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Towards a science of logistics: cornerstones of a framework of understanding of logistics as an academic discipline

Towards a science of logistics: cornerstones of a framework of understanding of logistics as an... Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 DOI 10.1007/s12159-010-0034-5 EDITORIAL Towards a science of logistics: cornerstones of a framework of understanding of logistics as an academic discipline • • • • Werner Delfmann Wilhelm Dangelmaier Willibald Gu ¨ nthner Peter Klaus • • • • Ludger Overmeyer Werner Rothengatter Ju ¨ rgen Weber Joachim Zentes Working group of the Scientific Advisory Board of German Logistics Association (BVL) Published online: 17 August 2010 Springer-Verlag 2010 1 Preliminary remarks BVL’s Scientific Advisory Board is supporting BVL’s mission by promoting the dialogue between logistics The mission of BVL, the nonprofit German Logistics practice and the academic community. Its members come Association, is to act as an integrative platform to promote from many different academic backgrounds. While there the awareness for the importance of logistics in industry, is no longer any disagreement about the enormous science, and the public arena. It aims to represent the entire practical relevance of logistics and its steadily growing spectrum of logistical issues, to develop methods and impact upon day-to-day economic activities, the mem- processes to contribute to the solution of these issues, and bers of BVL’s Scientific Advisory Board are aware that to promote and continuously optimise the application of there still is no widely shared understanding of the relevant solutions. identity of logistics as a scientific and academic discipline. Against this backdrop, and following a strategic dis- cussion which the Scientific Advisory Board initiated some time ago, the idea of developing a framework of under- The authors are members of a working group of the Scientific Advisory Board of German Logistics Association (BVL). standing for logistics as an academic discipline emerged. For this purpose, a working group was set up comprising W. Delfmann (&) the authors of this paper. It reflects the broad spectrum of University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany disciplinary backgrounds and perspectives on the essence e-mail: delfmann@wiso.uni-koeln.de of science represented on the Advisory Board. Five key W. Dangelmaier points, as outlined below, were agreed upon as the cor- University of Paderborn, Paderborn, Germany nerstones of an understanding of logistics as an academic discipline. They were arrived at as the result of an extre- W. Gu ¨ nthner Technical University Munich, Munich, Germany mely exciting sequence of discussions which took place in the group’s workshop sessions. The cornerstones are P. Klaus designed to serve as a point of reference for continuing in- University of Erlangen-Nu ¨ rnberg, Nuremberg, Germany depth, discussions about the ‘‘science of logistics’’ within L. Overmeyer BVL, and—hopefully—with academics and logistics University of Hannover, Hannover, Germany practitioners all over the world. A further aim is to con- tribute to a better understanding of the depth and relevance W. Rothengatter of the science of logistics among those ‘‘outside’’ the Technical University Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany discipline. J. Weber The paper starts out with a statement summarising the Otto Beisheim School of Management, Vallendar, Germany nature of logistics as a science. This statement is followed by five cornerstone points elaborating the essential char- J. Zentes acteristics of the discipline. University of Saarland, Saarbruecken, Germany 123 58 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 2 The science of logistics: basic understanding material flow systems are made up of widely differing components, and the interplay of these components needs to Logistics is an application-oriented scientific discipline. It meet the specific requirements in question. In order to ensure models and analyses economic systems as networks and that material flows are controlled in a logistics-compatible flows of objects through time and space (specifically goods, way, there are numerous widely varying technical organi- information, moneys, and people) which create value for sation and design principles for the implementation of con- people. It aims to supply recommendations for action on veying and storage concepts for goods with different the design and implementation of such networks through properties. accepted scientific methods. The scientific questions of the The organisational perspective focuses first on the discipline relate primarily to the configuration, and orga- administrative level of the transactions that activate these nisation of these networks and to the mobilisation and flows. The emphasis is on processes like ordering or control of flows. Its ultimate goal is progress in the bal- replenishment, order processing, internal cost allocation anced achievement of economic, ecological and social and service remuneration. A second level of this perspec- objectives. tive relates to the structure of the networks—the number, type and activities or service programmes of the involved institutions or actors. A further level relates to the dimen- 3 Five cornerstones to an understanding of logistics sionalities of the flows (e.g. volumes, times, speeds of the as a science and its identity as an academic discipline flows of goods) as well as the dimensionalities of the hubs in the networks (logistics infrastructure). 1 The object of enquiry: flows in networks Despite the technical nature of many of these processes, The approach of scientific logistics is different from people—and hence a social perspective—play a decisive other disciplines due to its interpretation of economic role in logistics. The necessity to specifically model people systems as networks and of economic processes as as actors always arises when the people in question possess flows of objects such as goods, information, people, levels of freedom which they can utilize in their actions. In and money. Logistics identifies, describes, analyses and view of their special importance for logistics problem improves these networks and flows of objects through solutions, we make reference (by way of example) to three the application of multiple disciplinary perspectives assumptions about human beings as elements in the mod- and research methods. The ultimate aim of logistical elled human-and-machine systems who can be differenti- scientific inquiry is the balanced achievement of ated as ideal types based on the people involved. economic, ecological, and social goals. • ‘‘Technical’’ consideration of the human being. People The goal of economic activity is to secure and improve the are production factors and/or market actors. Their material existence of people and society in a lasting way in behaviour can be anticipated in the same way as that of a context characterised by finite and scarce resources technical elements in the flow system under consider- (‘‘economic goals’’)—while also taking account of envi- ation. In the field of business management, the corre- ronmental conditions (‘‘ecological goals’’) and the basic sponding issues are found in the field of production principles of social coexistence (‘‘social goals’’). The sci- theory and operations research. There are very special ence of logistics contributes to the achievement of those challenges in the modelling process due to the high goals by interpreting economic activities and processes as complexity and the dynamic nature of the problems in flows of goods, information, people and moneys. This is the area of logistics. the fundamental characteristic of the approach to scientific • Consideration of human beings as actors with limited inquiry and constitutive element of the field’s scientific rationality. This kind of modelling is appropriate if identity. Moreover, a multiperspectival model is adopted, actors possess a discretionary freedom of action in flow which means that logistics processes are illuminated from systems which influences the