How Otto is Driving Change in Logistics
11/13/2023 Sustainability New Paths Design Start-ups Article

How Otto is Driving Change in Logistics

Automated processes, digital applications: logistics employees are exposed to rapid changes in their working conditions. Online retailer Otto is therefore expanding further training for the commercial sector and has set up a program specifically for this purpose.

Digitalization, automation and training: online retailer Otto wants to drive change in logistics. Digitalization, automation and training: online retailer Otto wants to drive change in logistics.

Robots that unload containers, place parcels on conveyor belts in the logistics center, or roll through a hall on four stainless steel legs are no longer a vision at the Otto Group, but a reality. This is also changing the processes and the way they work for industrial employees in logistics. With the “Kulturwandel@Logistik” (culturechange in logistics) project, the company is making these employees fit for change and expanding their training opportunities.

Robotics is Becoming more Important

This is because their working environment is changing drastically: according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) in an October statement, the total number of service robots sold for professional use worldwide has risen to 158,000 units in 2022. More than 86,000 units were sold for the transportation of goods and merchandise in 2022, an increase of 44 percent compared to the previous year. According to the IFR, companies are being driven towards automation primarily due to staff shortages. This also applies to the Otto Group. “Robotics and artificial intelligence play a major role in logistics,” said Kay Schiebur, Otto Group Board Member for Services, when he announced a strategic partnership with Boston Dynamics, the world’s leading provider of mobile robotics, in September. The announcement video shows a knee-high, four-legged robot in the blue color of the logistics subsidiary Hermes, which remotely resembles a dog.

The Future of Logistics

Over the next two years, a whole fleet of these and other robots will be deployed in logistics centers. They are intended to increase efficiency and occupational safety in logistics and at the same time change the processes so that warehouse work becomes more attractive and skilled workers willing to do it can be found in the future.

The Otto Group has consistently focused on the transformation in recent years. The starting signal was given back in 2015: in the face of growing competition from large online mail order companies from the USA and China and the ever-faster pace of innovation through digital technologies, it was clear that the Group had to change in order to secure its future sales and survival.

Digital Training

The “Kulturwandel@Logistik” project, which was launched a few years later, is working on a sustainable working environment in the commercial sector. “This includes a large number of agreed upon measures that are the responsibility of local implementation,” says Vanessa Eller from Otto Group Holding, who is coordinating the initiative as Senior Project Manager. Right from the start, it was clear that two factors were crucial for success, reports the Lebensmittelzeitung newspaper about Otto’s project: personal communication with regular shift meetings, lots of feedback and information, as well as the opportunity to get involved, for example to improve processes together. And digital training. “Learning new skills is an important part of our corporate culture,” says Eller. “We have created a unique learning ecosystem for this at the Otto Group.