By Carina Tüllmann | Fraunhofer IML – The Innovationlab Hybrid Services in Logistics is taking part in many activities during the Year of Science 2018 as there are various connecting points. The researchers place great emphasis on bringing »the working worlds of the future« for logistics and production, which have been developed »in the lab«, to the people and on entering into dialogue with them.

Designing the way we work so it is people-friendly is an investment in the sustainability of our economy and our companies. Based on this conviction, since the middle of 2016, the Innovationlab has been investigating the implementation of innovative technologies in the »working world of the future« that help to make work easier for people. The vision behind this is the Social Networked Industry – a networked economy in which humans and machines work together as a team. Logistics sees itself at the interface between business and society with a particular responsibility to prepare and drive developments towards human-technology interaction.

The Year of Science 2018 offers the Innovationlab an opportunity to present con-cepts, models and solutions for people-friendly work to a wider public.

The Innovationlab is also introducing its own network to this year of science. First and foremost, these are partners from the science and business communities. By utilizing the innovative instrument of its transfer projects, the Innovationlab has already brought logistics and production companies together with researchers. This is mainly about the sort of company which until recently had not really seen research as part of their future planning. Short term cooperation with the Innovationlab, focusing on a specific problem within their own company makes it possible for them to benefit from professional support as they strive to get fit for the digital working world. The solutions they develop together are also generally available for other companies: a snowball effect is exactly what they want!

Out and about around the world

By attending exhibitions, congresses and symposiums, the Innovationlab is also promoting the Social Networked Industry. At the Future Congress Logistics in Dortmund researchers invited the visitors to an interactive journey through the networked industry – »playing« in the »Digital Sandbox«. At more than a dozen stations the congress participants could experience the technologies of the future live. The »sister project« Future Work Lab – which, like the Innovationlab, is funded by the Federal Ministry of Research – also showcased itself here. Further shared events are being planned especially for the Year of Science.

The researchers at the Innovationlab also take every opportunity to present themselves on the international stage – recently for example at the German-Chilean trading days in Santiago or at the Augmented World Expo in Silicon Valley, the world’s largest symposium about the subjects of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). In the Year of Science 2018 the Innovationlab expects to gain more impetus at an international level and it will always refer to its close relations to the »working worlds of the future«.

Making research come alive

A central element of communication for the Innovationlab is to make its research come alive and be accessible – in particular for target groups that usually only have little contact with science. Guided tours through the research centre and the application centre at the Innovationlab in the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML in Dortmund repeatedly help to inspire people with technology and finally gain their acceptance. A wide range of groups benefit from what is on offer: citizens from the region, employee organisations and vocational school teachers, for example.

Still, a lot of people are worried that new technologies will take away their jobs. Seeing that technology is developed in the Innovationlab in such a way that it serves and unburdens hu-mans, is often a click moment for the visitors. The Innovationlab wants to achieve something similar with its participation in »MS Wissenschaft (Science)«. The swimming science centre, a project by the Federal Ministry of Research is on tour again in 2018. Exhibits from the Innovationlab are also on board.

Thrilling prospects for young people

Such platforms attract young people in particular. The younger generation is an important target group for the Innovationlab – in particular because some logistics companies are already lacking suitable personnel today. Over the past few years, logistics has developed into a high-tech industry, yet, it is still perceived differently. With the deployment of new technologies like those developed in the Innovationlab, jobs in logistics and production are becoming even more attractive and exciting, in particular for the young people who grow up with smartphones and tablets. This also needs to be shared in a specific target-oriented form. Media interest is high: for example, currently a longer article on this is currently being planned for a training magazine.

No question: the working systems of the future – or »working worlds of the future« as they are called in the Year of Science 2018 – must stand up to tomorrow’s challenges. They must be flexible and scalable, safe, efficient and at the same time economical. It is true that new technologies will change the workplace, but they will not replace humans. The »allrounder« human is and will be, that is already certain today, irreplaceable for many processes in modern logistics – and that is a good thing.

November 2017

About the author

Carina Tüllmann, Department of Strategic Initiatives and Head of Digital Communication at Fraunhofer IML, is responsible for communication and marketing in the Innovationlab.