Logistics Industry in Germany: Our Industry Report

Logistics Industry Report

Listenchampion Sector Reports (Part 4)
The logistics industry in Germany: turnover, statistics, background

Germany is the logistics world champion – this is due, among other things, to its central graphic location in Europe but also to its highly qualified logistics services. The logistics industry is the largest economic sector in Germany and is a strongly growing sector with a workforce of around 3 million. With about 25% of the turnover shares in the whole of Europe (in 2019) which Germany will have generated ~279 billion €, the German logistics market has a strong weight. Germany also holds a leading position internationally in infrastructure quality and logistics technology. However, the logistics sector is not only extremely relevant for Germany because of the high number of employees and turnover shares – highly efficient logistics structures enable the sector to be internationally competitive and enable foreign trade of German goods. The following sector report provides detailed insights into areas of activity and innovations in the logistics sector, the most important locations, key financial figures and insights into the gender ratio and efforts in the area of sustainability [1 & 2].

1) Fields of activity of the German logistics industry: What is produced?

The logistics industry is made up of six major market sectors, which include various market segments. The six market segments, listed here according to their turnover figures in 2016, are Contract Logistics, Land Transport, Location-based Logistics, International Forwarding, CEP (Courier Express Parcel) and Bulk – Bulk Logistics refers to bulk goods logistics including inland shipping [3]. In the following, the five largest market sectors will be presented in order to gain an insight into this broadly diversified industry.

Contract logistics

transportContract logistics is by far the largest market sector in the German logistics industry. Contract logistics refers to business transactions that are individually tailored to customer needs – these services usually go beyond basic logistics services. Due to this high level of complexity, service provider and customer often work together closely and on a long-term basis, which is a great advantage for the service provider. One of the largest german logistic companies, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics SE & Co. KG, iis also one of the leading contract logistics companies in the world. The GmbH & Co. KG offers customised logistics strategies along the entire supply chain. Contract logistics naturally draws on a wide range of different areas of the logistics industry, so Hellmann also offers a wide range of possible services: starting with incoming and outgoing goods, commissioning (compiling goods and merchandise according to given orders), value-added services and inventory management solutions.

Picture Source: Wolfgang Hasselmann (@wolfgang_hasselmann) | Unsplash Photo Community

Land transport

Logistik Branchenreport: LandverkehrThe second largest sector of the (German) logistics industry is land transport. Land transport, as the name suggests, refers to the transport of goods on land by road or rail. One of the largest Players in the logistic industry is without a doubt the Schenker Deutschland AG – dtransport logistics, especially in the field of land transport, is the speciality of the AG. The solutions offered include classic parcel shipments as well as System Freight or Direct Freight. With System Freight, national and international shipments of general cargo are offered, with Direct Freight full-load or part-load transports. In addition, Schenker Deutschland AG offers multimodal solutions, i.e. the linking of various modes of transport. The land transport sector also includes special cargo transport – especially for liquid and bulk goods – as well as crane services for heavy goods [3].

Picture Source: Unsplash 

Location-based logistics

Location-based logistics includes all so-called terminal operations: these include terminal services, warehousing, handling and other value-added logistics services related to terminals. A terminal is defined as an area or place used as a route for the handling of the transport process (loading and/or unloading of freight). A subgroup of site-bound logistics is site-bound (intra-) logistics. This is mainly focused on devices/products used within a warehouse system. This includes, for example, conveyor belt systems or industrial trucks (forklift trucks) as well as modern driverless transport systems. The Rhenus Logistics SE & Co. KG, one of the top 5 German logistics companies, offers a wide range of handling services in its terminals, such as scanning of goods, photo documentation, EDI interfaces that enable electronic and fully automatic data exchange, and truck weighing.

International Forwarding

Branchenreport Logistik: International ForwardingInternational Forwarding is mainly concerned with sea freight and air freight. The air freight sector in Germany is largely handled by the Lufthansa Cargo AG, among the top 3 German logistics companies. The AG offers a wide range of solutions based on the requirements of the goods – from standard freight, temperature-stable transport, dangerous and endangered goods, expired goods, live animals or emergency transport, everything is included. There is a similar range in aviation – under the DHL Global Forwarding division,  DHL International GmbH offers transports of liquids & flexitanks, transport of oversized goods, temperature-controlled shipments, customer-specific freight consolidation as well as full container load and less-than-container load.

