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A sign of the change - skills shortage in logistics

21/04/2020 2020/04

Lack of skilled workers in logistics - there is a lack of qualified applicants

The figures are alarming: According to a study from 2017, 90 percent of those surveyed estimate the shortage of skilled workers in the transport and logistics industry as noticeable to highly noticeable. There is a lack of young talents at all levels of qualification. Companies are not only receiving fewer and fewer applications for jobs as drivers or warehouse logistics specialists. Dispatchers and transport service managers are also in demand.

But by far not all areas of the industry are equally affected. While larger companies have fewer worries about junior staff, small and medium-sized companies increasingly even have problems compensating the natural fluctuation. It is true that the logistics sector has grown considerably in the past in line with the volume of transport. Nevertheless, the industry has failed to position itself as an attractive employer for junior staff and experienced professionals from other industries. Of the three sub-sectors of logistics, i.e. service providers, trade and industry, it is primarily the first that has to contend with this problem. 77 percent of all respondents state that the number of suitable applicants has fallen sharply in recent years.

The qualification profiles are changing

A detailed examination of company requirements in the logistics sector provides information about the qualification profiles in demand. According to a study, most skilled workers are lacking in the areas:

  • Drivers and delivery staff 50,5 %
  • IT specialists 47,1 %
  • Dispatchers 47,1 %
  • Warehouse employees 39.1 %
  • Sales staff 37,9 %
  • Business economists 20,7 %
  • MA Quality and Process Management 19.5 %

The figures underline the fact that when it comes to the shortage of skilled workers in the logistics sector, a distinction must be made between different qualification profiles. In addition to the expected high demand for low-skilled workers such as drivers, delivery staff, dispatchers and warehouse employees, highly qualified IT specialists and sales staff are also in demand. In order to overcome the shortage, targeted solutions for the various occupational groups are therefore required.

Many companies in the logistics sector are therefore hit twice by the low number of applicants: on the one hand, there is a lack of the skilled workers still needed for operational activities in warehousing and transport, and on the other hand, the companies are not able to retain enough specialists for the transformation process. After all, the implementation of logistics requires 4.0 employees with the appropriate skills. Just one example: robots and automatic systems must be planned, programmed and maintained.

The question of how Industry 4.0 also changes the working world of so-called brain workers, who mainly process data or pursue creative activities, is the subject of our article on the transformation of the engineering profession. In logistics, this means that even administrative tasks can often be performed more reliably and accurately by machines than by people.

The logistics of the future

The logistics industry is affected by far-reaching digital change processes. The entire logistics value chain, from production to warehouse management and transport, is being fundamentally changed by the possibilities offered by digitalisation.

The term Logistics 4.0 is particularly important in this context. It is based on a central concept: digital technologies can be used to link machines, objects and even people in real time. Information that was previously only stored locally is now available to all participants without delay. Thought through to its logical conclusion, this idea provides more decentralized decision-making structures and even more automation in logistics. For example, packages now find their own way through logistics centers or automated warehouses independently optimize the occupancy of shelf compartments. This transformation affects all sub-disciplines of logistics, warehousing and transport as well as production or distribution and is increasingly determining the success of a company, because the efficient control of value networks is becoming a strategic success factor in many industries. Not only for private but also for commercial customers, flexible delivery with short delivery times increasingly determines the quality of products and services.

You can read more about our understanding of logistics 4.0 in our article Transparent and networked logistics processes - real vision or fiction?

Solutions to tackle the shortage of skilled workers

Companies in the logistics industry and potential applicants can see the transformation process to Logistics 4.0 as an opportunity. After all, it offers employees and companies new opportunities to change their position in the market. Logistics companies that actively shape technological change can set themselves apart from their old competitors and secure strategic advantages for success. To do this, they must organize existing data, draw the right conclusions from it in terms of process improvements and create the conditions for closer interaction with their value-added partners. To do this, companies need not only financial resources, but above all the right specialists.

There are a number of promising approaches to addressing the shortage of skilled workers, which are related to Logistics 4.0. It is important to take into account the different qualification profiles. The most important approaches at a glance:

1. Strategic commitment to logistics 4.0

First and foremost is the company's consistent orientation towards Logistics 4.0, and the company's management is required to make funds available for the digital transformation and make a clear commitment to corporate change. Smaller companies in the service sector in particular are finding it difficult to create the necessary digital infrastructure. One of the reasons for the lack of ability to innovate is the traditionally low margins in the industry, which make future investments difficult. Experience shows, however, that investment in digital processes pays off quickly.

2. Recruiting highly qualified specialists for process digitisation

Without IT specialists, the implementation of digital change is not possible. Therefore, recruiting qualified IT specialists should be given top priority. Companies should see themselves as active designers of work and life plans and attract specialists with attractive leadership and management models. The most important approaches include:

  • Creating an attractive work-life balance
  • Extensive right to have a personal voice and high esteem for employees
  • Modern and good working atmosphere

Tip: If you are looking for qualified specialists, it is also worth taking a look abroad. International IT specialists often have excellent qualifications and complement the existing teams in logistics in a meaningful way with new perspectives and multicultural influences. ARTS is particularly committed to the recruitment of international specialists and will be happy to support you in your search for experts as well as with all bureaucratic hurdles.

3. Create digital infrastructure

In order to exploit the efficiency potential of the technology, the information-driven logistics sector has always needed one thing above all: consistent, high-quality data that can be used to optimise processes. In order to be able to record, analyze and evaluate this data precisely, a modern digital infrastructure is required in addition to highly qualified teams of specialists.

4. Recruiting low-skilled workers

According to the German Federal Association of Freight Forwarders and Logistics Operators (DSLV), there is now a shortage of around 45,000 to 60,000 truck drivers in Germany - and the number is rising. Other low-skilled employees such as delivery staff, dispatchers and warehouse staff are also desperately sought.

A closer look at the shortage of skilled workers shows that companies can prevent the problem above all by increasing their attractiveness. In the case of the truck driver's job description, for example, it has been shown that companies can successfully find employees by taking the following measures:

  • Modern vehicle fleets
  • Regular training for further development
  • Advancement opportunities for employees
  • Driving assistance trainer
  • Targeted driving training
  • Financial incentives in the form of fuel vouchers

How ARTS can support you

Our logistics and supply chain management experts are already working with leading technology companies to realize the vision of Logistics 4.0. With our tailor-made logistics solutions, we support you in optimizing the entire process chain with reference to the central indicators of transparency, flexibility and efficiency. We can also take over operational activities in warehousing, production, distribution and indirect areas at your request. Our long-standing cooperation with leading companies in the aerospace, mechanical engineering and vehicle construction industries speaks for the high quality standards of our work.


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