Collaborate and stay competitive

The roundtable with the industryThis was one of the key findings from the “Innovation in Logistics: Can collaborative discussion platforms support innovation uptake in a competitive logistics industry?” workshop and roundtable, in which the Loginn project Consortium discussed with innovators and innovation adopters from the industry and the research – such as Ludger Brüll (Bayer Technology Services), Andres Kirchheiner and Thomas Zeller (AIS), Richard van Klaveren (DEAL Services), Fernando Liesa (Zaragoza Logistics Center) and many others. The objective was to identify how the industry perceive the role of collaboration in bringing innovation to a company and in general in the logistics sector, particularly in relation with collaboration tools such as social media and discussion platforms (yes, the LogisticsArena also!).

Even though there is a common understanding that innovation is vital for the competitiveness of the European transport and logistics industry, the investment in innovation within the logistics and freight industry is quite low – despite public investment in R&D to liven up the sector. It is not just a matter of how difficult it is to promote and transfer existing prototypical solutions into marketable ones, often these involve a certain degree of collaboration and openness to business partners – but where to find the right partners and customers for a trusted B2B relation?

Nowadays everybody uses social network (if you don’t like Facebook, then probably you are on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Yammer, or some other tool to stay in touch with other people for both personal and business reason) and numerous other social media platforms (blogs, forums, corporate social networks, ecommerce platforms… you name it) are in operation. They are all channels to reach and interact with other people anywhere in the world. Can we use them to innovate, to find new ideas to solve a problem? Yes of course, we all do this in our personal life – we all ask the Web and our friends there for help. But is this the same for a company?

Are social media the right means for logistics companies to attract new customers (B2C) and collaborate with partners (B2B)? Is actually the channel the main issue – whether for marketing or B2B purposes – or is it still a question about trust in a highly competitive branch?

The event participants from the industry clearly stated that social media do play an important role in the B2C market – you can reach many customers, you can check what people say about your company, you can and have to defend your reputation there. Even more, collaboration platforms can be strategic for building innovation inside a company – creating a more efficient workplace, changing the paradigm of working together – and even outside the company, in the B2B segment. The latter case only works when the trust issue is faced and clear collaboration terms are defined, commonly agreed on and respected. The lack of willingness, the fear to share data and lose competitive advantage must be controlled – there is no need to give your partner the keys of your secret archive, however a balance between collaboration and competition should be found. A cultural change is called for and then the rules of the game should be defined, with a clear understanding of the processes and business models matching the different needs of small transport companies, large LSPs and the other logistics players, in order to optimize the benefits gained from the new tools and minimize any possible risk and loss.

Will this challenge be overcome in the future? We believe so, in the meantime all the companies that already found this golden balance will probably have gained a competitive advantage over the others.

At the conclusion of the event, LOGINN also launched the Associated Partners Group (APG), gathering providers of ICT solutions, shippers and logistics service providers willing to support the dialogue among the different stakeholders groups in the LogisticsArena.

The LOGINN team is welcoming all our new APG members and looking forward to new discussions on http://logisticsarena.eu.

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