different IT solutions than a logistics service provider or a publishing company. Standard models are no longer applicable.”

The key issue for today’s companies is whether to outsource the software expertise or become digital companies in their own right. In-house software competency increases a company’s competitive ability and ensures that the company remains independent.

In his talk, “Digital Transformation – Shaping the logistics of the next decade,” Dr. André Ludwig, Associate Professor of Computer Science in Logistics at KLU, made this point impressively, using the logistics sector as an example. And Dr. Kai Hoberg, Associate Professor of Supply Chain and Operations Strategy, made a presentation entitled “Beyond the Hype of 3D Printing – How to unlock the value of additive manufacturing” that contained surprising analyses and cross references.

Another key conclusion of the first Kühne Logistics University Forum impacts an entirely different field. “This profound shift must also be reflected in our university education. The competition will also decide who has the specialized employees with the best education,” said Strothotte. “Digitalization is not only driving the logistics and IT sectors. It is also driving us. This is why we are in the process of creating a new master’s program in IT & logistics.”