Picture Source: Lufthansa Cargo AG

CEP – Courier Express Package

Logistik Branchenreport: KEPCEP stands for Courier Express Parcel Service – the companies operating in this sector are therefore postal and logistics companies. CEP services often operate in the customer area and mainly transport unpalletised items. The Hermes Europe GmbH is one of the largest providers of courier express parcel services. In addition to transport logistics and global e-commerce, the company offers parcel delivery services – from classic parcel deliveries to bulky shipments such as furniture in 2-man handling as well as shipments in Europe.

Picture Source: Hermes Europe GmbH


Our list of the 200 largest logistics companies in Germany provides a detailed directory of German logistics companies and their segments.

Innovations, trends and growth drivers in the industry

As a key industry, the logistics sector is affected by almost all social and economic developments. These include, on the one hand, the progressing globalisation, digitalisation and technology, but also developments such as the use of scarcer resources or increased customer requirements [6]. In the following, developments and innovations in 3 interrelated areas are presented: Global supply chain management, urban logistics and intralogistics.

Picture Source: Ruchindra Gunasekara (@ruchindra) | Unsplash Photo Community

In global supply chain management, digitalisation, especially through big data applications and cloud platforms, opens up completely new opportunities. Although the new volumes of data present the logistics industry worldwide with technical challenges, the intensive use of these promises increased efficiency: for example, by means of seamless monitoring, cooling chains can be checked by temperature probes, shipment processes can be monitored permanently while transhipment and intermediate storage are in progress – this possibility of seamless monitoring offers strong potential for optimisation, both in processes and in resource utilisation or process quality. Serious disruptions can be identified and remedied, overloading or underloading can be detected and managed by redistribution. Both in the field of global supply chain management and in the field of urban logistics, the term “Industry 4.0”, as used in the report on the German mechanical engineering industry, plays a major role.

In urban logistics, for example, there is the implementation of e-mobility, new delivery technologies such as drones or autonomous vehicles. A good example of this is the Sennder GmbH, a logistics company based in Berlin. The “digital freight forwarder” enables optimal capacity utilisation and complete transparency of supply chains, among other things, by networking their vehicles, and provides drivers with mobile applications. Another possibility in the field of digitalisation would be route optimisation through artificial intelligence.

Industry/Logistics 4.0 also comes into its own in the field of intralogistics: autonomous industrial trucks, self-controlling containers, simplified inventory through the use of drones or the application of virtual or augmented reality holds great potential to change the logistics sector for the long term.

The term logistics 4.0 is also used by Fraunhofer Institut für Materialfluss und Logistik (Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics) which offer advice in this area. Work is also being done internally on solutions and technologies – for example, the Fraunhofer Institute has developed the “Multishuttle Move®” conceptualised and implemented. The Multishuttle Move can be used for classic storage and retrieval orders as well as for internal transport. The vehicles can move freely in the warehouse and thus all transports can be covered by an autonomous swarm of vehicles. The system is efficient: in one picking test run, 50 Multishuttle Movers handled up to 2,000 containers per hour. Exciting is also the RackRacer -the system “climbs” and moves up and down autonomously, even diagonally. The RackRacer thus enables a direct route to any storage location – this is revolutionary, as the technology means that no lift or additional rails are required. Another interesting system of intralogistics is the InventAIRy – autonomous flying robots equipped with sensors that can read barcodes and RFID chips and thus redesign the inventory.

Logistics Growth Drivers

2) Map of logistics companies: Where is the production?

Logistics Hubs in Germany: North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria

Logistics Industry ReportA look at the map of German logistics companies reveals a clear distribution: almost 17% (41 companies) of the 200 largest logistics companies in Germany are located in North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria. Together with Baden-Württemberg, the industrial locations unite almost 50% of the largest German logistics companies.

North Rhine-Westphalia is the leading German location – almost 16% of German exports come from NRW, and over 22% of German imports go to North Rhine-Westphalia. In 2015, the ~24,1000 logistics companies in the federal state generated almost 67 billion euros. The logistics sector is also indispensable as a labour market factor: around 364,000 people are employed in the core sector, with a further ~738,000 in the expanded logistics sector. The infrastructure is one of the best-connected: Two major airports, Düsseldorf Airport and Cologne Bonn Airport, provide the state with international connections to the world’s economic centres. It is hardly noticeable that the federal state has no access to coasts, as North Rhine-Westphalia is located on important European waterways, such as the Rhine. Road and rail links are also well connected and dense [7].

