CEMAT - Statement by Prof. Dr. Christopher Jahns

28.05.2008: CEMAT - Statement by Prof. Dr. Christopher Jahns

...., Executive Director, Supply Management Institute - SMI

* On the occasion of the Opening Ceremony for CeMAT 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me join my colleagues here in welcoming you to the show. You will have to excuse me if I seem a little excited - that's because of the scientist in me, who has experienced something of a "high" today!

My special thanks for this unique high must go to Deutsche Messe, who had the courage and the vision to arrange this intellectually and scientifically enriching experience here today for the benefit of persons like myself and many internationally renowned experts, senior executives and politicians.

As you perhaps know, some of us have already been quite busy today, or rather "ahead of our times" all day long. The very first international eve-of-CeMAT conference called FUTURE OF LOGISTICS, which has just ended, delivered precisely what its name implies: future. Our future. Not just the future of logistics and supply chain management, but the future of global supply networks - and hence the future of us all.

Still fresh from the day's impressions, I don't want to overstate the importance of the event. But in all modesty I have to say, quoting the words of Dr. Stefan Walter who headed our excellent scientific support team, that it was a unique event. As he put it:

"Throughout the world, there is no other event like FUTURE OF LOGISTICS that examines and analyses visionary issues ranging from intralogistics to global supply chain management from the pioneering perspective of the futurologist." Based on my experience today, I can only concur wholeheartedly with my colleague's assessment - along with all my fellow participants and speakers who unanimously endorsed the view that today's event was truly unique.

I should like to use this opportunity to render you an equally unique service by summarizing and condensing a whole day of the future into less than ten minutes. As people are interested first and foremost in other people, let me begin with a brief sketch of the assembled talent.

On the subjects that determine all our futures we held discussions - at times very animated discussions - with experts from the Harvard Business School, MIT, Deutsche Bank, IBM and Amazon, as well as from the Zambian Ministry of Health, the German Ministry of Transport (Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee is patron of the Conference), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Indian Institute of Management.

I was also deeply impressed, both intellectually and personally, by the lecture given by - and the subsequent discussion with - Professor Anil K. Gupta, whom SPIEGEL magazine recently described, in a nice turn of phrase, as the "Gandhi of technology". The professor doesn't sit back in some academic ivory tower, but travels far and wide, like a nomad, traversing the Indian subcontinent and observing peasant farmers and their backbreaking toil.

He uncovers the innovations they have come up with - innovations created from the will to survive or out of sheer desperation, some of which are astonishingly inventive. He then documents these innovations, patents them, brings them to market - and then channels the profits back to the farming community. It is a striking example of social responsibility in action.

And an example to us all, showing how a humane and peaceful future with prosperity for all can be achieved not by working against the markets, but by working with them. Provided we can shape that future in the right way. At which point you may well ask the perfectly reasonable question: What is "the right way"?

The big problem with the future is that it is not yet here. So how can I shape something in the right way if it does not even exist yet? This paradox was addressed years ago by the pharmaceutical and automotive industries, by the telecommunications industry and the oil industry. And they find answers by means of scenarios, systematically mapping out and exploring various paths the future might take ten and more years down the road. What is now standard practice in these and other industries has hitherto been largely absent from the logistics sector: reliable long-term studies of the industry and where it is going.

We sought to make good this omission with our study on the future of logistics between now and the year 2025, which some of you will already be familiar with. On the basis of this study we have now launched an interesting new initiative, never before seen at the international level in the logistics industry: a so-called Real Time Delphi survey of expert opinion. None of us can look into the future. But if the expertise of many individuals is bundled and statistically analysed, the result is a clear and remarkably reliable picture of the future of logistics in 2025.

Ahead of today's Conference we collated the views of the invited international experts and participants from the logistics industry, and then discussed and refined them during the course of the day. And I must say that I have rarely learned so much about the future of logistics in a single day. I should now like to share some of these insights with you by outlining, in the brief time available, the six future trends on which the surveyed experts and logistics specialists were most in agreement.

