A Brand


Detlef Borghardt is the CEO

Prof. Dr. Frank Straube heads
the Logistics Department at the
Technical University of Berlin.

Automation and digitization are not only changing commercial vehicles and trailers but also entire logistics chains. What are the trends and what can we do today to make tomorrow’s world of transportation more efficient and sustainable? Prof. Dr. Frank Straube, Head of ­Logistics at TU Berlin, and Detlef Borghardt, CEO of SAF-HOLLAND, discuss at Kühne ­Logistics University in Hamburg.

SAF-HOLLAND - ready for the age of digitization
CEO Detlef Borghardt talks about the key aspects of the SMART STEEL innovation campaign.
We are standing here overlooking the Port of Hamburg. If we were to meet here again in ten years, what will have changed?

Freight traffic will continue to increase but mainly in the regions where population and wealth ­continue to rise. Growth in transportation will primarily take place on the road and will not be inhibited by deliveries using drones or spare parts from 3D printers. Drones today can’t deliver washing machines and they still won’t be able to in ten years. As a supplier, we are contributing to lower CO2 emissions by designing ever-lighter products, which is a central theme of our research and development.

There will be much more integration of the various modes of transportation, and not only at the Port of Hamburg. Modes of transportation will be interconnected with one another and the cargo being transported. Not only will there be an exchange of data, but we will also have networked business models. I see the potential for a 20-percent reduction in costs and 30 percent higher ­reliability in logistics chains worldwide. We should also see a dramatic fall in CO2 emissions in the transportation sector.

“We need to make our components smart enough to fit ­seamlessly into our customers’ digital solutions.” Detlef Borghardt, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
What opportunities do digitized logistics chains offer?

I can certainly confirm this in terms of our own production. There is no such thing as a global universal axle for all customers, and I don’t see the market accepting a standardized product range in the future. We want to satisfy our customers’ individual needs, as long as they are willing to compensate us for the extra effort. The point is to intelligently manage the growing number of variants and provide delivery at all times. The production of only a single unit is nothing unusual at our plants – and we do this profitably.

In the case of international transportation, a container’s content goes through the hands of 14 independent players on average before reaching the end customer. Until now, players have been independently optimizing their utilization. However, to truly achieve optimum utilization along the entire value chain, all of these players need to be linked together – a feat in a logistics world that is changing dramatically. In the future, it will no longer be a question of bringing large quantities of uniform goods to the consumer but of satisfying individual and flexible demand without ­increasing manufacturing or trade inventories.

I admire that. This type of flexibility in the physical world is essential for success in the digital world of tomorrow.

What role does autonomous driving play? And how soon can we expect it?

Automation will come in three stages. The first stage can already be seen at international seaports, where ships with 15,000 containers are unloaded within just a few hours. This is only possible because most of today’s processes are already automated. Because automation eliminates several opportunities for disruption, ports will be able to adapt very quickly. The next stage in automation will take place in the logistics yards. This will be especially beneficial when one considers how much damage occurs to vehicles and loading ramps simply because the driver was not paying attention. Over the next five to ten years, these hubs will be largely automated, and this will require solutions to automatically couple the tractor and trailer. I believe the stage where ­driverless trucks are actually on the road will come sometime in the years 2025 to 2030.

I agree, whereby in the third stage, I see a further distinction being made between long-distance and inner-city traffic. The technical means for highly automated driving already exists. The question is how quickly these technologies will be implemented. That, of course, depends on the behavior of the fleet operators. The market is fragmented with an estimated 60,000 logistics companies in Germany alone. The largest ten companies command a combined market share of less than 20 percent. Therefore, new players, such as logistics platforms without their own fleets, could end up being the drivers of this trend.

“Supply chain management is an absolute priority.” Prof. Dr.-Ing. Frank Straube, Partner of Kühne Logistics University.

China could become a leading market for new technologies for commercial vehicles. In the past, it was all about costs, costs and even more costs. That has changed. During my last few visits, I found myself talking mainly about bits and bytes. Transportation volumes in China have exploded over the last ten years. Now the topic of security is becoming increasingly important – also to local authorities – and is having a direct effect on our ­current portfolio in the form of higher demand for our disc brake and air suspension systems. Over the long term, automated driving and its safety advantages will also play an interesting role in this market.

What will the world of transportation look like in 2025? What will the opportunities be? What role will SAF-HOLLAND play?
CEO Detlef Borghardt with the vision of a future where a lot of things will be different.
What role does the trailer play in this new world of transportation?

It starts with the fact that the truck’s driver must first locate his trailer. Once the trailer has been found, today’s completely manual process of coupling begins. This alone can take between four and ten minutes’ time. With the fifth wheel, we already have the key component for automating this process.

Trailer manufacturers are going to follow the trends set by the market. This means they will need to ­provide the necessary automation and digitization technology with the expectation that they will contribute to higher efficiency. For example, in a typical freight yard, it takes 28 minutes from the time the driver clocks in until departure.

What role will SAF-HOLLAND play
in this new world?

Today, we provide data such as brake wear and the temperature in a wheel bearing. We deliberately link the sensors to our mechanical components and call it SMART STEEL. The next step will be to use this data for predictive maintenance and do this for systems that are not dependent on a specific trailer manufacturer.

Our first task, therefore, is to make our components so intelligent that they can seamlessly integrate into our customers’ automated and digital solutions. The trailer market, however, is very fragmented with thousands of suppliers worldwide. The solutions we are developing as part of our SMART STEEL strategy can also be used to support medium-sized and smaller companies on the path to smart trailers.

From now on, we all need to think not only in terms of products but also in terms of services and digital business models. This means asking why should a trailer simply be embedded in an innovative city logistics system without also ­serving as an intelligent, interconnected interim storage facility? This could also change the role of suppliers.

Where will you get the necessary software expertise?

Our expertise lies in developing high-security components for the commercial vehicles and trailers of the future. We can provide the necessary software through partnerships with traditional IT companies or specialized electronics suppliers. We are also in the process of significantly expanding our internal digital team.

Our themes over the next few years will be autonomous driving and the electrification and digitization of the process world. In our opinion, it is now more important than ever to listen carefully to what the market is asking for and maintain a dialogue with everyone involved. Thank you, ­Professor Straube, for the interview.

As long as goods are transported and not beamed, you will always need hardware. It’s about networking expertise and not about ­everyone doing everything. We will see all-new alliances being forged between vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and software companies.

More Topics