Bavaria as the second logistics hub in Germany generated about 18% of the total German turnover, which corresponds to 36 billion euros. As already noted in the industry reports of the mechanical engineering, medical technology and chemical sectors, many people in Bavaria work in the manufacturing industry – about 24% of the working population. The logistics sector employs over 400,000 people. Bavaria also has an outstanding infrastructure: with 24 ports, a 137,000 km long rail network and 3 international commercial airports, Bavaria is a large and important transhipment centre. The state also has high expectations for the future – Bavaria’s start-up culture is characteristic and also very active in the logistics sector [8].

Not surprisingly, the Hanseatic City of Hamburg is classified as the most important logistics city in Germany – in 2019, over 315,000 people worked (directly) in logistics. At the same time, Hamburg is considered to be highly dynamic and lies ahead of the Ruhr area or Stuttgart. Not just dynamic – smart too: according to the Smart City Index of 81 major German cities, Hamburg achieves top scores in all five subject areas (administration, IT & communications, energy & environment, mobility and society). Similar to Bavaria, Hamburg’s corporate culture is also characterised by its “start-up ecosystem” – 40% of the companies surveyed rate the ecosystem as good or very good [9].

Lists matching this industry report

3) Key financial figures of the logistics industry: What is the market volume?

Market volume

Companies with turnover below €1 billion (2018)

Sales development of the top 5

The figures are based on our database and can be found in the list of the top 200 logistics companies in Germany. The classification of the top 5 companies is based on this very database and the list of the Fraunhofer Arbeitsgruppe für Supply Chain Services in its annual study of the top 100 logistics companies.

Market volume and total turnover in the German logistics industry: 2015-2018

As already mentioned in the introduction, the logistics sector is a very important economic sector for Germany because of its employment effect and supply function. Germany is also one of the most important players in Europe – around 25% of the turnover generated is attributable to the German logistics industry [1]. The development of this position also looks promising: in 2016 the German logistics location came first in the World Bank study “Connecting to Compete 2016” – out of 160 countries. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure describes the logistics industry in Germany as a “very dynamic and above-average growing future market” [2]. This is also reflected in the sales development of the top 200 in Germany: especially from 2016-2017, an extremely large jump in growth of a full 9% can be seen, and based on the available data from our database, constant, high growth can be expected in other areas as well.

The graphs are based on our list of the top 200 logistics companies in Germany. Our database contains the total turnover of the companies, therefore there may be deviations from figures on turnover only in the logistics sector.

Competition analysis: What is the market structure in the logistics industry?

The logistics sector, with 50% of all top 200 companies with less than 500 employees, still has a large SME sector, but this is far less prominent than, for example, in the medical technology sector or in the mechanical engineering sector, where the SME sector (companies <250/<500 employees) is between 70% and 90%. This is also reflected in the distribution of sales: the top 5 companies, measured by sales figures for 2018 (Deutsche Post AG Schenker Deutschland AG Rhenus Logistics SE & Co. KG Dachser SE Kühne + Nagel (AG & Co.) KG) account for 52% of total German sales. The top 10 even account for 82% of all sales.

Development of the German market leaders in the logistics industry

Deutsche Post AG is part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group – the beginnings go back to 1490, DHL is founded in 1969 and finally taken over by the German post office in 2002. Today the Deutsche Post DHL Group is the world’s leading postal company. The Group has 12,600 locations worldwide with over 545,000 employees. With 5 main pillars the group is broadly positioned: Post & Parcel Germany – here Deutsche Post accounts for over 60% of the market volume. Express, where various special transports are also offered, Global Forwarding & Freight (i.e. air freight, sea freight and land transport) – in air freight, Deutsche Post AG is the leading provider, Supply Chain, where DHL is also the leading provider and DHL eCommerce Solutions. As can be easily seen from the graph, Deutsche Post AG has by far the highest turnover and at the same time a stable development.

