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A look back at the 2021 digital eXplore conference

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Published on Friday, 26 March 2021

The Luxembourg Centre for Logistics & Supply Chain Management, in the Faculty of Law, Economics & Finance at the University of Luxembourg, was proud to showcase a broad spectrum of expert speakers from academia, consulting, and industry. Over 150 participants joined in from around the world to discuss DATA DRIVEN SUPPLY CHAINS, over the two-day digital eXplore Conference on 9 and 10 March 2021.

Mr. Mario Grotz, who directs the digital transformation for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg at the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade, made the point that data driven approaches will be important to make logistics and supply chains more sustainable. He indicated that it is the intention of Luxembourg to stay at the forefront of digital transformation and use it as a tool to create sustainability. He called our attention to several initiatives of the government to help public and private partners to collaborate in this domain. 

 Dr. Alexis Bateman (MIT) talked about the way transparency is a challenge already and how can be decomposed in visibility (know what is going on) and disclosure (with whom do I share this information). Different companies are subject to different external pressures in this regard. Transparency may be a key driver of sustainability, and Dr. Bateman also linked data driven approaches to sustainability in logistics and supply chains.

Our own Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Sarah Van der Auweraer demonstrated how service logistics can be done in a smarter way by collecting data about the factors that cause equipment to need servicing. We also saw that gathering the data is not easy, and that there is a trade-off between sophistication and practicality of data driven approaches. Just bringing the data together in an accessible form can be a challenge.

 Francesco Ferrero of LIST (Luxembourg Institute of Science & Technology) gave an excellent example of how this information has been assembled into a so-called Control Tower for Luxembourgish hospitals during the COVID-19 crisis.

Professor Robert Boute talked about the four basic stages of different technical levels of sophistication and organisational maturity. In aligning the technical levels of sophistication, there is always a balancing act of what is practical, desirable, and what the organisational maturity can handle. An essential concept in the joint development of technical sophistication and organisational maturity is to compare the degree of automation with the degree of responsibility.

In any case, as our Day 2 panelists (Dr. Maria Jesus Saenz, Dr. Bram Kranenburg, Mr. Manuel Davy, and Dr. Jens Schiefele) alongside moderator Professor Nils Löhndorf concurred, automation is neither a magic bullet nor the holy grail of data driven supply chains, it is one end of a spectrum, and different activities in a supply chain may be best positioned at different locations along that spectrum.

 To learn more about the eXplore 2021 conference and download the presentations, please visit explore.uni.lu.