First: Today's formula for business success will not be worth very much tomorrow. It is not the financial strength of a company, its network or its strategy, that will determine its commercial fortunes in the future, but its ties with a cluster and its use of the services and synergies associated with that cluster. Any company that wants to be doing good business in the year 2025 needs to be close to a cluster - or should at least be part of a network involving other market players.

Secondly: Waste management is the key to future wealth. Experts estimate that it will often be more profitable to recover and recycle materials from household refuse and industrial waste than to extract them at source. This view is shared by the Fraunhofer Institute, which recently coined the term "reverse logistics" to describe this phenomenon. I

t is not difficult to imagine that today's worsening raw materials crisis will be substantially alleviated, if not entirely overcome, by reverse logistics. And not only for countries that have few natural resources, but also for our own companies. This means a lot more work coming our way in intralogistics, but also a notable upgrading of the role of intralogistics within a company's operations. In other words, the intralogistics specialist will be a recycling expert and supplier of raw materials.

Thirdly, and this is going to be highly controversial: What many environmental campaigners today see as the remedy for our congested roads, namely a major shifting of traffic onto the railways and waterways, is regarded by the experts in the survey as the least probable option. This is political dynamite, of course, in terms of environmental policy. But in terms of planning for the future it is a blessing: if we know that in all probability we are flogging a dead horse here, then we can start backing another runner right now.

Fourthly: Logistics is a lifeline in times of disaster. Anyone who reads the newspapers these days is getting a foretaste of the more tragic side of our future: the world is increasingly afflicted by disaster. In many cases these are natural disasters that we cannot prevent. The real question is: how do we deal with them in an effective and professional way?

One answer to this question has already been found: global health care supply chains. Just as we take it for granted that there will be bananas on the supermarket shelf in the morning, medical logistics makes sure that vital medical supplies reach disaster areas quickly and in sufficient quantities.

Fifthly: Logistics is going green. The experts anticipate that innovations in transport logistics will play an important part in reducing our consumption of natural resources. This has already resulted in the coining of a new buzzword, namely green logistics.

And finally: the factory in the living room is the next big thing. MIT, the Fraunhofer Institute and Bill Gates are all researching this new trend, which is known as "fabbing": in future families will be able to manufacture everyday household items within their own four walls with the aid of a so-called fabricator. I need hardly add that this will revolutionize logistics as we know it today.

So those are some of the trends and issues that we considered and discussed today during the course of the FUTURE OF LOGISTICS. As interesting as these insights are in themselves, none of us can get a handle on the future just by being interested. The skills needed to cope with the future are acquired not through mere interest, but, as Peter Sellers once put it, by developing the ability to scratch before you itch.

Thanks to their experiences at the Conference, many senior managers whom I met today are going home asking the right questions. What does this new knowledge mean for me, my company, my employees and my understanding of logistics? How have I always implicitly pictured the future of logistics? Where have I gone wrong?

How do I need to correct my picture of the future? And how, in the light of this knowledge, do I need to correct the course that I am currently steering in order to bring my ship safely into port without running it onto the rocks? And in order to avoid the rude awakening that is summed up in the American proverb: "The future is the time when you regret not having done what you could have done today."

This change of course, in our businesses, in our personal lives, is what makes the difference. Making the change today will put us on the right course for tomorrow. This is the lesson that those of us at the Conference today, and now you too this evening, can take home with us. This evening we are formally opening CeMAT 2008.

Tomorrow, as we tour the stands and view the various exhibits and presentations, we will learn about the elements of the more immediate future. But it is only if we can fit these elements from the immediate future into the bigger picture of the more distant future that we will be able to use these elements in the right way to achieve success for ourselves, our businesses and our society.

That is my wish for each and every one of us.

Thank you for your attention.

 

-Deutsche Messe -

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28.05.2008 / MaP

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