A driving force for digitalisation for the logistics sector: the Open Logistics Foundation

The Rhenus Group together with Dachser, DB Schenker and duisport set up the Open Logistics Foundation on 22 October 2021. Its goal is to enable logistics companies to gain access to digital open source software, tools and components in order to make progress in digitalising the world of logistics and supply chain management. Dr Stephan Peters, a Member of the Management Board of the Rhenus Group and the Deputy Chairperson of the Open Logistics Foundation, explains in an interview the benefits that will be achieved and what Rhenus hopes to gain from being involved in this project.

Foto: Sebastian Gabsch

Editorial department: What was the underlying reason for setting up the Open Logistics Foundation?

Dr Peters: We can only press ahead with digitalising the world of logistics if we work together. Open source software can therefore be used as a driving force for establishing standard processes along digital value-added chains and it’s also an important success factor for the entire logistics sector. We view the establishment of the Open Logistics Foundation as a first, important step in moving towards a platform economy that is based on European legal standards and values. We’re not only setting up the first building block, but also appealing to the world of logistics to become involved so that we can rethink our technology and processes together.

Editorial department: Who is the Foundation geared towards and who do you want to encourage to become involved?

Dr Peters: Our Foundation appeals to all companies associated with the world of logistics – and this involves both their IT developers and management support for joint IT solutions in logistics. We’re open to welcoming new members from all the fields of logistics, ranging from industry and commerce to the services sector and even freight forwarders and organisations.

Editorial department:  What exactly are the tasks of the Foundation?

Dr Peters: Our central goal is to promote open source applications in the world of logistics. To achieve this, we’re operating a so-called Open Logistics Repository, a technical platform, where software, hardware, interfaces, examples of reference implementation and components are all available through a free licence. These tools and components can therefore be used for business purposes free of charge. Companies can utilise them to extend their own platforms or introduce new products more quickly. In the long term, however, we don’t just want to digitalise logistics processes, but standardise them too. It’s therefore our job to maintain the quality and neutrality of the open source software. We’re also selecting common projects so that their development can be entered in the repository. In addition, we’re offering training courses to companies for developing the platform.

Editorial department:  When will the Open Logistics Repository be available?

Dr Peters: The first content will be available for the operational start of the Open Logistics Foundation on 1 November 2021. We’ll continue to develop the platform next year. We’ve already designated specific open source projects for the launch: the first open source e-consignment note (eCMR) and implementations for the e-pallet note and the VDA 5050 FTS communications interface. We’re hoping for many other developments from the community. 

Editorial department: What was the most important reason for Rhenus to become involved in developing the Open Logistics Foundation?

Dr Peters: At Rhenus, we have the resources and therefore also the responsibility for becoming involved in developing our sector as a pioneer and actively helping shape the future of logistics. We all know that we’re very heavily committed to IT and digitalisation projects – both at Rhenus and in the entire logistics sector. In line with the principle of “never walk alone”, we want to jointly do the same for IT standards, which are not designed to be competitive factors, but still create common benefits in this field.  

One example of this is having a standard driver app. This is an important issue in the light of the current shortage of drivers in Europe. Truck drivers, who work for different freight forwarding companies, usually have to use several apps on their smartphone at the same time. We want to save time and costs for the drivers – and ultimately for customers too. This will also reduce the risk of having undesirable or duplicate developments.