DB Schenker wants to be at the very top of digital innovation. The Company is developing data-driven business models and digitising processes and in doing so it is fostering the exchange of ideas with science and research. With its innovative concept of Enterprise Labs Fraunhofer IML proved to be the ideal partner in this venture. Erik Wirsing, Head of Innovation at DB Schenker, explains the diversified innovation strategy of his company – and reveals some of the research results of the lab started in 2015 – in the following interview.
Logistics ahead: What is the overall aim of your projects in the DB Schenker Enterprise Lab for Logistics and Digitization?
Erik Wirsing: Whether it is about drones or application programmes, we want to develop prototypes and conduct rapid field tests. You don’t have to engage in and be a part of the digitisation process – but if you don’t take part, someone else will. Our motto is always „fail fast“. If one approach proves unsuitable then we reject it out of hand and try another one. Also some of the solutions or products we develop are not yet made for the mass market. However, we build up extensive know-how and, if customers request it, we are ready to engage in a dialogue!
Logistics ahead: Can you name some of the successful projects?
Erik Wirsing: We can name a few. The researchers from Fraunhofer IML, for example, programmed the digital twin of a DB Schenker warehouse which enabled them to map and depict all processes on a monitor screen at their premises. The twin allows the user to run through various simulations. We successfully tested it in the respective contract logistics warehouse and use it regularly now. This is customer benefit developed in a lab! Another software development is designed to facilitate the efficient loading of truck trailers with partial loads. Both programmes supply answers from which users can deduce decisions. That is why these tools are called “Decision Support.” Another project takes advantage of people’s passion for games: Logistics is strongly driven by performance indicators – throughput, capacity utilization and the like – which is similar to computer games. Under the key word “gamification” one team investigated ways how to optimise certain processes by staging digital games where users are rewarded with points. The major topics of 3-D printers and drones are also part of research.
Logistics ahead: How many projects are carried out simultaneously in the lab?
Erik Wirsing: Depending on the complexity of the issues, three to six.
Logistics ahead: What makes the DB Schenker Enterprise Lab for Logistics and Digitization unique for you?
Erik Wirsing: First of all, DB Schenker is convinced that all parties can benefit from the close cooperation between business and research communities. That’s why we collaborate with more and more numerous scientific institutions. The setup in Dortmund is so amazing because it involves researchers from Fraunhofer IML and experts from DB Schenker working hand in hand. New teams are assembled based on the content and goal of the project.
Logistics ahead: Is it possible that at some stage you could run out of research topics...
Erik Wirsing: Not at all. Logistics business in light of digitization is facing many and various challenges. All you have to do is to look around at the Fraunhofer IML and the Enterprise Lab – and you’ll discover something that will inspire you to start on a future project!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Wirsing is Head of Innovation at DB Schenker and Manager of »DB Schenker Enterprise Lab for Logistics and Digitization«.
MORE ABOUT THE TOPIC
From building circuit boards for innovative hardware to workshops: researchers of “DB Schenker Enterprise Lab for Logistics and Digitization” at Fraunhofer IML are constantly developing new methods and getting to the root of problems. But are 3D printing, augmented reality, internet of things all just hype? Markus Sontheimer, CIO, Chief Digitalization Officer and Member of the Board of Management at Schenker AG gives you more information about the importance of digitalization and the cooperation with Fraunhofer IML here.
Exploring the future of logistics on YouTube
The future of the logistics world is already shaping and changing the entire economy. That is why DB Schenker together with the Fraunhofer IML, one of the world's leading logistics research institutes, created the „DB Schenker Enterprise Lab for Logistics and Digitization“. Here you can get an impression of the work in the lab.
Research with the company on site
The enterprise labs at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML – currently, there are four with DB Schenker AG, Würth Group, Sick AG and BMW Group – provide the facility for companies and scientists to work actively together putting German innovations into practice. Here you can find more information.