Thursday, February 22, 2024

Logistics expects downturn, but sees itself prepared for it

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For the Trend Index for transport logistic, being held in Munich from May 9 to 12, 2023, more than 2,500 service providers, shippers and suppliers gave their assessment of the situation in an online survey in January.

Some of them are pessimistic about the future, but overall, the industry is in a robust position. What unites them all is the shortage of skilled labor and drivers in a market environment shaped by inflation. Under the motto “Experience Connectivity”, the focus is on collaboration along the supply chain, and trade fairs are more important than ever.

In the Trend Index for transport logistic, one in three companies expects a downturn. A two-thirds majority is already prepared for it. The industry expects every eventuality. Around three quarters expect further disruptions in the supply chain.

Just as many could, however, cushion the effect of further escalation due to the war in Ukraine without any economic consequences. The logistics industry thus demonstrates that it can solve its own problems and also those of others if allowed to do so.

General conditions limit freedom of action

The biggest challenge for the industry is the shortage of skilled labor and drivers. In addition, smaller companies are harder hit by inflation, and price and competitive pressure. Larger companies see themselves challenged more by the shortage of energy and raw materials, as well as disruption in the logistics value chain.

These are mainly macroeconomic, demographic or geopolitically induced problems that exert little influence on individual companies. It is against this background that the Trend Index identifies the challenges facing the logistics industry.

Staff shortage in the top spot

Across all industries and company sizes, every second respondent is affected the most by problems due to staff shortage. Suppliers and logistics service providers, as well as medium-sized and large companies push up the average to over 50 percent. The shortage of drivers aggravates the situation for almost one in three companies. Service providers (38.2 percent) are more challenged than shippers (28.4 percent).

Image: Industry could beat the drum louder

When it comes to image, the logistics industry should show what it can do. In any case, a good three quarters assess the industry’s image as generally positive and expect further improvement. At the same time, more than 40 percent of the respondents do not describe logistics as an attractive employer. One in three logistics companies on the service provider side and one in two among the shippers complain that it’s suffering from its employer image. Yet the industry could beat the drum a bit louder when it comes to employer image. After all, nine out of ten respondents would recommend their own company. Unfortunately, only the minority believes that it would generally make the search for skilled staff easier.

Logistics chains under pressure

In addition to the shortage of skilled labor and drivers, rising inflation (29 percent), and growing price and competitive pressure (28 percent) are putting a strain on more than one in four companies. These issues are among the biggest challenges for two thirds of small and medium-sized companies. The order of priority is different for large companies with 1,000 or more employees. Here, after the ever-present staff shortage problem, in particular the shortage of raw materials and energy (31 percent), and disrupted supply chains (26 percent) are among the top three.

Innovation arises on a small scale

City logistics shows how logistics of the future can already be designed today to be smart, fast and clean. The Trend Index reveals what’s especially important in that. The focus is on collaboration with other players (26 percent) and the use of alternative drives (24 percent). In addition, logistics must be able to pool across providers (18 percent) and shift goods flows (15 percent). What works on a small scale also applies to large logistics chains. “Many of our challenges need more collaboration in the logistics chain. At transport logistic in Munich, it’s quick and easy for us to bring everyone involved together. We jointly develop ideas with suppliers, shippers and consignees. This ensures the best possible joint use of resources,” explains Axel Plaß, President of the German Association of Freight Forwarders and Logistics (DSLV).

Trade fair is more important than ever

Around three quarters of the respondents are looking for solutions to other major challenges in management positions. According to the Trend Index, these include sustainability, environmental protection, energy efficiency (19 percent), increasing bureaucracy (18 percent), digitalization of business processes (17 percent), information and IT security, including cybersecurity (14 percent), and growing time pressure for deliveries and projects (8 percent).

Problems can be better solved together, which is why meetings in person play a much greater role since the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Industry events are as important for three quarters of the respondents and, for one in two, even more important than ever. Collaboration along the supply chain is moving into focus.

Stefan Rummel, Managing Director of Messe München, concludes the following from the results of the survey: “Logistics can assume its place as the third-largest industry with confidence. Each individual company can contribute to that by drawing positive attention to the successes. Logistics companies tackle problems and optimize processes. In an age when resources are becoming increasingly scarce, that is more important than ever. At transport logistic, the logistics industry can demonstrate over four days how attractive and innovative it is.”

2,556 exhibitors and visitors at transport logistic 2019 and 2023 took part in the online survey, 75 percent of which are in a management position and around half are international. Logistics, suppliers and shippers are represented in a ratio of 60:15:25. Based on employee numbers (1 to 249, 250 to 999, 1000+), small, medium-sized and large companies took part in a ratio of 50:15:35. The polling institute ifaD conducted the online survey from January 12 to 25, 2023.

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