"Stuff for a bestselling novel"
In its recently released study "Delivering Tomorrow: Logistics 2050," Deutsche Post DHL, together with highly respected experts, takes a far-reaching look at the year of 2050. The results are five alternative scenarios that show how the world may develop in terms of the degree of globalization, the extent of economic and social change, technology standards and environmental conditions. In the process, the study makes clear that business conditions and the role of the logistics industry will have undergone a metamorphosis by the time 2050 arrives.
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"We must look far ahead and start thinking now about the global challenges to come," Frank Appel, the CEO of Deutsche Post DHL, stressed during his opening address at the presentation of the study in the Humboldt Box in Berlin. In explaining the company's reasons for conducting the study, Appel noted that in an increasingly complex world filled with uncertainties, short-range projections would no longer be of much help in setting the appropriate long-term direction and devising robust strategies.
More than 40 well-known experts, including Klaus Töpfer, the former German Environmental Minister and the former Director of the U.N. Environmental Program, helped develop the scenarios of the future. With its groundbreaking series of publications called "Delivering Tomorrow," Deutsche Post DHL intends to foster a dialogue about key issues that will shape the world over the next few decades. This is also the objective of the new study, the third such research project in the series.
All scenarios show: the role of logistics will dramatically change
But just what will the world look like in 2050? And what impact will this new world have on logistics? Will untamed growth and unchecked materialism put the world on the brink of a collapse in 40 years? Or will we pull off the paradigm shift to "green" growth? Will individualization and customized consumption shape people's everyday lives or will economic hardship, nationalism and protectionism turn back the clock of globalization that has taken place in recent decades? Will resilient structures gain a higher priority over continued efficiency maximization in 2050 in light of frequent natural disasters?
To visually present the study's complex concepts and thus make them more life like, Deutsche Post DHL produced an animated film. The first scenario shows a world characterized by unchecked growth, materialism and a mounting number of natural disasters. Production and transport operations must be modified to deal with these increasing environmental risks.
In the second scenario, efficient megacities have emerged as the world's power centers - with radically altered consumer needs. Scenario three describes a world where individualization and personalized consumption are pervasive, developments that require decentralized and regional production structures. In the fourth scenario, the world is characterized by economic hardship and excessive nationalism and protectionism. Technological development has slowed and international conflicts over resource deposits have emerged. In the fifth scenario, accelerated climate change results in repeated supply failures and the need to create resilient supply structures.
All scenarios share a common element: the broadly transformed role of logistics. Overall demand for logistics services does indeed climb in most of the five alternative scenarios. But the particular requirements placed on and the special challenges faced by logistics providers vary widely from scenario to scenario. But, as Appel noted during the podium discussion in the Humbolt Box, none of the scenarios developed by the study will come completely true. "In 2050, we will be living in one of the broadly defined solution areas. And we must be prepared for it," the CEO said.
In a discussion moderated by Susanne Kronzucker, Frank Appel was joined by best-selling writer Frank Schätzing; Professor Dr. Michael ten Hompel, the Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics; Dr. Andreas Scheuer, the Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Ministry of Transportation; and Professor Dr. Thomas Straubhaar, Director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics. The group talked about the fundamental drivers of change and their possible impact.
Appel: "We need a blueprint for the future"
Drawing on the influence factors devised in the study, the group cited the extent of protectionism, individualization and climate change as the most critical elements. In particular, the threat posed by climate change was vigorously discussed: a responsible approach to the environment was determined to be the crucial parameter for shaping the future. "Companies must prepare for climate change and act responsibly in order to organize their industry in a resource-efficient manner," said the politician Dr. Andreas Scheuer.
"Logistics companies are already the pioneers here." Appel supported this statement by citing an example from his own company: Deutsche Post DHL has been improving its CO2 efficiency for years. The goal for 2012 that the company set in 2007 was achieved in 2010, Appel said. The scientist Prof. Dr. Michael ten Hompel also had a positive outlook for the entire industry: "We logisticians have always moved the world - but we are doing this today in a much more resource-efficient and sustainable manner. We are doing our part to actively create a livable world tomorrow."
In this connection, Appel called on political and business leaders to jointly develop a blueprint for the future. The other panel members expressed their agreement with the CEO. Professor Dr. Thomas Straubhaar of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics stressed the importance of the study of the future "Logistics 2050" and noted that it clearly showed the need for society to always remain adaptable. The writer Frank Schätzing said he viewed the study as an incentive to talk about goals and visions of a future world. Because the scenarios seem so real, he said he considered them to be "stuff for a best-selling novel."