Hertie School co-launches HuLog to examine work in digitalising logistics

Consortium will research potential for humanising work in a sector undergoing digital transformation.

Logistics and warehouses are receiving more public attention than ever as companies have started to increase their local inventories to mitigate the disruptive risks of more vulnerable supply chains. At the same time, warehouses are being transformed by rapidly evolving digital technologies along the whole logistics chain. To examine how digital technologies shape work and employment conditions in warehouses in Europe, the Hertie School has launched the project Humans in Digital Logistics (HuLog) together with research institutions in Belgium, the UK and Poland. Hertie School Professor of Public Policy Anke Hassel and Research Fellow Dr. Markus Helfen will lead the research consortium’s work in Germany.  

“Logistics stands, to a certain extent, for the future of work in many areas of the labour market,” says Hassel, Principal Investigator in the German project. “Taking a more human-centred look at the digitally-driven transformation in warehousing and logistics work is not only essential for how work is performed in the sector itself, it also has major implications for society and labour politics at large.” By investigating and comparing twelve warehouses and four digital hubs in Germany, Poland, Belgium and the United Kingdom, the research team will examine how digital warehouse management systems shape the experience of work. They will also investigate how these systems drive warehousing companies’ employment strategies to maximise workforce flexibility.

Given the current public debate about how the digital economy is changing employment, this project timely initiative to fill a knowledge gap on the lived experience of the digital transformation. “Most studies of warehousing and digital logistics have focused on the technology end of current transitions and transformations, like new robots and exoskeletons,” says Helfen, Senior Researcher in the project. “What has been neglected are the wider implications for societies, and, even more important, the impacts of the new workspace for workers as human beings in the logistics chain.”

The HuLog consortium is led by Hasselt University in Belgium and includes partners from Leeds University in the United Kingdom and Kozminski University in Poland. It is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Germany under the CHANSE ERA-NET Co-fund programme, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.

For more information about the research project, see see our HuLog web page.

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