Diana Staack, press and public relations, Fraunhofer Center for Applied Research on Supply Chain Services at Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, outlines the findings of the new edition of the center’s ‘TOP 100 of Logistics’ study series on the European logistics market.
As the study shows, the logistics industry in Europe has suffered from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but not as severely as other sectors of the economy. Digitalization continues to be an important and stable investment factor. In addition, the crisis has once again highlighted the importance of the logistics industry as a supplier to businesses and to people.
Covid-19 was bad news for logistics
As recently as 2019, the development of the logistics industry seemed fundamentally sound, although the fact that economic indicators were already turning a little gloomy suggested that 2019 would not end quite as well as in previous years. Looking back, it is now clear that logistics still managed to grow by around 3.1% in 2019 (in relation to market prices) to a level of €1,155bn in sales. The subsequent slump of about 3.5% in 2020 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic brought logistics industry sales down to some €1,115bn – lower than in 2018, when sales stood at €1,120bn.
Better than GDP
Nevertheless, upon closer inspection, this development is not as negative as it first seems. A key comparison with the gross domestic product of the 30 countries in the study (EU27 plus Norway, Switzerland and the UK) shows that in 2020, GDP in relation to market prices fell by some 6% in nominal terms – a much bigger slide than in the logistics industry.
There are multiple reasons for this. For one, the restrictions imposed by the lockdown on, say, the consumption of services, such as those in the catering and hotel sectors and tourism in general, have driven demand for consumer goods. This in turn has increased demand for logistics services. In addition, lockdown measures significantly curtailed brick-and-mortar retailing, leading to renewed dynamic growth in e-commerce.
All in all, freight transport and supplementary logistics services have not slumped as much as GDP. Moreover, a lack of freight capacity, especially in air and sea freight, sent freight rates significantly higher in those areas, meaning that more money was paid for the same service. These effects cushioned the decline in the logistics industry so that at around 2%, it was hit less hard than the economy in general.
Investments in digitalization holding steady
Logistics providers are also continuing to invest in digitalizing their organizations: in terms of their annual sales, just over 2% of investments are currently flowing into this field. This KPI appears to have remained stable compared with previous years, even during the crisis. Such stability could be due to the fact that investments in digitalization and technology are usually the subject of longer-term planning. At the same time, the crisis also seems to be contributing to the realization that digitalization and automation promote stable, resilient supply chains. In the event of a disruption, more transparency about supply chains is particularly helpful in planning – and digitalization can augment this.
A look ahead to after the crisis
The forecast for the further development of European logistics over the course of 2021 points to a recovery of around 3%: this would push logistics industry sales to a level of around €1,150bn. Higher growth rates also appear achievable again from 2022 onward. However, these are largely dependent on how the pandemic progresses and the associated cascading effects.
The TOP 100 in European Transport and Logistics Services 2021–2022
The latest edition of the study has been published by the Fraunhofer Center for Applied Research on Supply Chain Services SCS at Fraunhofer IIS, together with the Deutsche Verkehrs-Zeitung (DVZ) and BVL (Bundesvereinigung Logistik) eV. The TOP 100 in European Transport and Logistics Services 2021–2022 receives support from the following partners: Aves One, GLP, Nuveen Real Estate and Transporeon.