solution to the problem in question. Transaction cost theory, for example, supplies different perspectives with different methodological approaches, in particular from a technical, an organisa- suitable insights, above all when it comes to coordina- tional, and a social point of view. tion issues. A further example is relationship between The technical perspective refers to the interplay of suppliers and customers, an area in which the principal infrastructures (e.g. roads, railways, and warehouses), agent theory provides suitable information on the machines (e.g. trucks, forklifts, and industrial vehicles), organisation of such relationships. receptacles (e.g. containers and pallets) and people (e.g. • Further enrichment of the basic model of the homo picker, forklift operator, and truck driver) in flow systems. oeconomicus. A third type of model refers back to Technical issues arise on all levels of logistics. Complex approaches in the field of behavioural science which 123 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 59 result in changes to further basic characteristics of the the real processes and for the abstract description of these model of the homo oeconomicus. These are replaced by processes. assumptions that are seen as being more realistic (such 2 Logistical inquiries on consecutive levels of as the replacement of the maximisation rule by a aggregation: self-similarity of the network model satisfaction assumption or the modelling of different Scientific logistical inquiry may refer to different forms of cognitive limitations). With regard to the sections and different levels of aggregation of coordination aspect of logistics, this opens up a broad economic systems. The approach of scientific logistics spectrum of application for a perspective of human is open to a wide range of issues. The network model is actors that has been extended in this way. For example, generic because of its property of self-similarity. Any the area of interface research shaped by insights into logistical issue can be interpreted as a networks of flows, behavioural science can supply various pointers as to which may be part of a higher-level network. how cooperation and collaboration between different departments involved in the flow of materials and Economic activity takes place on the level of individ- goods should be organised in order to meet logistical ual actors or extremely small business entities (‘‘micro goals. The construct of mental models is a further level’’), in constellations of interacting business entities in example. This provides a means of operationalising the supply and value chain relationships (‘‘supply chains’’, integration of flow orientation as a fundamental way of ‘‘meso level’’) and also through the (where applicable, thinking in modern companies. worldwide) interaction of entire sectors, regions and national economies (‘‘macro level’’). Logistics addresses Each organisational optimisation step needs to take the facts and issues of economic activity on all these account of the resulting social and ecological effects. They levels and helps to systematically configure, organise, may have impact not only upon the people actively involved control and regulate these activities in such a way that in the processes, the organisation and execution of logistics economic, ecological and social goals can be achieved processes but also upon people who are not immediately more effectively. involved in these processes. Reactance attitudes of the Investigations regarding individual actors and actions in employees concerned or resistance from ecological stake- the field of production, trade and consumption are in focus holders can counteract the successful implementation of new at the level of micrologistics. It is on this level of consid- systems. This is why it is increasingly also the case in the eration that intralogistics is primarily located. Intralogistics logistics field that the social perspective is being combined is about the organisation, control or regulation, handling with an ecological perspective to form an eco-social per- and optimisation of the in-house material flow, the flows of spective. With regard to the flows in networks, this concerns information and the transshipment of goods in industry, resource economy or efficiency on the one hand and con- commerce and public institutions. Production, procure- sideration of ethical aspects, in terms of such things as ment, distribution, and the exchange of intermediate input working conditions, remuneration systems, etc. on the other. take place at different times and places, however, with the Ecological objectives or ecological marginal conditions can result that logistics service providers (e.g. freight for- induce innovative technical solutions and may additionally warders as well as transport, warehousing and transship- make good economic sense due to a higher level of resource ment companies) come onto the scene as additional actors efficiency. By taking these kinds of interactions into account, between dispatchers and recipients in the value added the network perspective of logistics is geared towards the chain. The role of micrologistics is the cost-effective balanced consideration of the various goal dimensions of organisation of the activities and interactions in these kinds sustainable economic activity. of elementary relationship networks. As the use of the logistical perspective means that the This concerns, for example: entire flow of economic processes is the subject of investi- gation, these processes should be ideally considered across • in the case of the producer: part production, final organisational, legal or political borders (departmental, assembly, batch sizes, procurement, distribution and company, national boundaries etc.). This supplies a more warehousing complete picture of the kind that is to be aimed for when • in the case of the trader: orders, deliveries, searching for an optimum solution. Cross-interface consid- replenishments eration of economic systems as flows of goods and infor- • in the case of the freight forwarder: grouping, consol- mation also makes it far easier to see the connections idation, sequencing, buffering, storage, value added between the individual flows that result in logistics net- services works. The consideration of networks as an extension of the • in the case of the transport company: itineraries, routes, flow concept also paves the way for a further abstraction of choice of vehicle, deployment of drivers, etc. 123 60 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 In principle, the individual logistical problems can be The macro level refers to the aggregate perspective on addressed using instruments from existing scientific disci- the level of a country, a community of states (e.g. the EU) plines like mathematics, business management, transport or the whole world. Macrologistical issues concern, for science or engineering science. However, the solution of example (based in this case on the transport sector): overall problems calls for the additional consideration of the • transport infrastructures, ports, airports, corridors, links between the sub-areas and the interactions between the (global) transshipment hubs actors involved in the processes. As a sub-area of logistics, • regional, national and international transport flows supply chain management focuses on this interaction issue. • transport modes, transport routes, transport organisation The application context of logistics supplies complex and • cross-border trade flows, import and export dynamic problem structures that require independent scien- • aggregated transport flows like internal, source, target, tific solutions. The contributions made by logistics to pro- transit transport cesses like production and distribution, location and • aggregated transport indicators like volume, transport transport planning or parts production and procurement capacity, mileage capacity clearly show that its role is by no means passive or derived from upstream or downstream economic activities. On the In the analysis and prediction of the overall flow of contrary: logistics makes truly original contributions—to