Managing uncertainty in the global supply chain: European Freight and Logistics Network F&L at KLU

International supply chains operate in a volatile and uncertain environment driven by populism, geo-economics, globalization, environmental degradation and new technologies. Shippers and service providers must choose pathways for the future: how can the waves be flattened to steer economy and society into safer waters? The European Freight and Logistics Leaders Forum (F&L) invited around 150 practitioners and academics to identify possible solutions. The KLU hosted the meeting 9 to 10 May 2019, titled “Managing uncertainty in the global supply chain: why does it matter and how can we succeed?”

Karl Gernandt (Executive Chairman Kühne Holding) introduced the audience to the theme of growing complexity in logistics during his welcome speech. To give an example, he raised the question of “What gives us the license to operate as logistics providers with a growing importance of social and environmental aspects? We need to operate as a network to find answers." KLU President Prof. Dr. Thomas Strothotte pointed out the high-standard academic knowledge produced at the University and invited the managers and entrepreneurs to benefit from the presence of the very much application-oriented academics at the meeting. F&L Secretary General Philip Evans added, “The harder the question you ask, the better the answer you get.” 

A more vulnerable supply chain

The first session addressed the increased vulnerability in the supply chain. Macro issues like trade wars, e-commerce or Brexit create uncertainty around delivery times, the viability of some supply chain routes, stock levels and much more – and it’s difficult to manage. Wolfgang Lehmacher (World Economic Forum, Council of Logistics Experts “Rat der Logistikweisen”) drew a picture of challenges and opportunities in his keynote. One example was an electric car manufacturer in China defining himself as a community builder as a new approach in a very traditional market. 

Pressure on the decision-making process

Given an unpredictable environment, how do the decision-making processes need to be changed to respond to growing uncertainty? This was discussed in the second session with an excursion to climate change policy requirements by Hans von Storch, Professor at Universität Hamburg, Ocean University of China and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (Institute of Coastal Research, HZG).  Breakout sessions treated issues like “Managing supply chain risk and building resilience”, “The ability to measure and drive investments for sustainable mobility” and “Managing global consumer demand”. 

Management facing change

The last session on Friday morning highlighted the management perspective in a changing industry. Production, management, and governance need to reflect the way people live, work, and relate to one another. Speed-dating discussions between logistics start-up entrepreneurs and KLU PhD students completed the meeting.

The European Freight and Logistics Leaders Forum (F&L) is a shipper-driven international non-profit association established in 1994 to bring together shippers and supply chain service companies together to debate and discuss current topics and best practice.

More information:

  • Interview Philip Evans, F&L Secretary General
  • Involved KLU academics:
    Alan McKinnon, Professor of Logistics, leader breakout session “Management supply chain risk and building resilience”
    Michele Acciaro, Associate Professor Maritime Logistics, Director of KLU Research Center Hapag-Lloyd Center for Shipping and Global Logistics (CSGL), participant roundtable “Practical and solutions-focused discussion with decision makers”
    Kai Hoberg, Professor of Supply Chain and Operations Strategy, Head of Logistics Department, moderator roundtable “Uncertainty and management”
    Rod Franklin, Adjunct Professor of Logistics, Academic Director of Executive, leader breakout session “Global consumer demand”
    Gordon Wilmsmeier, Kühne Professional Chair in Logistics, Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia
  • Agenda, Speakers, Attendees of F&L Meeting, Hamburg 2019