The origins of the Schenker Deutschland AG is located in Vienna – Gottfried Schenker founded the company Schenker & Co. there in 1872. In 2002, Deutsche Bahn AG took over Stinnes AG and thus went from being two leading logistics companies to one. Today DB Schenker is the leading company for global logistics services. The AG has more than 2,100 locations worldwide and employs around 77,000 people. The logistics company is divided into two overarching divisions: Land, Air & Sea is the first, Contract Logistics the second. The company also offers other logistics services: Lead logistics, special transports, trade fair logistics, removals, sports and event logistics, art logistics are just a few of them. The diversification seems to be paying off: Similar to Deutsche Post AG, the company has a stable, steady growth.

The Rhenus Logistics SE & Co. KG was already founded in 1912 and is one of the top 3 German logistics companies. 33,000 employees work for the group in 750 locations. The company offers a wide variety of solutions ranging from multimodal transport, warehousing & customs clearance to innovative value-added services. These services focus on three different services: Custom supply chain, warehousing and transport. In the area of Custom Supply Chain, the portfolio also includes port, offshore and automotive logistics in addition to industry solutions. The Group takes an innovative approach to warehousing and offers innovations such as autonomous reach trucks, robot-supported storage and order-picking systems or optimisation of storage systems using Big Data. The transport division offers all areas of transportation: air, land and sea freight is provided by the company. Rhenus is also developing along with the logistics sector and is growing steadily.

The Dachser SE based in Kempten was founded as early as 1930. The company’s portfolio is broad, but can be divided into the following categories: on the one hand, services are offered in European logistics; air and sea freight are also separate pillars, as are rail services and food logistics. In addition, there are services and solutions within contract logistics, information logistics, quality management and, finally, assistance with customs and foreign trade compliance. Dachser’s DIY logistics offer is also particularly exciting – the availability of various services enables customers to put together an industry-specific and individual solution. Although Dacher SE’s growth is increasing in smaller steps, it is also very stable.

The Kühne + Nagel (AG & Co.) KG was founded in 1890 and has developed from a traditional forwarding agent to a global logistics partner with over 130 locations employing around 15,000 people. The company is a global leader in worldwide sea freight forwarding. In addition to sea freight, the AG & Co. KG also offers various other transport solutions, such as air freight, land transport or rail transport. The portfolio also includes supply chain services such as contract logistics or order management and industry solutions – including space travel. Kuehne + Nagel (AG & Co.) KG is also a logistics company characterised by stable and constant growth.

4) Gender balance and sustainability

Share of women on management boards

Gender distribution in the logistics industry

According to statistics from the Federal Employment Agency 2015, the proportion of women in the logistics sector in 2007-2015 fluctuates between approximately 27%-30% [10]. If we look at the boards of the top 5 German logistics companies (Deutsche Post AG Schenker Deutschland AG Rhenus Logistics SE & Co. KG Dachser SE Kühne + Nagel (AG & Co.) KG), it is striking that out of 26 board members only one person is female – that is not even 4%. This is below the German average for the gender distribution on management boards, which was ~7% in 2018 [11].

The data for the graphics and the text are taken from our database and refer exclusively to the (managing) directors. If you would like to know more about the gender distribution in German industry, you will find more information in our Chemical Report, our Market Analysis Mechanical Engineering and our Medical Technology Market Analysis.

Sustainability in the German logistics industry:

According to a survey by the German Logistics Association (BVL), for the majority (93%) of people working in logistics, sustainability means “acting responsibly and with a view to the future, with an eye to the environment, the economy and society”. The majority of those questioned still say that sustainability in the logistics industry “(…) is of strategic importance and has an influence on the business model, organisation and processes” – so how does the logistics industry implement these efforts? The experts see the greatest potential for sustainable action in the vehicle fleet (34%) and in corporate culture and human resources management (33%) [12].

Logistik Industrie Deutschland: Unser BranchenreportSustainability in the vehicle fleet can be achieved through various approaches – optimised capacity utilisation to avoid unnecessary routes and vehicles, communication between vehicles to optimise route utilisation and avoid traffic jams, or the possibility to start directly with the vehicles. Recently, many large logistics/postal companies have made headlines with their own e-fleets – Amazon, for example, has ordered 100,000 e-vans from Auto-Start up Rivian, all of which are to be used by the end of 2021 [13]. In Germany, DHL sets the tone – with street scout vehicles, 12,000 e-bikes and e-trikes developed and produced in-house, the group owns the largest e-flot in Germany. The trend is also reflected in the increasing number of start-ups in this field.An interesting one is the Start-up Volta Trucks from England. The product is an all-electric city truck whose body is made from naturally renewable flax fibres and biodegradable resin composite soot. According to the start-up, the Volta Truck can reduce CO2 emissions by over 75%.