the goods, the macro level plays a role insofar as the overall planning processes that induce transport, for example, pro- demand for transport services in a particular country is highly dependent on international trade and national pro- cesses that will become increasingly important in future in direct proportion to the degree to which requirements related duction. The slump in freight transport and logistics as a to energy economy and climate protection are reflected in the result of the global economic crisis is directly due to the cost calculations of the relevant actors. decline in foreign trade movements. A further topic area is On the level of mesologistics, constellations and the macroeconomic significance of logistics. aggregations of several actors are observed that supply The subdivision into different levels of consideration typical structural patterns with connections to logistics. serves the purpose of analytical clarity and demarcation of These groupings include, for example, (horizontal or ver- special areas of research. In reality, the various levels are tical) cooperation ventures, alliances and associations. The fully interlinked with one another. Each logistical element classifications are sectors or transport segments, and the can itself be viewed both as a network and as part as of a arrangements are markets or sub-markets that regulate superordinate network. In holistic system analyses, the focus is on these very relationship components and on logistic needs. The mesologistics level is reflected, for example, in the transport function: the feedback between decisions on the micro level and the system reactions on meso and macro level. • in cooperation processes, alliances and associations (efficient network design) 3 Interdisciplinarity of logistics • in classifications based on sectors or classes of goods Logistical inquiry is unique in its aspiration to overcome (transport affinities or transport elasticities) the boundaries of established application-oriented • in classifications based on transport segments (inter- scientific disciplines such as business administration, modal transports), economics, engineering, informatics, the social sciences, • in (sub-) markets based on type of consignment (bulk etc., all of which also contribute to the achievement of goods, general cargo, containers, hazardous goods) economic, ecological, and social objectives. Logistics is rooted in these disciplines, but aims to advance On this level, it is possible to make use of scientific knowledge through the synergistic combination of the instruments from the fields of network analysis, game knowledge bases of these root disciplines. theory, industrial economics, market theory, and transport network modelling. Normative models for benefit maxi- As an application-oriented science, logistics uses misation or cost minimisation compete with positive or methods from other disciplines (e.g. mathematics, engi- explicative models that explain the behaviour of the actor neering, economic science, social sciences) but also groups on the basis of routines and uncertainty avoidance. develops them further. Although every scientific discipline On the transport routes, the combination of drivers, vehi- builds on other sciences and is therefore interdisciplinary, cles, and infrastructure characteristics results in complex this is particularly true of logistics due to its specific focus interaction patterns that impact the times and costs of the and its multiperspectival approach. The declared aim of transport process. The stochastic component of the inter- logistics, as has been shown, is to model economic systems action findings calls for independent research approaches— as networks, to analyse their links and connections and for which purpose the standard models of the quantitative thereby to obtain information for the optimum organisation disciplines need to be supplemented. and implementation of these networks. 123 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 61 At this point, it becomes particularly clear why the spe- The primary object of enquiry of logistics, i.e. ‘‘flows of cific interest of logistics necessitates a perspective that goods, information, people, assets and other objects’’ and extends beyond established scientific disciplines and that, in the relationships and connections that can be derived this respect, transcends these disciplines. As a scientific within the context of economic systems determines the discipline, logistics not only builds on the traditional sci- focus and boundaries of the field with respect to suitable ences, as do other application-oriented disciplines, but also research methods and theoretical content. connects application-oriented sciences like micro and mac- Specifically, logistics draws from mathematics, infor- roeconomics, engineering, (business) information science, mation science, operations research, the social sciences etc. economic geography or law in order to generate new, spe- Formal description, or special models from other disci- cifically logistical insights. To this extent, logistics as a plines like physics or biology are applied to logistics using scientific discipline is more than a sub-area of just one of analogy relationships. The discipline of business manage- these sciences; rather, it aims to connect the knowledge bases ment, whose originally in-house-motivated concepts are of different disciplines and thus to overcome established transferred to inter-organisational relationships. But discipline-specific boundaries. Seen from this point of view, beyond the adaptation of methods and content from other interdisciplinarity is of central importance for logistics and is disciplines logistics is to be seen in an active role: a theory of a significance exceeding that for any application-oriented that is satisfactory based on the scientific state of the art science. It is a central element of the logistics paradigm. and real-world empirical application must always look for It goes without saying that this interdisciplinarity does not better, more efficient etc. concepts and more logical rule out the possibility that individual logistical analyses or explanations. This means that we need to improve the way fields of research are focused on specific issues within the in which we describe logistics problems (terminology), the various established scientific fields and can therefore only be way in which we incorporate these problems in models and described as ‘‘interdisciplinary’’ to a limited degree. This is the way in which we solve these problems. quite simply due to reasons of scientific economy. The direct 5 Application orientation of logistics science and logical consequence of this is that there are specialised As an application-oriented science, logistics seeks to logistics-oriented fields in the established application-ori- primarily address problems and research questions that ented scientific disciplines—business management logistics, are faced in real-world economic activities such as the for example, or engineering logistics. optimization of time regimes, meeting the challenges of 4 Unity within a variety of terminological, conceptual, sustainable economic activity, and of the transfer of and methodological foundations of logistics through logistical know how from the world of material the network model industrial production to other fields of application. It Logistics as a science unites the terminological, aims to contribute proactively to an ever deeper conceptual and methodological variety of its various understanding of such problems and to provide root disciplines through its approach of observing and relevant solutions. analysing economic systems as networks of flows and objects. • Optimal time regimes in flow systems The particular nature of logistics as a scientific disci- pline—namely, its interpretation of economic processes as Logistics explicitly deals with time-based characteristics flows of goods, information, people, moneys and other and the search for optimum time regimes for the flows and objects and its multiperspectival approach to research on processes in question. This may mean a systematic quest for these