Noodles in the supermarket, gas at the ﬁlling station, mail in the letterbox, just-in-sequence deliveries to the production line – the list of examples goes on indeﬁnitely. A life without logistics would be simply inconceivable. It sufﬁces to say that virtually everything is logistics. According to the study “Logistics Top 100” by the Fraunhofer Supply Chain Services (SCS) working group in Nuremberg, Germany, the industry’s 2016 turnover amounted to approximately 1.05 trillion euros in Europe alone. The global sales volume for the same year is estimated to have been between 6.5 and 7 trillion euros, according to Martin Schwemmer of Fraunhofer SCS. The industry is virtually unparalleled in the way it has undergone revolution after revolution, and that for millennia. And that is no exaggeration.
Indeed, innovation cycles are becoming ever shorter, as they are in other sectors. Yet they all have their roots in outstanding logistical feats related to landmark events of historic proportions. It isn’t hard to think of an example – just consider the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the campaigns of Julius Caesar and Napoleon, the invention of the steam engine, the beginning of industrial mass production, the rise of rail and automobiles, computer technology, the digital revolution and much more. Modern logisticians work tirelessly to optimize supply chain management processes, while Alexander the Great had already demonstrated in the fourth century BCE how the eﬃcient planning of goods supplies and a constant supply of ﬁt men for the military can be leveraged into a colossal empire.
Infrastructure developed over centuries
Nowadays, the preeminent mode of transport for international freight is by road. According to 2016 ﬁgures from the European Commission, the modal split of transport in the 28 EU member states was dominated by on-road transport. Indeed, 76.4 percent of deliveries were made using the road network, 17.4 percent by rail, and 6.2 percent by ship. This has remained more-or-less the status quo for years. The most recent World Transport Report, published by Prognos AG, projects that by 2040, road freight transport will make up 75 percent of the transport market in leading EU countries – such as France, Belgium, Poland and Sweden – while the ﬁgure will be 55 percent in the USA and almost 53 percent in China. This of course requires the infrastructure capable of supporting it. Again, this is an area in which our ancestors achieved incredible feats with rudimentary technologies. The Romans laid thousands of kilometers of roads and streets all the way across Europe, and also pioneered the construction of canals across the continent. Some of their constructions remain intrinsic parts of Europe’s maritime logistics infrastructure, even today.