Born digital - A new workforce in cement logistics

Press Review

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This article was published in the September issue of Global Cement in 2017.

The road to digital transformation in cement logistics is littered with potholes, speed bumps, and other obstacles that can slow down progress. A common driving mistake many companies make is to focus on technology only. But key to success is putting the right people into the right seats.

by Dirk Schlemper and Thomas Bergmans, INFORM GmbH, Germany

“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” This quote, often falsely attributed to Albert Einstein, was made at a time where computers slowly started to find their way into the logistics industry. By modern standards, computer hardware and algorithms of the early 90s were far from being powerful. Back then, if a PC was fed with one of the best algorithms available to try and solve a logistics planning model, one would still be waiting for the result. If the same model was given to a standard 2017 PC using the latest Linear Programming algorithms (one of the most important classes of optimization techniques) it would take less than a second.

The digital economy is now running at full speed and the shift to data-driven transport planning in logistics has turned old and familiar practices on their head. With the rise of new technologies, the digital logistics workforce uses tools and processes based on real-time information and automated decision-making.

Formula for Failure

Senior managers in the cement industry have identified the value of digital technology for their logistics. But when it comes to actually putting them into motion, most companies pay lip service to digital transformation. Many believe it is about using shiny new technology to do more of the same things they have done before. Worse, it may mean doing the wrong things even faster. The simple formula in figure 2 sums this up.

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