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Preparing for Industry 4.0

The forwarding industry must demonstrate its digital expertise, says Rhenus UK

According to a recent study* conducted by Deloitte, just one in five manufacturing organisations rate themselves as ‘highly prepared’ for the fourth industrial revolution. In this article, David Williams, managing director of Rhenus Logistics UK, explores how the freight industry is embracing the core concepts of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) – and what it can teach neighbouring sectors.

Big data and why it’s relevant

The 4IR was first adopted in factories, which tied together computer programming with analytics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), created for streamlined production lines. However, the logistics industry has now gone beyond manufacturers in the adoption of automation. With just 20% of manufacturers rating themselves as highly prepared for the next stage of automation, many are failing to embrace broader digital initiatives, such as big data.

The value of actionable data has been apparent to many leading logistics businesses for some time, with a number of big industry players already having robust 4IR strategies in place. However, these same businesses aren’t always sharing this capability and knowledge with their customers or the wider industry.

4IR is an increasingly key concept for the manufacturing sector, so logistics providers should work with customers within this industry to ensure they are well equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.

At the forefront of big data

At its core, 4IR interprets large amounts of data and converts it into simple commands. Evidence of this can be seen throughout the sector. For example, Rhenus Logistics uses fuel management systems to track product flows. With a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, looking into this data archive can help us and other forwarders plan ahead for seasonal spikes. At Rhenus we use data from the last three years to help understand annual trends and mitigate against potential issues.

It is this data interpretation and the monitoring of product flows across the globe that enables the logistics industry to proudly sit at the forefront of the data curve.

However, logistics businesses don’t always utilise their strong position. While many may be ‘clued-up’ on all things data, partners and customers, especially those in manufacturing, may not be, so the responsibility lies with the sector to share this knowledge. Through experience and previous success, our industry finds itself uniquely positioned to influence other sectors on Industry 4.0, encouraging the adoption of automation (from basic to exceptionally complex).

Industry examples

The use of actionable data isn’t new to Rhenus Logistics. Our Freight Industry Solutions team in Germany has been recognised for its pioneering work in this area.

Full automation is achieved through our web-based communications platform, RSCC. This comprehensively manages and monitors the transportation of all information and data. It also oversees our various processes alongside communications with our suppliers and logistics partners. In essence, all procedures ranging from order management to accounts, are handled fully automatically via RSCC.

Indeed, before disruptions are able to take effect, the RSCC control tower identifies the issue and takes action, minimising the risk of service interruption. The faults are then documented using a ticket system, assessed and remedied at the source using a standardised partner and supplier management system. As a result, our supply chain is totally transparent and maintained in such a way that logistics costs can be easily analysed and reduced.

We have a responsibility as the front runners to share and teach other industries how best to utilise and implement Industry 4.0. The only question remaining is, are you ready to help?


By David Williams

David Williams has been part of the Rhenus Logistics UK team for more than 19 years, after taking on the role of UK managing director in January 2000. David’s responsibilities include ensuring Rhenus’ diverse freight logistics portfolio across Northern Europe continues to grow. He oversees business units across the various solutions the company specialises in, such as groupage services,  automotive logistics and hazardous cargo.




About Rhenus Group

The Rhenus Group is a global logistics service provider with annual sales of EUR 5.1 billion. With more than 31,000 employees, Rhenus has more than 660 locations. The business units Contract Logistics, Freight Logistics and Port Logistics stand for the management of complex supply chains and innovative value-added services.


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