The lone fighter becomes lonely

So far, the use of open source software has not played a major role in improving logistics processes. But that is changing. Ralf Duester, board member and SCM expert setlogexplains why IT service providers who jump on the bandwagon will be more successful than their competitors in the future.

It’s hard to believe that in the age of digitization in the 21st century, there are still medical institutions that ask their colleagues or patients to send them a fax with the necessary information. But the device, first presented by Xerox in 1966, does not only play a role in private everyday life. In logistics too, the “communication dinosaur” still spits out printed paper in some offices.

Admittedly, other systems have long since replaced the fax at most logistics companies. But the crux of supply chain management is still there. Each player usually works with his own system. Brands and retailers use their ERP systems, freight forwarders use proven Transport Management Systems (TMS), logistics companies operate Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and suppliers often stick to their Excel spreadsheets.

In day-to-day logistics, this means that data flows via Excel lists and e-mails – and if there is a problem, people are happy to pick up the phone to find a solution. Recently, a few smart startups have revolutionized the logistics sector; they became the digital trucking companies. With their platforms, they have inserted themselves between the actors involved and pushed ahead with the digitization and automation of processes. With success. Data and good processes now work better in every respect. The correct use and control of good data is becoming the new recipe for success in transport and logistics.

This also applies to sourcing, purchasing and supply chain management. But even with the best data quality, it is ill-advised if it is lying dormant in spreadsheets or has to be transferred manually between partners via e-mail. One solution to these challenges is modern SCM software. Setlog, for example, enables the digital management of the supply chain in a cloud-based tool with OSCA (short for “Online Supply Chain Accelerator”).

All partners involved in the respective supply chain are integrated through customer-specific extensions. More than 150 brands in the apparel, electronics, food, consumer goods and hardware sectors in more than 90 countries use the solution. It makes the supply chain transparent for everyone – for example, delivery delays and new deadlines can be communicated to all stakeholders in real time. Collaborative communication runs through a single tool.

What works without any problems with the help of a dashboard in terms of overviews and early warning functions such as “to do” messages requires intensive preparation. In the past, the integration of partners on platforms was expensive due to the increased complexity in logistics and the effort involved in connecting via interfaces. Setlog has often developed tailor-made solutions for processes and data flows – which, depending on the requirements, cost a lot of time and money. But the IT world is changing.

Customers want easy integrations to speed up data flows and reconciliation processes. The key to this is open source. For the development of supply chain platforms on which all partners around the globe can work together, fast and easy integration via API (API, short for Application Programming Interfaces) via open source, i.e. open source standard interfaces, is only advantageous.

When the keyword open source software is mentioned, some people in logistics are still surprised. So far, it has hardly played a role in the optimization of logistical processes. But that’s about to change. The experts are convinced that IT service providers in logistics who use open source are more successful. Yes, open source even proves to be a sales support. Because many customers can now assess the added value. Especially with interfaces, open source can help the community not only to become faster and more efficient, but also to create standards. This means that it is no longer the case that everyone develops their own standards, but that several providers fall back on the same bases – of course in compliance with all rules and regulations. This is a big lever for all partners involved in a platform.

Setlog recognized the advantages of this new IT world early on. The company is a founding member of Open Logistics e. V., the supporting association of the Open Logistics Foundation. It relies on the use of open source components for services in tomorrow’s platform economy, the silicon economy. According to Prof. Dr. dr hc Michael ten Hompel, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML and co-initiator of the Open Logistics Foundation, standardized interfaces are not a safe haven for anyone in logistics – not even for shippers and forwarders, nor for IT service providers. Because the intelligence still lies in the software itself. The foundation has set itself the goal of supporting logistics on its way to standardization – specifically in the area of ​​interfaces.

When it comes to data exchange, some logisticians still raise their thumbs and point out that companies must not let data sovereignty be taken away and that security during transmission must be guaranteed. They often lack the knowledge of the solutions to these challenges. But it is also a fact that trust in IT systems has increased significantly in recent years. Platforms are now entrusted with sensitive information – not just bits & bytes about transports, but also, for example, sensitive IP such as technical sketches and samples of new releases. Each of the actors must be able to rely on the processes being secure. As a founding member of the International Data Spaces Association IDSA, Setlog is also open to open source infrastructure-related solutions.

Conclusion: If you work in silos in logistics, isolate systems and accept media breaks, you will sooner or later lose touch. Cooperation is the key to access the new world of logistics. Open source software, especially standardized interfaces, can help IT service providers in logistics – especially medium-sized companies – to improve their own solutions. The lone fighters become lonely.


The term open source refers to software whose source code is public and can be viewed, modified and used by third parties. Open source software can usually be used free of charge.

Individuals often open-source software for altruistic motives. Companies and organizations usually have different intentions: they want to save development costs and gain market share. Enabled users can customize the software to meet their own challenges and needs. It is also possible to publish a fork. So-called pull requests contribute to the continuous improvement of the software.

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