Open Source

Open Source for “100% Logistics”

More than three million organizations use it, more than 65 million people work with it, and there are more than 200 million repositories for open source software (i.e. OS or OSS) worldwide. These numbers show: Open source software is an inherent part of the digital economy, and today it is also a component of almost all innovation processes. “Indeed, it is impossible to imagine today's world without open source software: it is often the first choice of companies and in many cases is in no way inferior to software from commercial providers,” says Christian Prasse, head of strategy at Fraunhofer IML. “By now, it also seems obvious that the digital transformation of the economy cannot succeed without using open source.”

“The potential of open source software for the realization of an Industry 4.0 is very large and not yet exhausted. This primarily concerns agility potentials and the accompanying acceleration of development using open standards – from the data model and algorithms to the communication interface. At the same time, open source is the primary means of preserving digital sovereignty. This is particularly true for Germany and Europe.”


Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Michael ten Hompel

Managing Director of Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML
Managing Director of Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML Michael ten Hompel

Open Source is driving innovation

The expertise deals with the topic of open source, in particular with a view to Industry 4.0, focusing on process automation and flexibilization, topics from the areas of connectivity and communication (e.g., Internet of Things and data rooms), and data and analytics (e.g., big data and artificial intelligence) – all areas with a strong technology focus. The study shows that these are precisely the areas that benefit most from open source software. For the open source approach prevents individual companies from becoming gatekeepers of certain technologies because the software is equally available to all companies.

Supporting companies when using open source

The uncertainty that many companies feel when it comes to using open source software is a significant obstacle in their path towards entering the world of open source. “The use and application of open source still requires a lot of explanation in companies,” the researchers at Fraunhofer IML know. “But whether it's the Internet of Things, machine learning or immersive technologies such as virtual reality - again and again, open source hardware and software is the basis and driver of change.” The expertise of Platform Industry 4.0 once again highlights the very specific benefits of open source software: pursuant to that, it favors the innovation speed of companies - not only of corporations but especially of small and medium-sized enterprises. According to a study by the digital association Bitkom, these companies are now even more likely to pursue an open source strategy.

Open source software usually wants to be adapted, embedded, or supplemented before it is used – which sometimes requires support, e.g. in adapting the software to its specific use case. Ultimately, however, it is also about companies developing business models based on the solutions that are available to them free of charge, with which they can put themselves in a better position for the future and generate more revenue. “The open source experts at Fraunhofer IML support companies in becoming familiar with open source and adapting the corresponding software,” says Christian Prasse.

The offer includes for example workshops in which companies can evaluate the benefits of using open source components or developing open source hardware and software for themselves and projects in which the experts take over the integration into business processes or adaptation of components or services for companies by the specialist departments of Fraunhofer IML.

Successful open source projects

Co-operative open source development with DB Schenker

As part of the DB Schenker Enterprise Lab, DB Schenker and Fraunhofer IML initiated and published the open source framework MLCVZoo (Machine Learning Computer Vision Zoo). The framework provides an ecosystem of computer vision algorithms that can be combined in a pipeline - independent of the specific implementations of the algorithms. With MLCVZoo as a foundation, DB Schenker can use current state-of-the-art object detection and OCR algorithms without being tied to a specific implementation. In addition, a generic data API and model API greatly simplify the connection of the algorithms.

DACHSER tests eCMR service

The consignment note for international road freight transport (CMR), which is still generally paper-based today, requires high administrative efforts with numerous manual activities. The current main problems include a large number of different formats, media disruptions and transmission errors. With this in mind, the researchers of Silicon Economy have designed a service for the generation, storage and transmission of digital consignment notes (eCMR). The internationally active logistics service provider DACHSER has now tested the eCMR with Fraunhofer IML in cross-border general cargo traffic.

More efficient planning due to AI-based ETA service

Small shipping companies and transport service providers in Germany have so far been little digitalized. The planning and organization of trips is usually done with pen and paper, and communication is mainly by mail, telephone or fax. But requirements are increasing, and manual dispatching is reaching its limits. A shipping and logistics company from the Siegerland region has therefore seized the opportunity to become a pilot partner for an artificial intelligence (AI)-based estimated time of arrival service. Supported by experts, the “AI-based ETA service” is being implemented as part of a project of the Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Ruhr-OWL.

Open Source initiatives and software repositories


Silicon Economy

The Silicon Economy researchers at Fraunhofer IML have already published numerous solutions as open source. These components are created on the basis of concrete logistics use cases.


Blockchain Europe

The project “Blockchain Europe” is advancing blockchain technology on the basis of open source solutions. As a key technology, blockchain has the potential to deliver tamper-proof data exchange and to automate and autonomize a wide range of processes in the supply chain.


Open Logistics Foundation

In the Open Logistics Foundation, companies jointly develop open source solutions for standard and basic functionalities in logistics.



openTCS is a control system software capable of coordinating a fleet of automatic vehicles (e.g. automated guided vehicles or mobile robots) and thus e.g. optimize transportation processes in production plants or warehouses.


Industry 4.0 Legal Testbed

In the project Industry 4.0 Legal Testbed, a digital experimentation field for automated business processes is being created. The open source solutions are available in the repository.