Moving goods is now faster than ever thanks to advancements in automation and technology. In an increasingly connected world, the materials handling industry is a silent hero. It provides the equipment and systems that enable the timely and precise delivery of all the things we couldn’t live without. Tomorrow brings even more change: future evolutions but also changing consumer needs and environmental pressure mean the only way forward is innovation.

In this Smart Logistics Challenge, the European Materials Handling Federation (FEM) is challenging you to re-think how companies can best make use of Logistics 4.0 to meet the emerging demands of the future.

Come up with a game-changing solution for one of the three real-life cases outlined below and upload your submission. As a finalist you will then get the exclusive chance to join forces with leaders in the industry to polish your concept to completion. Take this opportunity to gain unique insights into some of Europe’s top companies and revolutionise the materials handling industry!


The Smart Logistics Challenge is open to students from across Europe. Students from the following countries are eligible to compete:

28 EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

Non EU countries: Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Turkey and Russia.

To be eligible you have to be above 18 years old and enrolled in a university program at any level. Students from the following programs are welcome to submit their work: Business, Engineering, Design Engineering, Software Engineering, Industrial Design and Product Design.

Applicants can participate individually or in teams of up to two (2) members. When competing as a team, you must pick a team leader who will be responsible for the registration and all the communication regarding this challenge.


Choose from any of the following three real-life cases around the theme “Logistics 4.0”, and present your idea for the future of material handling and logistics.

Business context: Reshape the supply chain to accommodate customer needs

In Europe alone, around 25 million packages are delivered every day. Customers are buying online at an exponential rate with no sign of slowing down even in the next decade. How will companies be racing for e-commerce fulfillment in 2027?

Your task is to propose innovative solutions in logistics environments to address the needs of e-commerce customers. You may propose technological and/or business solutions.

Market Insights

  • The traditional supply chain is linear. Each link in the chain is related to its immediate, previous and next link.
  • The new e-commerce supply chain is circular. The customer is at the centre and connected to almost all the links in the chain.
  • At the same time, e-commerce customers have specific purchasing habits and requirements - such as one-hour delivery, fresh items and high share of returned goods by customers. This means that delivery now needs to be more flexible and innovative, especially in the storage and handling of goods.
  • Trends and technologies that are impacting the industry include:
    • Internet of Things
    • using big data for process improvement
    • customization and predictability
    • blockchain
    • machine learning through artificial intelligence
    • self-driving vehicles
    • 3D printing
    • and more
  • Business volumes increase quickly, with annual growth rates often being above 50%.


Business context: When people and robots work together

Cobotics are supposed to be the new tools of the future. Working together with operators, they are meant to make logistics better, faster and more efficient. What happens in the warehouse when humans and machines collaborate and how will this revolutionise the industry?

Your task is to imagine future cobotic systems that positively impact one or more aspects of logistics and equipment handling . This could be anything from efficiency to rapidity or safety, physical effort, error rate and so on. You may propose technological and/or business solutions.

Market Insights

  • Human workers are increasingly assisted by robots to perform certain logistic tasks. This includes picking, sorting, storing and transporting etc. Cobotics marries the advantages offered by human actions with the very latest robotics technology.
  • With an annual 50% growth, the cobot market is now the fastest growing segment of industrial robotics. It is forecast to hit $3bn in global revenue in 2020.
  • Cobotic systems can
    • take many different forms (co-manipulation, exoskeletons, robotic vehicles…)
    • interact with the operator in different ways (coworking, supervising, operated…)
    • help with different tasks (carrying, locating, picking, sorting…)


Business context: Digital platforms offer a lot of opportunities to share tasks, jobs or equipment for the logistics industries, including suppliers and users of materials handling equipment.

Many industries have been disrupted by the Sharing Economy and logistics is no different. What do you think this means for the materials handling sector and how will the industry be transformed?

Your task is to imagine how sharing economy principles can be applied to develop new business models, new value streams and partner models in logistics.

Market Insights

  • Contrary to business models based on owning assets and jobs, the sharing economy is all about having access to assets owned by others and jobs performed by others
  • By maximising the use of a product, the sharing economy improves return on investments, creates new revenue streams (from rental or from shared jobs, for example) and impacts positively on the environment
  • There is an increase in horizontal supply chain collaboration, where companies at the same level of the supply chain (between suppliers or between buyers, for example), establish partnerships to share resources
  • There is pressure to reduce emissions, increase delivery speed and customer satisfaction

Dateline for submission: 30 March 2018

Source: The Smart Logistics Challenge


Illustration Photo: Warehouse Robot (credits: Paul Marotta / Getty Images for TechCrunch / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

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