Digital Editor Alex Kreetzer discusses the connected automotive supply chain with Stefan Maurer. The full feature will be published in the April issue of Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain Magazine.
Mercedes’ new ‘adVANce’ initiative is showing the automotive industry how vans could look and operate in the near future. How important was it for Mercedes-Benz Vans to revolutionise the ‘out-of-date’ van and what kind of impact will this have on the world?
A van is not out of date, but we think that the way we transport goods and people needs to be innovated to face the upcoming challenges. With our showcar Vision Van we wanted to show that we need to think differently in respect to future transportation of goods. By combining new technologies with the van to a more holistic system, we can make transportation much more effective and this has a massive impact for everybody – our customers and the end consumer.
How important is sustainable transport for Daimler and is this what fueled the creation of this innovative vehicle?
Making the transport of goods and people most effective and sustainable is very important for us and our customers, we are constantly working on making our products better. With the Vision Van, we can show what transport can look like in the future and the levers to increase efficiency by an order of magnitude.
Our prior motivation is to help our customers to tackle the upcoming challenges of digitalisation and urbanisation. We want to provide them with solutions that fit in their processes perfectly and help to grow their businesses – whatever they are doing.
What impact will the vehicle have on day-to-day logistics? Will we see a drastic improvement in supply chain efficiency?
The impact of these new technologies will be massive. By making the van smarter and making it an active agent in the Internet of Things, we will see a huge increase in efficiency. Additionally, by connecting the van with the IoT we enable completely new services and new business models.
Drones have become extremely popular across the world over the last year and more businesses are starting to incorporate them into their operations. How will robotic delivery systems such as drones help overcome the supply chain issues we see today?
We think that robotic delivery systems such as drones and ground based delivery robots have a high potential and can be used to increase the efficiency of last mile logistics, especially if they are intelligently combined with vans, for example. That’s why we started working with highly experienced and well-known companies in this field to create new concepts that fit to the needs of our customers and show how those vehicles can be used efficiently. Of course there are still some regulatory hurdles to be taken and there needs to be a broad acceptance for it in public. If that is a given, the holistic systems including drone technology will lower the costs per delivery.
Will drones become the future of logistics through a new layer of transport above the road?
Of course we aren’t able to look into the future but we think that there will be a lot of new technologies finding their way into the system of transport. Drones will definitely take their part in this system.
Although your smart van is not specifically for the automotive industry, can you see this being beneficial for dealerships and garages, which could overcome quick turnovers and quick transits?
We are working on different projects and solutions for all types of use cases. We can also think of solutions that fit the needs of garages and car dealers as well, especially if you think of the fast and reliable delivery with spare parts or the service for customers that need immediate help in case of car problems.
For example, we are working on a solution called Mobile Material Service for the service and crafts sector. With that solution the ordering process of materials needed for the daily work can be optimised by connecting the van directly to the retailers through an app and a cloud software.
Now the Vision Van has been showcased, what is the next step for the product and company?
Currently we are working on several projects in the field of digitalisation, mobility services, intelligent and connected hardware. We are developing holistic systems that increase the efficiency of transportation and tackle the challenges caused by growing urbanisation or the constantly growing e-commerce sector. As a company we are constantly evolving – from a mere manufacturer of vans to a provider of holistic transportation and mobility systems. We are currently changing the way we think and work.
Finally, how close are we to fully-autonomous vehicles on our road, and what will this mean for the global supply chain?
Daimler is one of the leading companies when it comes to autonomous driving. Therefore, the technology know-how exists in our company. Autonomous driving is a topic for light commercial vehicles in the future. For the Vision Van, we concentrated on a case that is actually focusing on technologies like robotic delivery solutions, cargo space automatisation, connectivity and mobility services.
At Mercedes-Benz Vans we are currently focusing on holistic system solutions for transportation.