Cologne's logistics landscape: expert perspectives

 - KölnBusiness


Katja Wittke is responsible for the Logistics and Wholesale Industries at KölnBusiness. In an interview, the long-standing transport and logistics expert explains the potential she sees for Cologne as a logistics location.


What are the advantages of Cologne as a logistics location?

It's not just the Rhine, Europe's largest inland waterway, that has always made Cologne a commercial metropolis, but also its central location in the heart of Europe. Due to the proximity, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are closely linked economically. Cologne is therefore a hub for national and international goods traffic. Cologne's strength as a logistics location is based on its centrality and accessibility via all relevant, multimodal transport links: Cologne/Bonn airport, the ports of Cologne, the Eifeltor and Köln-Nord CT terminals. These location factors form the basis for a dense network of competitive logistics companies in and around Cologne, whose services are used by industry and trade.


How do you rate the conditions for logistics and wholesale in Cologne?

The conditions are ideal. This is why almost 5,000 logistics and retail companies with around 72,000 employees are based in Cologne. They generate an annual turnover of around 86 billion euros, making the sector the city's biggest in terms of turnover. The number of people employed in this sector has risen by around 22 per cent since 2008. This comes to show how Cologne punches above its weight as a global logistics capital. Eighteen of the 20 largest German logistics companies are based here. Everyone is here, or wants to be here. The reasons are obvious. Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, so it has a big local market for goods that are transported here and then consumed locally.


What innovative logistics and retail solutions are you currently seeing in Cologne?

Cologne is already very strong in the area of innovative retail logistics. There is also a lively startup scene in this area. Companies are trying to organise innovative and sustainable transport with electric cargo bikes and small electric vehicles. But the potential is far from exhausted. REWE, for example, is already testing an autonomous vehicle that will be used for deliveries in the future. Other pilot projects are also in the pipeline, including independent city logistics hubs. Over the next few years, we will be working with the city and companies to create a new overall network in Cologne. There are also initial projects for an e-commerce hub at the airport. We are therefore very positive about the future, especially as many startup companies are interested in moving to Cologne, even if they have their origins in Berlin. They want to tap into our attractive market and do business here. 


What are the most common concerns of entrepreneurs in this sector?

At KölnBusiness we often deal with relocations and business expansions. Every company wants to take advantage of the ideal location and infrastructure. However, there is hardly enough space in Cologne to meet the high demand from logistics companies that want to settle here. Not only large warehouses are in demand, but also small spaces that enable new, sustainable transport chains. KölnBusiness supports companies in their search for space.


How does KölnBusiness also contribute to the development of Cologne as a logistics location?

Another task of KölnBusiness is to network the various players, initiate projects and ensure that Cologne remains a sustainable logistics centre. I bring together different partners for innovative logistics and transport projects with the aim of stimulating new business models - be it in land use, the use of new technologies or the development of new business models. As a municipal 'subsidiary', I also work with the administration on the implementation of overarching urban or regional transport and logistics strategies. The current focus is on sustainable traffic avoidance concepts, digitalisation, and supply chain reorganisation.


Please outline your vision for Cologne as a logistics and wholesale centre in the next five years.

Thanks to its first-class conditions, Cologne will always be one of the leading logistics centres in Europe. That is our vision. It will continue to be the home of future-oriented and innovative companies, together with modern freight traffic management for the city. In the future, they will have a higher degree of digitalisation and will therefore continue to be able to offer high-quality jobs.


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