networks—brings with it the challenge of not only acceleration, pacing and agitation or, in other cases, for making use of the methods of other disciplines (such as deceleration and process slowing. The choice depends on the mathematics, engineering, economics, the social sciences), framework conditions and on the stipulated economic, but of creating a terminological, methodical and conceptual ecological, and social objectives. The understanding of and terminological framework. It should integrate and practical logistics as a generally reactive instrument for the condense these different perspectives to form the inde- fulfilment of defined market requirements is still wide- pendent core of a system of inquiry that is clearly defined spread. In contrast to this narrow interpretation, it is of across the various perspectives, that is non-contradictory fundamental importance to understand and/or continue to and that additionally allows ‘‘permeability’’ between the develop logistics as a proactive organisational activity. On a perspectives from which logistics receives a significant situation-specific basis, logistical analyses have to indicate input. The terminological approach (of a theory) of logis- how economic systems are to be organised in the context of tics formally defines the object of logistical enquiry and changing framework conditions so that the defined eco- experience. nomic, ecological, and social objectives can be achieved. 123 62 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 Parallel to outlining the logistical requirements and conse- one hand, proactive logistics also means analysing the quences of market-based goals (on micro, meso and mac- transferability of proven logistics concepts to other rologistical level), it is therefore also the job of logistics to domains that may be of advantage for the logistical para- ensure transparency with regard to the objective of increased digm of object flow modelling in networks. This could, for sustainability. It is precisely for this task that an interdisci- example, apply to service processes or flows of finance, plinary and multiperspectival logistics approach is an possibly also information and communication systems. On essential precondition. The necessity and the individual and the other hand, the transfer of logistical know-how to overall economic benefits of this kind of application-ori- systems that are not primarily of an economic nature holds ented and proactive logistics is shown, for example, in the major potential for progress. This could apply to medical, following areas: social or humanitarian areas of application like disaster protection or precarious supply situations. In this context, • Logistical sustainability of value added systems the question of the interfaces between micro, meso, and Due to the structural complexity of logistics systems, it macrologistics is a particular focal point of interest. is increasingly the case that the efficient use of resources • Further development of the logistics of virtual systems and rapid adaptation to changing environmental conditions are reaching their limits. In addition, the share of transport With the modelling of (object) flows in networks, costs in the overall process of service provision is set to logistics has to date focused on structured economic sys- increase, at least in the medium term, and this poses new tems. These systems are characterised by a long-term challenges for logistics systems. In particular, the use of structure on which the logistical ‘‘advantage assumptions’’ energy-intensive modes of transport sharpens the focus on are based. The structured nature of economic systems the consolidation of goods and the accompanying creation decreases in proportion to the speed of continuous change; of inventories as well as the targeted extension of delivery in other words, the elements and relations of the system are times. Established assumptions on customer needs and subject to constant change. The goal for the future must be buyer behaviour need to be critically reviewed. If ever to actively develop logistics to master these kinds of sys- more complex logistics systems fail to generate additional tems, which are sometimes described as ‘‘virtual’’. benefits for the customer, then we need to rethink current • ‘‘Return transfer’’ of logistical insights into other areas business models. of science The holistic consideration of logistics systems also calls for the inclusion of external factors like capacity utilisation As outlined earlier, logistics specifically builds on of the transport infrastructure and the use of natural resour- insights and concepts from other scientific disciplines. To ces. Due to scarce resources and fully utilised transport this extent, it is an interdisciplinary science. The specific routes, transport operations are fast reaching their limits— paradigm of logistics is to combine these fundamental limits that can only be overcome in the long term by the use insights using a multiperspectival approach and to use the of renewable sources of energy and raw materials. In the outcomes of this process for the modelling of (object) flows short and medium term, a changeover to energy-efficient in networks. It is exactly this that results in the increase in modes of transport seems a logical step; what is above all specifically logistical insights—the insights that represent necessary, however, is the adaptation of logistics network the core of logistics as a scientific discipline. These advances in knowledge now also hold potential for pro- structures and business processes. Although infrastructure expansion can go some way towards solving the problem of gress through return transfer to the scientific disciplines fully utilised transport routes, the limits to such a process of from which logistics receives its input. For example, expansion would necessitate the development of new solu- logistics should also be able to supply information for the tion models in this area as well. In view of these far-reaching further development of its basic application-oriented dis- changes to the framework conditions, proactive logistics ciplines like business management or macroeconomics—as concepts will tend to be geared more to deceleration and to well as, under certain circumstances, also for fundamental focus on simple and decentral logistics structures and pro- disciplines in areas like the methods of operations research, cesses that can show that they are economically, ecologically technical basics in the engineering sciences or behavioural science approaches in the field of psychology or sociology. and, last but not least, socially advantageous and that they are therefore sustainable. The key points outlined earlier stake the claim of logistics as an independent scientific discipline. They also • Active transfer of logistical know-how to other fields indicate the points of contact and overlaps with as well as As a scientific discipline, logistics has to date primarily the differences to established scientific disciplines. For become established in economic systems for the domain of probably the first time, therefore, a reference paper exists physical objects (transfer of goods and persons). On the which serves as a platform for the future discussion of the 123 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 63 self-conception of logistics, a discussion in which the Praxis im Dialog, Werner Delfmann, Thomas Wimmer authors cordially invite readers to partake. (ed.), DVV Media Group | Deutscher Verkehrs-Verlag, Source: Delfmann et.al.: Eckpunktepapier zum Grun- Hamburg, 2010, p. 3–10. Translation by Anthony Tranter- dversta ¨ndnis der Logistik als wissenschaftliche Disziplin Krstev, edited for the purposes of publication in LOGIS- in: Strukturwandel in der Logistik—Wissenschaft und TICS RESEARCH by Peter Klaus. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Logistics Research Springer Journals

Towards a science of logistics: cornerstones of a framework of understanding of logistics as an academic discipline

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Springer Journals
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Copyright © 2010 by Springer-Verlag
