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Hyper agility.

MR. DIREKTOR: WILL WARR HYPERLOOP SOON BE BUILDING A TUBE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN AND TAKE THE TRANSATLANTIC BUSINESS AWAY FROM THE FREIGHT AIRLINES?
Paul Direktor: Perhaps next year. However, on a more serious note Hyperloop is not competing with airfreight. Moreover, in the future it could supplement it, for example as an express or supply solution to render airfreight hubs even more efficient.

Dorothea von Boxberg: Hyperloop could, in particular, replace transport operations on the road in particularly heavily congested transport areas. Short and medium-range routes are the field in which Hyperloop solutions could prove successful. One shouldn’t forget that Elon Musk’s longest tube is currently only a little more than one kilometer.

Paul Direktor: In Switzerland, a university team at ETH Zurich is already working on implementing a package transport system using vacuum pipe technology. It is called Swissloop and the Swiss are, of course, renowned for tunnel building.

Dorothea von Boxberg: Hyperloop is not a technology set to be commercialized on the market in the near future. However, the number of ideas that have been developed in that respect in the past few years is impressive. Hyperloop taking on the “last leg” from an airport to a major city could, for example, considerably speed up e-commerce consignments.

WHAT DO YOU FIND FASCINATING ABOUT THE “SPACEX HYPERLOOP POD COMPETITION”?
Paul Direktor: It gives us the opportunity to build something completely new. We are, so to speak, spearheading technical innovation. Following the initial successes, industry started to take an interest in and support us. Practical experience like that is not taught at university. Simply fantastic.

Dorothea von Boxberg: It is fascinating to see how these selforganized student teams have developed their ideas with such success, above all if I compare that with the typical project periods in major groups.

WHAT WAS THE CRUCIAL EXPERIENCE FOR YOU WHEN YOUR STUDENT INITIATIVE SUDDENLY HAD TO COLLABORATE WITH SUPPORTERS FROM INDUSTRY?

Paul Direktor: The times. Internal processing times of more than four weeks for example are completely normal for invoices at many companies. In such a four-week period just about anything can happen to us.

WHAT IS NEW ABOUT THE CURRENT HYPERLOOP CONCEPTS COMPARED TO THOSE 15 YEARS AGO SUCH AS THE CARGO CAP, WHICH WE HAVE REPORTED ON IN “PLANET” IN THE PAST?
Paul Direktor: Above all the vacuum technology, which facilitates far higher speeds, is new. In addition, the commitment of a renowned entrepreneur, i.e. in our case Elon Musk, who with lasting effect supports the implementation and attracts global attention.

CRITICS SAY MUSK IS MAKING TOO MUCH OF A SONG AND DANCE ABOUT IT
Paul Direktor: That’s something people need to decide for themselves. At any rate I am fascinated by his successes – how he manages to revolutionize the market with his electric cars, that’s great. As soon as the mass production problems are ironed out we’ll see how good he really is. SpaceX has already generated profits for a number of years too.

Dorothea von Boxberg: He is an impressive visionary. Many of his ideas are not incremental improvements, but moreover moonshot ideas. The path to a sustainable business in that respect is significantly more difficult than in the case of smaller innovations. His company Tesla has definitely seriously shaken up the automotive industry.

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A part of the team with their current pod, which in July this year won the 3rd Hyperloop Pod Competition achieving a speed of 467 km/h. In addition to the speed team, WARR Hyperloop has a levitation team, which was similarly successful and intends to make use of the Transrapid technology.

WHAT INTERESTS DO LUFTHANSA CARGO AND WARR HYPERLOOP SHARE? DO YOU INTEND TO INVEST MS. VON BOXBERG?
Dorothea von Boxberg: WARR Hyperloop is a student initiative, not a start-up. Accordingly at present we couldn’t make an investment. We are supporting the students because we are interested in exchanging ideas about technology and people who demonstrate commitment and such great skills.

Paul Direktor: Lufthansa Cargo is a global company with a good network. We are interested in exchanging know-how and developing first business cases for Germany.

SO IT’S NOT ONLY ABOUT PR?
Paul Direktor: PR plays a part but isn’t everything. It must be interesting for Lufthansa Cargo and for the entire logistics sector to know what is happening in the Hyperloop industry to react accordingly in good time.

Dorothea von Boxberg: We had already established contact with the WARR Hyperloop team before the sponsored events. But if someone wants to interpret that simply as PR I won’t disabuse them of that notion.

