Searching for new approaches to logistics
Digitization, networks, automation: New technologies are being developed at a rapid pace. It is not for nothing that industry specialists are talking about a revolution – the fourth in industrial development after mechanization, mass production and the electronification of production. “These are incredibly exciting times for me as an academic,” says Dr. Yilmaz Uygun, Professor in Logistics Engineering, Technologies and Processes at the English-medium Jacobs University in Bremen.
How can we use these technologies beneficially and improve logistics processes? The specialist in production logistics and internal materials handling is looking for answers to these questions. “The possibilities are unimaginable,” says the 35-year-old who came to Jacobs University from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, before that, was at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund and held the Chair of Factory Organization at the Technical University of Dortmund.
What once took several weeks, as things had to be done manually, is now often done in just a few minutes. Uygun has just demonstrated this once again in a project with an automotive supplier. The brief was to anticipate vehicle manufacturers’ change requests to the supplier based on historical data. These requests are often extremely detailed and a catalog can comprise several hundred pages. Thanks to the project, the company can now determine, within a very short period of time, what effects the changes will have on the packaging, labeling, transport and storage – and how much the implementation of the change request would cost.
“We looked for models with the help of algorithms and tested them,” explains Uygun. “With Industry 4.0, data is generated everywhere; it’s the key to new possibilities.” The holder of two PhDs in engineering is working in close cooperation with colleagues from other disciplines such as information scientists and mathematicians. Uygun also works in a different field as a bridge builder, a mediator between different worlds. He is part of the “Turkey Europe Future Forum”, a network of young Turkish and European leaders funded by the foundation, Stiftung Mercator, and the European Union, which brings together 30 managers from a variety of disciplines every year.
Yilmaz Uygun is working at Jacobs University for two years now. “Bremen is an excellent logistics location,” he says. “Universities, high schools, authorities and companies are all closely linked. They combine their efforts for individual projects to make them a success,” he says of his experience. Uygun is not only a researcher, but also teaches Bachelor’s and Master’s students. He maintains close contact with the students at Jacobs University. Their internationality and the different cultural backgrounds are very inspiring, also for his teaching activities. “The students all turn up to the lectures, they are eager to learn, they write emails, they dig deeper, and they come for consultations,” says Uygun. “This also motivates me to re-assess my own work from time to time and make my lectures more interactive. Merely delivering lectures – that’s simply not enough here.”
Uygun is convinced that the self-regulation of systems is the next developmental step. In the future, machines will no longer need to be manually adjusted, such as in the launch of a new product; they will be able to do it themselves – production, planning and implementation will be automated.
No doubt this will cost jobs, especially those with repetitive, manual activities. However, monitoring and designing the systems, solving problems and negotiating contracts with suppliers would continue to be done by people, he says. In a new study, Uygun intends to examine how job losses can be compensated for. “Many horror scenarios are being talked about. However, they are mostly no more than speculation.”
Uygun wants to take away people’s fear of change. He believes in the opportunities of Industry 4.0 and points out experiences from 40 and 50 years ago when the automation wave swept through factories. “Robots have not forced people out, but new professions were created.” They could also be filled because many people educated themselves further. This is also necessary now, he advises.
Germany has to hold its own in global competition, says Uygun. “Others have also learned what we have done up to now and, in many cases, do things more efficiently.” For this reason, one thing is clear for him: “In an industrial country such as Germany, our task is to find new approaches and assume a pioneering role.”
This text is part of the series „Faces of Jacobs“, in which Jacobs University is featuring students, alumni, professors and employees. For more stories, please have a look at www.jacobs-university.de/faces
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Studying in an international community. Obtaining a qualification to work on responsible tasks in a digitalized and globalized society. Learning, researching and teaching across academic disciplines and countries. Strengthening people and markets with innovative solutions and advanced training programs. This is what Jacobs University Bremen stands for. Established as a private, English-medium campus university in Germany, it is continuously achieving top results in national and international university rankings. Its almost 1,400 students come from more than 100 countries with around 80% having relocated to Germany for their studies. Jacobs University’s research projects are funded by the German Research Foundation or the European Research Council as well as by globally leading companies. For more information: www.jacobs-university.de
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