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Engineering; Engineering Economics, Organization, Logistics, Marketing; Logistics; Industrial and Production Engineering; Simulation and Modeling; Operation Research/Decision Theory
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1865-035X
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1865-0368
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10.1007/s12159-010-0034-5
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Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 DOI 10.1007/s12159-010-0034-5 EDITORIAL Towards a science of logistics: cornerstones of a framework of understanding of logistics as an academic discipline • • • • Werner Delfmann Wilhelm Dangelmaier Willibald Gu ¨ nthner Peter Klaus • • • • Ludger Overmeyer Werner Rothengatter Ju ¨ rgen Weber Joachim Zentes Working group of the Scientific Advisory Board of German Logistics Association (BVL) Published online: 17 August 2010 Springer-Verlag 2010 1 Preliminary remarks BVL’s Scientific Advisory Board is supporting BVL’s mission by promoting the dialogue between logistics The mission of BVL, the nonprofit German Logistics practice and the academic community. Its members come Association, is to act as an integrative platform to promote from many different academic backgrounds. While there the awareness for the importance of logistics in industry, is no longer any disagreement about the enormous science, and the public arena. It aims to represent the entire practical relevance of logistics and its steadily growing spectrum of logistical issues, to develop methods and impact upon day-to-day economic activities, the mem- processes to contribute to the solution of these issues, and bers of BVL’s Scientific Advisory Board are aware that to promote and continuously optimise the application of there still is no widely shared understanding of the relevant solutions. identity of logistics as a scientific and academic discipline. Against this backdrop, and following a strategic dis- cussion which the Scientific Advisory Board initiated some time ago, the idea of developing a framework of under- The authors are members of a working group of the Scientific Advisory Board of German Logistics Association (BVL). standing for logistics as an academic discipline emerged. For this purpose, a working group was set up comprising W. Delfmann (&) the authors of this paper. It reflects the broad spectrum of University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany disciplinary backgrounds and perspectives on the essence e-mail: delfmann@wiso.uni-koeln.de of science represented on the Advisory Board. Five key W. Dangelmaier points, as outlined below, were agreed upon as the cor- University of Paderborn, Paderborn, Germany nerstones of an understanding of logistics as an academic discipline. They were arrived at as the result of an extre- W. Gu ¨ nthner Technical University Munich, Munich, Germany mely exciting sequence of discussions which took place in the group’s workshop sessions. The cornerstones are P. Klaus designed to serve as a point of reference for continuing in- University of Erlangen-Nu ¨ rnberg, Nuremberg, Germany depth, discussions about the ‘‘science of logistics’’ within L. Overmeyer BVL, and—hopefully—with academics and logistics University of Hannover, Hannover, Germany practitioners all over the world. A further aim is to con- tribute to a better understanding of the depth and relevance W. Rothengatter of the science of logistics among those ‘‘outside’’ the Technical University Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany discipline. J. Weber The paper starts out with a statement summarising the Otto Beisheim School of Management, Vallendar, Germany nature of logistics as a science. This statement is followed by five cornerstone points elaborating the essential char- J. Zentes acteristics of the discipline. University of Saarland, Saarbruecken, Germany 123 58 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 2 The science of logistics: basic understanding material flow systems are made up of widely differing components, and the interplay of these components needs to Logistics is an application-oriented scientific discipline. It meet the specific requirements in question. In order to ensure models and analyses economic systems as networks and that material flows are controlled in a logistics-compatible flows of objects through time and space (specifically goods, way, there are numerous widely varying technical organi- information, moneys, and people) which create value for sation and design principles for the implementation of con- people. It aims to supply recommendations for action on veying and storage concepts for goods with different the design and implementation of such networks through properties. accepted scientific methods. The scientific questions of the The organisational perspective focuses first on the discipline relate primarily to the configuration, and orga- administrative level of the transactions that activate these nisation of these networks and to the mobilisation and flows. The emphasis is on processes like ordering or control of flows. Its ultimate goal is progress in the bal- replenishment, order processing, internal cost allocation anced achievement of economic, ecological and social and service remuneration. A second level of this perspec- objectives. tive relates to the structure of the networks—the number, type and activities or service programmes of the involved institutions or actors. A further level relates to the dimen- 3 Five cornerstones to an understanding of logistics sionalities of the flows (e.g. volumes, times, speeds of the as a science and its identity as an academic discipline flows of goods) as well as the dimensionalities of the hubs in the networks (logistics infrastructure). 1 The object of enquiry: flows in networks Despite the technical nature of many of these processes, The approach of scientific logistics is different from people—and hence a social perspective—play a decisive other disciplines due to its interpretation of economic role in logistics. The necessity to specifically model people systems as networks and of economic processes as as actors always arises when the people in question possess flows of objects such as goods, information, people, levels of freedom which they can utilize in their actions. In and money. Logistics identifies, describes, analyses and view of their special importance for logistics problem improves these networks and flows of objects through solutions, we make reference (by way of example) to three the application of multiple disciplinary perspectives assumptions about human beings as elements in the mod- and research methods. The ultimate aim of logistical elled human-and-machine systems who can be differenti- scientific inquiry is the balanced achievement of ated as ideal types based on the people involved. economic, ecological, and social goals. • ‘‘Technical’’ consideration of the human being. People The goal of economic activity is to secure and improve the are production factors and/or market actors. Their material existence of people and society in a lasting way in behaviour can be anticipated in the same way as that of a context characterised by finite and scarce resources technical elements in the flow system under consider- (‘‘economic goals’’)—while also taking account of envi- ation. In the field of business management, the corre- ronmental conditions (‘‘ecological goals’’) and the basic sponding issues are found in the field of production principles of social coexistence (‘‘social goals’’). The sci- theory and operations research. There are very special ence of logistics contributes to the achievement of those challenges in the modelling process due to the high goals by interpreting economic activities and processes as complexity and the dynamic nature of the problems in flows of goods, information, people and moneys. This is the area of logistics. the fundamental characteristic of the approach to scientific • Consideration of human beings as actors with limited inquiry and constitutive element of the field’s scientific