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Bitkom, the German Digital Association, conducted an experiment about the extent of digitalization in logistics. Results show that only six of 10 documents are machine-readable.

The logistics industry strives after a completely digital supply chain. In international goods transport, however, only some of the many documents are so far machine-readable and standardized. Bitkom proved this with a container shipment from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Vancouver, Canada. Digital technologies such as GPS trackers and data platforms accompanied the trip. Documents were exchanged at ten places; at six, the documents were machine-readable. At seven, documents were exchanged in physical form – easy for people to read, but difficult for machines to understand. Only at three were documents exchanged in both formats.

“Logistics already relies heavily on digital technologies, but too often there remains silo thought processes. IT systems often run parallel and there is no complete data exchange,” ays Florian Lange, retail and logistics specialist at Bitkom. "With the logistics experiment, we want to make it clear that it is worth exchanging and sharing data and to show where there are still problems in practice.”

This result calls for logistics companies and responsible authorities to focus even more on transmitting freight documents electronically. Technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence can enable completely new applications in logistics. However, the resulting data must be available in digital form and readable by IT systems.