Mercedes-Benz Vans is transforming itself from a manufacturer into a system solutions supplier

The transporter is becoming intelligent.

  • 27. October 2016
  • Connectivity
  • Photos: Daimler
  • Text: Walther Wuttke

Mercedes-Benz Vans is transforming itself from a manufacturer into a system solutions supplier. Example: innovative and tailored service ranges for workshops.

Even transporters need to adapt to the new digital world. The vehicles, which were originally designed for simple, urban logistics tasks, will in the future take on the role of system partners, used for integrated and efficient transportation of goods and services. Mercedes-Benz Vans is pushing forward this development and also bringing intelligence to the vans, which up until now did not stand out intellectually. In addition there are plans for a future market launch of services geared towards the needs of the customer.

Alongside hardware, Mercedes-Benz Vans is concentrating on future areas that will give logistics a new direction under its slogan adVANce. The focus is on connectivity and the internet as well as various technologies that will be integrated into the transporter to optimise the flow of materials. Added to this are innovative hardware developments and new mobility solutions for transporting people and goods.

“In 2020 Mercedes-Benz Vans will be a very different company to today. Not just because by then we will have brought innovative models onto the market, but because we will be completely changing our foundations. Explaining the new direction, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Volker Mornhinweg says: “We don’t want to be driven by developments, we want to shape them from the forefront and transform ourselves from a manufacturer into a service provider.” In recent years the company has been able to bring in record sales.

The logistics industry faces new challenges

This new direction for Mercedes-Benz is also a reaction to the urbanisation of society. “In the next few years metropolises will develop into urban regions with new opportunities and challenges for logistics companies,“ according to Mornhinweg. As well as urbanisation, the digitalisation of society also poses new challenges for the logistics industry and in the future it won’t just be packages from large e-commerce companies that are transported. Electronic food shopping orders will also play an increasingly important role. At the same time customers’ expectations are rising and they are demanding fast and reliable delivery.

“To be able to survive these changes we want to develop from a pure transporter manufacturer to a supplier of integrated system solutions. Our future customers need more than a transporter with four wheels,” explains Mornhinweg. “The van of the future will mutate into an integrated part of the digitalised world and will know what has been loaded onto it, where exactly the goods are in the load compartment, the destination and when it will reach the customer.”

' Our future customers need more than a transporter with four wheels. '

Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans

Cooperation with Silicon Valley

That’s why Mercedes-Benz Vans is working together with start-ups in Silicon Valley, where solutions for intelligent loading and delivery of goods, which will have a positive impact on the environment and companies’ cost structures in the future, are being developed. The possible solutions range from transport with drones to self-driving robots that bring deliveries to the premises.

One example is the optimisation of materials management in workshops. Every construction client is familiar with the phrase, “The part’s missing, I need to go to the warehouse”. This leaves the construction site at a standstill and results in lost time – even more so if “the part” has to be ordered, which then holds up other work. The experts at Mercedes-Benz have worked out that a workman spends on average one hour per week simply organising forgotten or unordered parts.

Currently the transporter is still a “dumb vehicle” without any connection to the outside world, created for the sole purpose of carrying goods from one point to another. In future the intelligently networked van will become a workshop partner and play a major role in materials management. Together with its partners Sortimo International and Fischerwerke, Mercedes-Benz Vans has developed the “Mobile Material Service” through which missing parts can be ordered by smartphone and delivered directly to the transporter. The line about missing parts and going to the warehouse will then be a thing of the past.

Pilot project on Lake Constance

In a Mercedes-Benz Vito belonging to FF Haustechnik on Lake Constance, there is a Sortimo shelving system that is equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) tags and filled with Fischer materials. The intelligent Vito has been operating since May. To find out which parts are available, the service technician scans the NFC tags with his smartphone and the Sortimo Refill app gives him an overview of the contents of the individual shelves. With the app, the technician can order missing parts and simultaneously specify the van’s location.

The van as a workshop partner.

The wholesaler behind the app then takes care of delivering and putting away the parts. At night the missing parts are delivered directly to the Vito. The supplier has the delivery app which he can use to locate the van via GPS. The app opens the vehicle for the supplier and then locks it again. The Vito is equipped with a geofence so that the van can only be opened and closed once within a radius of 150 metres. Using another app (Mercedes-Benz Vans Driver’s App), the technician and his manager can check all the important details and take care of other tasks as well …

Time saving: 140 minutes per week

The pilot project on Lake Constance has produced amazing results. Networking the van has saved around 140 minutes per vehicle each week, which would otherwise have to be spent on unplanned trips to the warehouse or wholesaler for orders and refilling of the shelves. The parts supplier also benefits because the app significantly simplifies the supply process. On average the service saves two journeys per vehicle each week which translates into a saving of up to 7,000 euros per year. The innovative materials service should launch in the coming year.

' We don’t want to be driven by developments, we want to shape them from the forefront. '

Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans

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