WHAT INNOVATIVE IDEAS IN THE LOGISTICS SECTOR BEYOND HYPERLOOP DO YOU CURRENTLY FIND EXCITING?
Paul Direktor: There are lots of ideas. I believe Blockchain has great potential for validating delivery chains. That is exciting for the airfreight sector, which is strongly characterized by the division of labour and has many players who are widely spread. Amazon’s Beehive could revolutionize warehouse logistics. This also includes the swarm intelligence of drones.

 

HOWEVER, THE LOGISTICS SECTOR IS NOT EXACTLY REGARDED AS A MODEL OF INNOVATIVE PASSION 
Dorothea von Boxberg: True. Some topics really take forever. For example the roll-out of the eAir Waybill. Paul Direktor: All sectors are currently undergoing significant changes as a result of digitization. Logistics are no exception and will need to adjust accordingly.

Dorothea von Boxberg: We are doing that. I believe artificial intelligence is the technology that we will use first at Lufthansa Cargo. In that respect among other things this means self-learning algorithms can determine prices and automatically allocate freight to free capacities. Some of our services are already being rendered via API interfaces and these are used by several platforms to present an overview so that ranges can be compared. In other industries that’s nothing special. However, in airfreight it is quite innovative. My general aim consists of making our range available to our customers effectively and simply. We have quite a lot of work ahead of us. 

WHAT DID YOUR VISIT TO WARR HYPERLOOP MEAN FOR YOU IN RESPECT OF ADDRESSING THE CURRENT LUFTHANSA CARGO AGENDA? 
Dorothea von Boxberg: The spirit is great and it supplements that of the legendary cargo very well. At present we are working on making our range more digital and more easily available. The airfreight industry has, to date, been characterised by a large number of manual processes: booking, quoting prices and the information flow, which accompanies a physical consignment. As a result our customers do not receive real time information. Often transparency is lacking and mistakes are made. We hope to improve that significantly in the next few years.

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The first WARR Hyperloop pod was a success thanks to its design. At the front it has a compressor that minimizes the air resistance in a partial vacuum tube.

MS. VON BOXBERG, YOU ARE THE NEW EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER AND CHIEF COMMERCIAL OFFICER. WHAT CAN ONE LEARN FOR THE PRODUCT FROM INITIATIVES SUCH AS WARR HYPERLOOP OR STARTUPS?
Dorothea von Boxberg: Successful products are geared towards customers’ requirements and are supplied in the promised quality. Start-ups show us that a product doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect when it is launched on the market for the first time. Valuable experience can, in fact, be gained with a quick “minimum viable product” while the product can then be further improved. In that respect customers only need to know what they are letting themselves in for.

IS AN EXCHANGE WITH A START-UP IMPORTANT TO BE OF INTEREST TO TALENTED YOUNG PROFESSIONALS?
Dorothea von Boxberg: “Employer branding” is not the principal aspect of our exchange. We attach prime importance to the actual ideas, technologies, approach, the fact that fast growth is possible and the working method. On occasion in our sector we have grown too accustomed to the fact that things require a certain time. It is very refreshing to realize that students or start-ups prove the opposite is the case. Being in the company of “digital natives” is also good training for me personally.

AT PRESENT THE NEWS IS INCREASINGLY CHARACTERIZED BY NEGATIVE ECONOMIC REPORTS SUCH AS PUNITIVE TARIFFS AND EU SCEPTICISM ETC. IS THERE ANY ROOM LEFT FOR INNOVATORS LIKE YOU MR. DIREKTOR? 
Paul Direktor: A functioning market economy should always have room for innovation and an atmosphere for change. Otherwise that would be a very bad sign. 

ARE YOU INVOLVED IN WARR HYPERLOOP TO GET RICH AT SOME POINT? 
Paul Direktor: No. I am enthusiastic about the project. At present, in addition to our university courses we work on the project in our leisure time, many of us for more than 60 hours each week – even though we are not paid for it. 

IS A CULTURAL CHANGE POSSIBLE IN A TRADITIONAL COMPANY SUCH AS LUFTHANSA CARGO? 
Dorothea von Boxberg: We have changed a great deal in the last few years: the organization, our processes, we collaborate with start-ups in a more targeted manner and in the case of projects we are increasingly moving from a waterfall approach to agile development. And the change will continue – we are in the middle of it. 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME!

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That also impressed Elon Musk: WARR Hyperloop’s third pod was faster than the pusher pod of SpaceX and Tesla.

Photos: WARR Hyperloop, Matthias Aletsee

Planet 2/2018