The way towards a hybrid economy

The new networked working world increasingly allows companies to develop and offer hybrid services. These novel pooled services consist of connecting hardware and software that merge to form an innovative business model. At the Innovationlab Hybrid Services in Logistics novel technologies for hybrid services are tested and suitable business models are developed. Use cases from different logistics fields located in the application centre of the Innovationlab, our so-called showcases, demonstrate the use and the potential of hybrid services in intralogistics and trading companies, in production logistics, transport and maintenance, as well as in a virtual training lab. Visitors can experience these use cases live during guided tours on site.

01 Intralogistics/Trade

The trend towards individualisation and e-commerce is forcing trading companies to adjust their processes, products and services. For reasons of efficiency and environmental protection, logistics service providers are faced with the challenge of consolidating transports effectively despite increasingly small-scale shipments, and of delivering to increasingly shorter delivery deadlines.


Which effects have individualisation, short delivery times and multi-channel orders on intralogistics – especially for trading companies?

Hybrid services enable the dynamic processes required for and with Industry 4.0 solutions.
This use case application is triggered by an order process. To demonstrate the complexity of the processes, it is based on a multi-channel approach. The observer experiences the processes in the functional areas of storage, order-picking, packaging/dispatch and goods out which can be initiated and improved or designed more flexibly by integrating people, machines and new technologies more intensely. The way products are delivered on the »last mile« – whether to a defined destination (home/office), to the stationary retail trade or adapted dynamically to a consumer’s movement profile – again shows how complex processes are at the interface to the customer. This also demonstrates how processes alter if consumers change their minds and which effects are caused by returned goods.

02 Production Logistics

Order structures within production companies sometimes change abruptly: customers’ desire for individualisation is strong, the complexity of processes increases and some procurement markets are very volatile.

How can production logistics face the challenge of planning and controlling increased individualisation and product diversity?
Intelligent hybrid services can enable production companies to serve customer requirements individually and therefore position themselves better on the market.
The challenge in this use case is to implement individualised production on behalf of the customer with the available resources while keeping the cost and effort for planning under control. The use case itself starts with an urgent individualised order. The possible impacts caused by changing plans are identified and evaluated by calculating various planning scenarios. If necessary, a manual adjustment is carried out and passed on to the functional areas for storage, order-picking and assembly. This triggers a dynamic change and adjustments which are communicated to the employees, and in turn lead to the changed production plan being implemented. The use case finishes when the product is handed over to the carrier. Observers can experience »live« how the urgent order is »produced« and how new technologies, e.g. augmented reality, can simplify an assembly process or see how automatic ergonomic settings for a particular member of staff can improve their work at an assembly bench.

03 Transport

Most manufacturing companies have their external transport requirements carried out by external service providers which include large logistics suppliers as well as small forwarding companies. Currently there is no continuous digital exchange of information between the different stakeholders. However, it will be necessary for goods transfer operations – as the link between transportation and intelligent production – to develop into a smart paperless process, at the latest when autonomous trucks are deployed.

How can external transport be connected to flexible and dynamic logistics concepts in a way that guarantees a permanent transport and information chain?

Hybrid services enable manufacturing companies to use dynamic scheduling for one or more forwarders.


This use case application starts out when a transport order is received by a logistics services provider or at an association of small and medium sized carriers or forwarders. As soon as the product is processed in the assembly department, the observer experiences a continuous exchange of information between the manufacturing company and forwarder in the areas of packaging/dispatch and goods out. Outside the application centre this continues with dynamic scheduling for the transport order, forwarder selection and the transport order itself. An intelligent gate serves as the physical and virtual link between the application centre and external transportation. At the same time, smart devices with the relevant information about the route and the consignment help the driver of the vehicle to carry out his/her work.

04 Maintenance

In modern industrial production and intralogistics facilities, machines are already producing huge amounts of data nowadays. All this data offers the potential to improve transparency and obtain information about the condition of the machines and their continuous maintenance needs and to find out what triggers breakdowns so they can be avoided in future.

How can adequate availability be achieved for industrial facilities and how can maintenance personnel be given appropriate training?
Hybrid services ensure that mechanical and plant engineering companies can develop to become leading service providers throughout the world.
An error message from a machine installed in the application centre initiates this use case in order-picking and assembly. An assistance system running on a mobile device helps to identify errors. Maintaining and restarting the machine is also supported and documented on mobile devices, e.g. by means of augmented reality – to improve subsequent maintenance orders or to help plan training programmes.

05 Virtual Training

Nowadays, logistics centres have to react flexibly to changing markets, products and new services. At the same time, working environments have to be constantly adapted to suit employees’ requirements and be used in an economically effective way. The Virtual Training Lab builds a bridge between requirements and adjustments.

Future requirements which need to be planned for can be identified and viewed via the application centre’s virtual control centre. Possible measures cane be automatically pre-evaluated and parameterised in 3D by the planner in the Virtual Training Lab. Users can then find out about the results of their planning in advance, among other things, in virtual reality to check how feasible and practical it is. Feedback from the users serves to evaluate current planning, it is fed back to the control centre and in turn triggers further modifications depending on the results. In this way, process operations can be validated before they are implemented. The final validated adjustments can then be implemented in the logistics centre afterwards. Employees affected by changes can be trained in virtual reality before or parallel to the actual implementations. All this shortens the time until new measures become effective.