rationality. This kind of modelling is appropriate if identity. Moreover, a multiperspectival model is adopted, actors possess a discretionary freedom of action in flow which means that logistics processes are illuminated from systems which influences the solution to the problem in question. Transaction cost theory, for example, supplies different perspectives with different methodological approaches, in particular from a technical, an organisa- suitable insights, above all when it comes to coordina- tional, and a social point of view. tion issues. A further example is relationship between The technical perspective refers to the interplay of suppliers and customers, an area in which the principal infrastructures (e.g. roads, railways, and warehouses), agent theory provides suitable information on the machines (e.g. trucks, forklifts, and industrial vehicles), organisation of such relationships. receptacles (e.g. containers and pallets) and people (e.g. • Further enrichment of the basic model of the homo picker, forklift operator, and truck driver) in flow systems. oeconomicus. A third type of model refers back to Technical issues arise on all levels of logistics. Complex approaches in the field of behavioural science which 123 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 59 result in changes to further basic characteristics of the the real processes and for the abstract description of these model of the homo oeconomicus. These are replaced by processes. assumptions that are seen as being more realistic (such 2 Logistical inquiries on consecutive levels of as the replacement of the maximisation rule by a aggregation: self-similarity of the network model satisfaction assumption or the modelling of different Scientific logistical inquiry may refer to different forms of cognitive limitations). With regard to the sections and different levels of aggregation of coordination aspect of logistics, this opens up a broad economic systems. The approach of scientific logistics spectrum of application for a perspective of human is open to a wide range of issues. The network model is actors that has been extended in this way. For example, generic because of its property of self-similarity. Any the area of interface research shaped by insights into logistical issue can be interpreted as a networks of flows, behavioural science can supply various pointers as to which may be part of a higher-level network. how cooperation and collaboration between different departments involved in the flow of materials and Economic activity takes place on the level of individ- goods should be organised in order to meet logistical ual actors or extremely small business entities (‘‘micro goals. The construct of mental models is a further level’’), in constellations of interacting business entities in example. This provides a means of operationalising the supply and value chain relationships (‘‘supply chains’’, integration of flow orientation as a fundamental way of ‘‘meso level’’) and also through the (where applicable, thinking in modern companies. worldwide) interaction of entire sectors, regions and national economies (‘‘macro level’’). Logistics addresses Each organisational optimisation step needs to take the facts and issues of economic activity on all these account of the resulting social and ecological effects. They levels and helps to systematically configure, organise, may have impact not only upon the people actively involved control and regulate these activities in such a way that in the processes, the organisation and execution of logistics economic, ecological and social goals can be achieved processes but also upon people who are not immediately more effectively. involved in these processes. Reactance attitudes of the Investigations regarding individual actors and actions in employees concerned or resistance from ecological stake- the field of production, trade and consumption are in focus holders can counteract the successful implementation of new at the level of micrologistics. It is on this level of consid- systems. This is why it is increasingly also the case in the eration that intralogistics is primarily located. Intralogistics logistics field that the social perspective is being combined is about the organisation, control or regulation, handling with an ecological perspective to form an eco-social per- and optimisation of the in-house material flow, the flows of spective. With regard to the flows in networks, this concerns information and the transshipment of goods in industry, resource economy or efficiency on the one hand and con- commerce and public institutions. Production, procure- sideration of ethical aspects, in terms of such things as ment, distribution, and the exchange of intermediate input working conditions, remuneration systems, etc. on the other. take place at different times and places, however, with the Ecological objectives or ecological marginal conditions can result that logistics service providers (e.g. freight for- induce innovative technical solutions and may additionally warders as well as transport, warehousing and transship- make good economic sense due to a higher level of resource ment companies) come onto the scene as additional actors efficiency. By taking these kinds of interactions into account, between dispatchers and recipients in the value added the network perspective of logistics is geared towards the chain. The role of micrologistics is the cost-effective balanced consideration of the various goal dimensions of organisation of the activities and interactions in these kinds sustainable economic activity. of elementary relationship networks. As the use of the logistical perspective means that the This concerns, for example: entire flow of economic processes is the subject of investi- gation, these processes should be ideally considered across • in the case of the producer: part production, final organisational, legal or political borders (departmental, assembly, batch sizes, procurement, distribution and company, national boundaries etc.). This supplies a more warehousing complete picture of the kind that is to be aimed for when • in the case of the trader: orders, deliveries, searching for an optimum solution. Cross-interface consid- replenishments eration of economic systems as flows of goods and infor- • in the case of the freight forwarder: grouping, consol- mation also makes it far easier to see the connections idation, sequencing, buffering, storage, value added between the individual flows that result in logistics net- services works. The consideration of networks as an extension of the • in the case of the transport company: itineraries, routes, flow concept also paves the way for a further abstraction of choice of vehicle, deployment of drivers, etc. 123 60 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 In principle, the individual logistical problems can be The macro level refers to the aggregate perspective on addressed using instruments from existing scientific disci- the level of a country, a community of states (e.g. the EU) plines like mathematics, business management, transport or the whole world. Macrologistical issues concern, for science or engineering science. However, the solution of example (based in this case on the transport sector): overall problems calls for the additional consideration of the • transport infrastructures, ports, airports, corridors, links between the sub-areas and the interactions between the (global) transshipment hubs actors involved in the processes. As a sub-area of logistics, • regional, national and international transport flows supply chain management focuses on this interaction issue. • transport modes, transport routes, transport organisation The application context of logistics supplies complex and • cross-border trade flows, import and export dynamic problem structures that require independent scien- • aggregated transport flows like internal, source, target, tific solutions. The contributions made by logistics to pro- transit transport cesses like production and distribution, location and • aggregated transport indicators like volume, transport transport planning or parts production and procurement capacity, mileage