Trade fair logistics: The digitalisation of processes

A new era is well under way in trade fair and event logistics. The International Exhibition Logistics Association (IELA) will be focusing on this at its 2018 Congress in San Francisco. 

“On-site logistics also benefit from the digitisation of logistical processes,” says Schenker’s Roland Kreitmayr. (Photo: Michael Neuhaus)
“On-site logistics also benefit from the digitisation of logistical processes,” says Schenker’s Roland Kreitmayr. (Photo: Michael Neuhaus)

With preparations ongoing, TFI spoke with the association and two IELA members: Roland Kreitmayr, DB Schenker’s head of fairs and exhibitions and special transports for Germany and Switzerland, and Vincenzo Scrudato, managing director of DHL Trade Fairs & Events. 

TFI: Which parts of the trade fair logistics industry have been affected by digitalisation?

Roland Kreitmayr, DB Schenker’s head of fairs and exhibitions and special transports for Germany and Switzerland. (Photo: Schenker)
Roland Kreitmayr, DB Schenker’s head of fairs and exhibitions
and special transports for Germany and Switzerland. (Photo: Schenker)

Roland Kreitmayr, DB Schenker: Digitalisation has affected all parts of the trade fair logistics industry: from quotation preparation to customs clearance. Digitalisation is evident not just in commercial, administrative processes such as pre-carriage planning and scheduling but also at the operational level of day-to-day business. Electronic export declarations and electronic customs clearance systems are being used in more and more countries, and the main legs of journeys are being booked electronically with shipping companies and airlines. On-site logistics are also benefiting from the digitalisation of logistics processes: truck and forklift control systems permit faster loading and unloading, thus making it possible to cope with short construction and dismantling periods, storage is monitored by means of electronic warehouse management systems, and electronic job scheduling tools support all logistics services at the trade fair centre. For the customer, that means increased convenience and greater clarity. Order acceptance at the customer’s exhibition stand on a tablet computer in real time is just one example of the many ways in which digitalisation benefits customer service.

Vincenzo Scrudato, DHL: Our work is now shaped by digitalisation right up to the “last mile”. Efficient order processing requires IT-supported processes. Errors are thus avoided and costs optimised. Moreover, customers these days almost invariably expect electronic consignment tracking with status messages. And processes that have been manual up to now, such as consignment measurement, can now be executed more quickly, easily and accurately using the latest technology. We are already using this technology successfully for incoming and outgoing goods at trade fair centres and have had nothing but good experiences; it has also been well received by customers.

What advantages does digitalisation bring?

Roland Kreitmayr: Digitalisation brings many advantages in trade fair logistics – not just for exhibitors but for organisers and freight forwarding companies as well. As far as customers are concerned, both the clarity offered by tracking and the new forms of customer service that are now possible are clear advantages. Organisers get the support of flexible professional logistics partners, who can respond quickly when unforeseen changes occur, whether these are changes in the weather or changes to security provisions. These adjustments to processes can be made quickly and easily using the electronic systems. We are constantly faced with new challenges as a result of having to handle increasing volumes in less and less space, because logistics space is being reduced for exhibition space. However, digital processes such as electronic advice notes, electronic order management, truck or forklift control systems, electronic customs clearance and tracking help us to implement simpler, more efficient processes and faster information streams.

Vincenzo Scrudato, managing director DHL Trade Fairs & Events. (Photo: DHL)
Vincenzo Scrudato, managing director DHL Trade Fairs & Events. (Photo: DHL)

Vincenzo Scrudato: First and foremost, we focus on our customers. We always ask ourselves the same question: how can we make our customers more successful? With this as our guiding principle, we find solutions that our customers not only really appreciate but also make good use of: in order to let us know their requirements quickly and easily, spend more time on their core competency and thus be more successful. We at DHL have been using digital solutions in our internal processes for years now, and we also offer digital solutions for order processing with customers in order to make everything as clear as possible and ensure the highest possible level of user friendliness. For us there is another big advantage: we can access our systems wherever we are and thus benefit from these innovative systems when we are at trade fairs, for example.

Are there also disadvantages?

Roland Kreitmayr: A lot of investment is required to maintain the systems, keep them constantly updated and ensure they can communicate with the existing systems of trade fair companies and suppliers, for example. It’s a very dynamic situation, and the shelf life of the systems and networks must always be considered when investments are made.

Vincenzo Scrudato: Of course, every innovation brings with it dangers and risks. There is always a downside as well; every innovation is associated with certain risks. Anyone who ignores this or is naive in their approach risks a great deal. We have had effective processes and safety latches for years that give us virtually total protection against most dangers, so the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages. We do not shy away from making investments in technology and personnel. For us, quality and people take priority.

What challenges does digitalisation present to IELA members among themselves? And what can the IELA do as an association to help them meet these challenges?

Elizabeth Niehaus, IELA Executive Officer. (Photo: IELA)
Elizabeth Niehaus, IELA Executive Officer. (Photo: IELA)

Elizabeth Niehaus, IELA executive officer: We currently have 165 members in 55 countries. Each country has different standards and, consequently, different IT solutions. That is why our network is so important, offering a place in which to meet others and a discussion platform. The industry is undergoing a transformation affecting the people, structures and processes involved in it. IELA, members, organisers and exhibitors are all having to adapt to this. As an association it is our duty to face up to the challenges of our times and help our members to adapt to the coming changes. At our annual IELA Congress we address(ed) very important issues: Safety and Security in Dublin in 2016, for example, and service in Prague in 2017. In 2018, San Francisco and Silicon Valley will offer the ideal surroundings in which to approach the subject of Digitalisation.

Roland Kreitmayr: The different legal frameworks in different countries have a huge impact on the processes. Moreover, there are still no standards in place enabling efficient data interchange with our partners around the world.

Vincenzo Scrudato: I don’t see any particular challenges arising from digitalisation. Instead, it is becoming even more evident that the changes currently taking place represent obstacles and risks. Different quality standards and codes of conduct are just two examples of this. A standardised interface for data interchange would be a desirable goal, for example, and the IELA could play a role here as a mediator.

What do customers expect these days?

Vincenzo Scrudato: That everything should be easy, fast, reliable, good and cost efficient (

Roland Kreitmayr: A comprehensive, hassle-free service that’s quick and easy to use. Good advice, rapid flows and return flows of information, whether that’s for quotations, order acknowledgements, awards of contracts, tracking or invoicing. And customers these days expect a 24/7 service. Despite digitalisation, the focus in our industry remains on people. A personal presence on site is therefore still indispensable. This gives customers (organisers or exhibitors) the sense of security and confidence they need (

TFI: Many thanks to all of you! 

In order to strengthen networking and worldwide partnerships in trade fair logistics, the industry gets together annually at the IELA Congress & Partnering Event. In 2018 it is taking place from 21 to 26 June in San Francisco (


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