Europe's logistics digitisation needs more use of standards
The transport sector is striving to become more digital but many of the standards that are in use are not yet interoperable.
As part of the European FENIX project, GS1 has investigated where and which standardisation gaps exist in multimodal transport networks and digital logistics platforms and, crucially, where future opportunities may be found. The basis for these findings stems from an online survey carried out by GS1, which was supplemented by twenty in depth expert interviews.
This new international study aims to determine how standards affect the logistics industry, especially when using digital platforms. These platforms offer, for example, track-and-trace services, ETA calculations, route planning, services for the exchange of trade data such as invoices or delivery notes and, last but not least, transport management tools for capacity planning.
The key findings of the study are:
- 95 % rated the role of standards for seamless interoperability with more than 4 of 6 stars
- 63% say that the biggest hurdle for implementing standards is a lack of knowledge
- 94% agreed that data exchanged via digital platforms should be interoperable
- 81% think that GS1 standards are suitable for an open data exchange architecture
Lack of knowledge is by far the biggest hurdle in implementing standards
During the expert interview Dr. Phanthian Zuesongdham, Head of Digital and Business Transformation, Hamburg Port Authority AöR & Member of the EU Digital Transport & Logistic Forum (DTLF), stated: "The challenge is to create transparency about the existing standards. There is simply no overview. It is a jungle."
63% of respondents confirmed the lack of knowledge is by far the biggest hurdle in implementing standards. Another aspect, with 40.4%, is no or very low compatibility with their own system requirements.
As far as optimisation at the technical level is concerned, 66.7% saw a need for standardisation when applying new data exchange methods and 50.9% stated that there is a requirement for new message formats beyond UN/EDIFACT. On the semantic level, 54.9% focussed on the identification of logistics locations, while 50.9% saw a need for standards to identify goods in transit from the seller to buyer.
Human gaps in data exchange standards is a main contributor to interoperability challenges.
Respondents emphasised in their answers that data standards make an essential and important contribution to an effective, efficient and interoperable digital supply chain. According to the respondents, it is the use of data standards that reduces the effort required for development and implementation and improves subsequent interoperability.
A paradox can be identified here. The reality is that market participants in the logistics industry are less likely to use standardised data exchange formats and more likely to use proprietary solutions. Reasons for this are manifold and range from a lack of knowledge about existing software applications with custom APIs or exchange formats to alleged competitive advantages.
The survey carried out within the framework of the "European Federated Network of Information eXchange in LogistiX", for short, 'FENIX', can be viewed online: https://fenix-network.eu/
You can access here the press release with more details about the survey.