capacity clearly show that its role is by no means passive or derived from upstream or downstream economic activities. On the In the analysis and prediction of the overall flow of contrary: logistics makes truly original contributions—to the goods, the macro level plays a role insofar as the overall planning processes that induce transport, for example, pro- demand for transport services in a particular country is highly dependent on international trade and national pro- cesses that will become increasingly important in future in direct proportion to the degree to which requirements related duction. The slump in freight transport and logistics as a to energy economy and climate protection are reflected in the result of the global economic crisis is directly due to the cost calculations of the relevant actors. decline in foreign trade movements. A further topic area is On the level of mesologistics, constellations and the macroeconomic significance of logistics. aggregations of several actors are observed that supply The subdivision into different levels of consideration typical structural patterns with connections to logistics. serves the purpose of analytical clarity and demarcation of These groupings include, for example, (horizontal or ver- special areas of research. In reality, the various levels are tical) cooperation ventures, alliances and associations. The fully interlinked with one another. Each logistical element classifications are sectors or transport segments, and the can itself be viewed both as a network and as part as of a arrangements are markets or sub-markets that regulate superordinate network. In holistic system analyses, the focus is on these very relationship components and on logistic needs. The mesologistics level is reflected, for example, in the transport function: the feedback between decisions on the micro level and the system reactions on meso and macro level. • in cooperation processes, alliances and associations (efficient network design) 3 Interdisciplinarity of logistics • in classifications based on sectors or classes of goods Logistical inquiry is unique in its aspiration to overcome (transport affinities or transport elasticities) the boundaries of established application-oriented • in classifications based on transport segments (inter- scientific disciplines such as business administration, modal transports), economics, engineering, informatics, the social sciences, • in (sub-) markets based on type of consignment (bulk etc., all of which also contribute to the achievement of goods, general cargo, containers, hazardous goods) economic, ecological, and social objectives. Logistics is rooted in these disciplines, but aims to advance On this level, it is possible to make use of scientific knowledge through the synergistic combination of the instruments from the fields of network analysis, game knowledge bases of these root disciplines. theory, industrial economics, market theory, and transport network modelling. Normative models for benefit maxi- As an application-oriented science, logistics uses misation or cost minimisation compete with positive or methods from other disciplines (e.g. mathematics, engi- explicative models that explain the behaviour of the actor neering, economic science, social sciences) but also groups on the basis of routines and uncertainty avoidance. develops them further. Although every scientific discipline On the transport routes, the combination of drivers, vehi- builds on other sciences and is therefore interdisciplinary, cles, and infrastructure characteristics results in complex this is particularly true of logistics due to its specific focus interaction patterns that impact the times and costs of the and its multiperspectival approach. The declared aim of transport process. The stochastic component of the inter- logistics, as has been shown, is to model economic systems action findings calls for independent research approaches— as networks, to analyse their links and connections and for which purpose the standard models of the quantitative thereby to obtain information for the optimum organisation disciplines need to be supplemented. and implementation of these networks. 123 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 61 At this point, it becomes particularly clear why the spe- The primary object of enquiry of logistics, i.e. ‘‘flows of cific interest of logistics necessitates a perspective that goods, information, people, assets and other objects’’ and extends beyond established scientific disciplines and that, in the relationships and connections that can be derived this respect, transcends these disciplines. As a scientific within the context of economic systems determines the discipline, logistics not only builds on the traditional sci- focus and boundaries of the field with respect to suitable ences, as do other application-oriented disciplines, but also research methods and theoretical content. connects application-oriented sciences like micro and mac- Specifically, logistics draws from mathematics, infor- roeconomics, engineering, (business) information science, mation science, operations research, the social sciences etc. economic geography or law in order to generate new, spe- Formal description, or special models from other disci- cifically logistical insights. To this extent, logistics as a plines like physics or biology are applied to logistics using scientific discipline is more than a sub-area of just one of analogy relationships. The discipline of business manage- these sciences; rather, it aims to connect the knowledge bases ment, whose originally in-house-motivated concepts are of different disciplines and thus to overcome established transferred to inter-organisational relationships. But discipline-specific boundaries. Seen from this point of view, beyond the adaptation of methods and content from other interdisciplinarity is of central importance for logistics and is disciplines logistics is to be seen in an active role: a theory of a significance exceeding that for any application-oriented that is satisfactory based on the scientific state of the art science. It is a central element of the logistics paradigm. and real-world empirical application must always look for It goes without saying that this interdisciplinarity does not better, more efficient etc. concepts and more logical rule out the possibility that individual logistical analyses or explanations. This means that we need to improve the way fields of research are focused on specific issues within the in which we describe logistics problems (terminology), the various established scientific fields and can therefore only be way in which we incorporate these problems in models and described as ‘‘interdisciplinary’’ to a limited degree. This is the way in which we solve these problems. quite simply due to reasons of scientific economy. The direct 5 Application orientation of logistics science and logical consequence of this is that there are specialised As an application-oriented science, logistics seeks to logistics-oriented fields in the established application-ori- primarily address problems and research questions that ented scientific disciplines—business management logistics, are faced in real-world economic activities such as the for example, or engineering logistics. optimization of time regimes, meeting the challenges of 4 Unity within a variety of terminological, conceptual, sustainable economic activity, and of the transfer of and methodological foundations of logistics through logistical know how from the world of material the network model industrial production to other fields of application. It Logistics as a science unites the terminological, aims to contribute proactively to an ever deeper conceptual and methodological variety of its various understanding of such problems and to provide root disciplines through its approach of observing and relevant solutions. analysing economic systems as networks of flows and objects. • Optimal time regimes in flow systems The particular nature of logistics as a scientific disci- pline—namely, its interpretation of economic processes as Logistics explicitly deals with time-based characteristics