Business Objects for Logistics

Data standard of the future

The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML develops a communication standard called »Business Objects for Logistics« (BO4L) in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Software and Systems Engineering ISST and the »EffizienzCluster LogistikRuhr«. The goal is the definition of the first independent data standard for logistic processes, which enables logistical IT applications from different vendors to interact with each other. The creation of entire process chains from various software modules (»apps«) and the integration of new applications into existing systems are significantly simplified. The results of the Fraunhofer Innovation Cluster »Cloud Computing for Logistics« build the basis for the development of the business objects standard. Business objects are required for implementation of extensive and modular IT solutions in logistics – especially in the context of cloud concepts, like the Logistics Mall: Due to the common standard implementing converters has become obsolete inside the Logistics Mall. All applications understand the same product independent language: »Business Objects for Logistics«.

The first productive use of the standard has already been started in the field of online retailing of drugstore products. Business objects facilitate a consistent and seamless communication between an online shop, an enterprise resource planning system and warehouse management system.

Factor of Success: Standardization

Logistic processes are highly dynamic and supported by numerous IT systems of various partners. In order to adapt a process according to current business requirements, the IT infrastructure has to be adequately flexible and modular. Large IT systems are increasingly divided into modular and flexible software modules (apps).

The business object model for logistics supports well-established standards. It standardizes the (data of) interfaces of all involved systems and reduces the cost of integration. This simplifies connecting and replacing IT systems of different producers and partners.

The Fraunhofer Institutes IML and ISST develop fine-grained business objects for Logistics serving as business-driven data transfer objects between the apps that have been composed to a logistics process. A »Business Object« (BO) represents an object of the business world, such as an item. It contains a structured set of attributes that provide a comprehensive description of the object for various use cases.
A business object can have a physical equivalent, like it has in case of an item. But also non-physical objects can be represented, such as a picking order. This enables business users to flexibly define process chains by individual process models.



So far interfaces had to be recreated or adjusted every time a process changed. However unified business objects enable a seamless communication between various apps and simplify the integration of new applications. In contrast to a continuous development of new interfaces and the revision of existing ones, an independent standard provides compatibility for current and future applications.