Logistik Industrie in Deutschland: Unser BranchenreportSustainability in corporate culture and human resources management is of course a broad field – from avoiding flight routes to training and paperless work. The Start-up essDOCs from Malta offers just that – a completely digitalised corporate culture. essDOCs has various solutions for this, especially CargoDOCs is relevant for the logistics industry. The CargoDOCS platform is web-based and secure and digitises all necessary steps in document work, starting with creation & approval up to exchange & global transfer of the original electronic documents. A big problem is of course, as in every industry, the high consumption of plastics, especially disposable plastics. Startups like Notpla give hope that this pollution problem can be solved in the near future. Notpla, again a startup from England, produces a plastic substitute from algae that is completely degradable and even edible in a very short time.

5) Statistics and facts in the logistics sector

  • The five largest market sectors of logistics are: Contract logistics, land transport, location-based logistics, international forwarding and CEP (Courier-Express-Parcel)
  • Logistics 4.0 is characterised by Big Data, e-mobility, autonomous and networked vehicles and automation
  • North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg as the most important logistics locations in Germany
  • Turnover in the logistics sector is rising steadily and strongly
  • The market leaders are large corporations, the top 5 in Germany are Deutsche Post AG Schenker Deutschland AG Rhenus Logistics SE & Co. KG Dachser SE Kühne + Nagel (AG & Co.) KG
  • The logistics sector is very male dominated
  • Logistics experts regard sustainability in the vehicle fleet and corporate culture as the most important
  • Start-ups such as Volta Trucks, essDOCs and Notpla are opportunities to improve the CO2 balance

Article Picture: Unsplash

Sources (last accessed on 20.11.2020)

[1] https://www.bvl.de/service/zahlen-daten-fakten/umsatz-und-beschaeftigung#:~:text=Bedeutung der Logistik für die deutsche Wirtschaft&text=Rund 279 Milliarden Euro Umsatz,25 Prozent einen hohen Anteil

[2] https://www.bmvi.de/DE/Themen/Mobilitaet/Gueterverkehr-Logistik/Logistikstandort-Deutschland/logistikstandort-deutschland.html

[3] https://www.scs.fraunhofer.de/content/dam/scs/de/dokumente/studien/FraunhoferSCS_Top100_DE_2016_Auszug.pdf

[4] https://www.scs.fraunhofer.de/content/dam/scs/DE/publikationen/studien/maerkte-standorte-logistik/Branchenanalyse_Kontraktlogistik_Studie_FraunhoferSCS.pdf

[5] http://www.logistikweisen.de/wAssets/docs/ergebnisbericht-logistikweisen-2020.pdf

[6] https://www.lead-innovation.com/blog/trends-logistik

[7] https://www.logit-club.de/1/logistik-am-standort-nrw/zahlen-/-daten-/-fakten

[8] https://www.invest-in-bavaria.com/branchenvielfalt/logistik.html

[9] https://www.hamburg-logistik.net/fileadmin/user_upload/aktuelles/Publikationen/LogistikReport/2019_2020/LIHH-Report_2019_20.pdf

[10] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338752784_Branchenanalyse_Logistik_Der_Logistiksektor_zwischen_Globalisierung_Industrie_40_und_Online-Handel

[11] https://de.statista.com/infografik/12465/geschlechterverteilung-in-deutschen-vorstaenden/

[12] https://www.bvl.de/nachhaltigkeit-umfrage

[13] https://www.handelsblatt.com/unternehmen/handel-konsumgueter/kleinlaster-grossbestellung-warum-amazon-ausgerechnet-bei-rivian-100-000-elektro-vans-bestellt-hat/25035726.html?ticket=ST-17064460-J3hv4Arw7nJc4pPPcANA-ap6

Iconsources (last accessed on 20.11.2020):

  1. LKW https://www.flaticon.com/authors/vignesh-oviyan
  2. Trash https://www.flaticon.com/authors/ddara
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