An interview with Steinbeis Entrepreneur and logistics expert Jens-Jochen Roth
In logistics, there are often only two things that really count: speed and low costs. Can this doctrine, despite everything, take us along a path of sustainability? In an interview with TRANSFER magazine, Jens-Jochen Roth, Steinbeis Entrepreneur at two Steinbeis Centers for Logistics and Sustainability, says yes – it can.
Hello Mr. Roth. Every day, your work involves a combination of logistics and sustainability. What does this entail for you in concrete terms?
The term “sustainable logistics” sounds a bit clunky at first and people like to use the term for image purposes. But if you look more closely into the subject, implementing logistics solutions that are based on sustainability principles opens the door to a whole host of different ways to look at things. Combining sustainability and its three main pillars – environmental, economic, and social factors – with logistics offers companies a number of starting points for differentiating themselves from other market players, and this also opens up new markets. Key to this are the people who take action. The bedrock of my work is supporting those people with the right tools. And the key to that is sensitizing people and providing the right training. In terms of the main topics this touches on, one priority is to ensure the different modes of transportation dovetail and network efficiently with one another – the carbon footprint.
Your Steinbeis enterprise has been helping customers with logistics and sustainability issues since 2010. To what extent has awareness changed during this time – and with that, the issues your customers face?
Shipping and logistics companies attach greater importance to sustainable management these days. This is partly because an increasing number of potential customers turn to them for sustainable logistics solutions, but it’s also due to the fact that logistics service providers are now actively looking into ways to make logistics services sustainable – they’re already virtually considered standard. Also, innovations happening in vehicle technology are helping to ensure that sustainability becomes more established in all parts of a company.
Digital transformation is everywhere now. What opportunities does digitalization offer to sustainable logistics?
Digital transformation offers a multitude of opportunities to proactively push sustainable logistics. So for example, it would be impossible to imagine the logistics industry today without tracking and tracing. The term Logistics 5.0 is now used to describe the networking and integration of logistics processes inside and outside companies and production facilities, right through to the decentralized real-time control of logistics networks. Digital transformation, especially when it comes to networking logistics processes, makes things more transparent within process chains, so it enhances supply chain management.
And the last, but perhaps key question for both companies and end users: Does more sustainability in logistics lead to higher costs – so higher prices?
The transportation and logistics industry is subject to constant change. It’s the interface between consignors and consignees, so its job is to set up efficient transportation channels and ensure as much use as possible is made of vehicle capacities. And that’s the key point: Costs don’t rise – if anything, the opposite tends to happen. That’s not just good for logistics, but also for the end consumer.
Jens-Jochen Roth (interviewee)
Steinbeis Innovation Center Logistics and Sustainability und Steinbeis Consulting Center Logistics and Sustainability (Sinsheim)