flows of goods, information, people, moneys and other and the search for optimum time regimes for the flows and objects and its multiperspectival approach to research on processes in question. This may mean a systematic quest for these networks—brings with it the challenge of not only acceleration, pacing and agitation or, in other cases, for making use of the methods of other disciplines (such as deceleration and process slowing. The choice depends on the mathematics, engineering, economics, the social sciences), framework conditions and on the stipulated economic, but of creating a terminological, methodical and conceptual ecological, and social objectives. The understanding of and terminological framework. It should integrate and practical logistics as a generally reactive instrument for the condense these different perspectives to form the inde- fulfilment of defined market requirements is still wide- pendent core of a system of inquiry that is clearly defined spread. In contrast to this narrow interpretation, it is of across the various perspectives, that is non-contradictory fundamental importance to understand and/or continue to and that additionally allows ‘‘permeability’’ between the develop logistics as a proactive organisational activity. On a perspectives from which logistics receives a significant situation-specific basis, logistical analyses have to indicate input. The terminological approach (of a theory) of logis- how economic systems are to be organised in the context of tics formally defines the object of logistical enquiry and changing framework conditions so that the defined eco- experience. nomic, ecological, and social objectives can be achieved. 123 62 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 Parallel to outlining the logistical requirements and conse- one hand, proactive logistics also means analysing the quences of market-based goals (on micro, meso and mac- transferability of proven logistics concepts to other rologistical level), it is therefore also the job of logistics to domains that may be of advantage for the logistical para- ensure transparency with regard to the objective of increased digm of object flow modelling in networks. This could, for sustainability. It is precisely for this task that an interdisci- example, apply to service processes or flows of finance, plinary and multiperspectival logistics approach is an possibly also information and communication systems. On essential precondition. The necessity and the individual and the other hand, the transfer of logistical know-how to overall economic benefits of this kind of application-ori- systems that are not primarily of an economic nature holds ented and proactive logistics is shown, for example, in the major potential for progress. This could apply to medical, following areas: social or humanitarian areas of application like disaster protection or precarious supply situations. In this context, • Logistical sustainability of value added systems the question of the interfaces between micro, meso, and Due to the structural complexity of logistics systems, it macrologistics is a particular focal point of interest. is increasingly the case that the efficient use of resources • Further development of the logistics of virtual systems and rapid adaptation to changing environmental conditions are reaching their limits. In addition, the share of transport With the modelling of (object) flows in networks, costs in the overall process of service provision is set to logistics has to date focused on structured economic sys- increase, at least in the medium term, and this poses new tems. These systems are characterised by a long-term challenges for logistics systems. In particular, the use of structure on which the logistical ‘‘advantage assumptions’’ energy-intensive modes of transport sharpens the focus on are based. The structured nature of economic systems the consolidation of goods and the accompanying creation decreases in proportion to the speed of continuous change; of inventories as well as the targeted extension of delivery in other words, the elements and relations of the system are times. Established assumptions on customer needs and subject to constant change. The goal for the future must be buyer behaviour need to be critically reviewed. If ever to actively develop logistics to master these kinds of sys- more complex logistics systems fail to generate additional tems, which are sometimes described as ‘‘virtual’’. benefits for the customer, then we need to rethink current • ‘‘Return transfer’’ of logistical insights into other areas business models. of science The holistic consideration of logistics systems also calls for the inclusion of external factors like capacity utilisation As outlined earlier, logistics specifically builds on of the transport infrastructure and the use of natural resour- insights and concepts from other scientific disciplines. To ces. Due to scarce resources and fully utilised transport this extent, it is an interdisciplinary science. The specific routes, transport operations are fast reaching their limits— paradigm of logistics is to combine these fundamental limits that can only be overcome in the long term by the use insights using a multiperspectival approach and to use the of renewable sources of energy and raw materials. In the outcomes of this process for the modelling of (object) flows short and medium term, a changeover to energy-efficient in networks. It is exactly this that results in the increase in modes of transport seems a logical step; what is above all specifically logistical insights—the insights that represent necessary, however, is the adaptation of logistics network the core of logistics as a scientific discipline. These advances in knowledge now also hold potential for pro- structures and business processes. Although infrastructure expansion can go some way towards solving the problem of gress through return transfer to the scientific disciplines fully utilised transport routes, the limits to such a process of from which logistics receives its input. For example, expansion would necessitate the development of new solu- logistics should also be able to supply information for the tion models in this area as well. In view of these far-reaching further development of its basic application-oriented dis- changes to the framework conditions, proactive logistics ciplines like business management or macroeconomics—as concepts will tend to be geared more to deceleration and to well as, under certain circumstances, also for fundamental focus on simple and decentral logistics structures and pro- disciplines in areas like the methods of operations research, cesses that can show that they are economically, ecologically technical basics in the engineering sciences or behavioural science approaches in the field of psychology or sociology. and, last but not least, socially advantageous and that they are therefore sustainable. The key points outlined earlier stake the claim of logistics as an independent scientific discipline. They also • Active transfer of logistical know-how to other fields indicate the points of contact and overlaps with as well as As a scientific discipline, logistics has to date primarily the differences to established scientific disciplines. For become established in economic systems for the domain of probably the first time, therefore, a reference paper exists physical objects (transfer of goods and persons). On the which serves as a platform for the future discussion of the 123 Logist. Res. (2010) 2:57–63 63 self-conception of logistics, a discussion in which the Praxis im Dialog, Werner Delfmann, Thomas Wimmer authors cordially invite readers to partake. (ed.), DVV Media Group | Deutscher Verkehrs-Verlag, Source: Delfmann et.al.: Eckpunktepapier zum Grun- Hamburg, 2010, p. 3–10. Translation by Anthony Tranter- dversta ¨ndnis der Logistik als wissenschaftliche Disziplin Krstev, edited for the purposes of publication in LOGIS- in: Strukturwandel in der Logistik—Wissenschaft und TICS RESEARCH by Peter Klaus.

Journal

Logistics ResearchSpringer Journals

Published: Aug 17, 2010

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