Transport can be a competitive advantage
“Escalating expectations, new competition, a lack of transport infrastructure and warehousing, complex and intertwined market places, as well as a move back to regional trade are threatening the transport and logistics industry,” says Paul Stone, chief executive at DHL Supply Chain South Africa.
As the largest postal service in Europe and international supply chain provider, DHL is prepared for these threats. Its first strategy is to offer long-term partnerships. Stone uses the example of its client Unilever, which has been with DHL for about 21 years.
“We do not want to be a contract logistics company that has a three-year deal with clients, then moves away. That makes no sense to us, as our business model is one of longevity. We want a customer base of a significant scale to which we can dedicate the correct resources and infrastructure,” Stone explains.
This trusted partnership with Unilever has resulted in DHL Supply Chain running Unilever factories. However, longevity is not the only solution. The company is also looking at ways to improve its services. One way in which it plans to achieve this is through technological innovations.
Currently, the company has drones in some South African distribution centres that are used for counting inventory. It also has robots assisting workers in Europe and utilises intelligent glassware technology in eastern Africa. DHL also offers innovative financing solutions to its clients.
“The years of just supplying transport are past,” comments Ole Trumpfheller, vice president of business development at DHL Supply Chain South Africa.
He says: “Conversations have turned away from transport solutions to financing solutions. These are only a few of the various strategic plans to increase efficiency and gain competitive advantage.” The men note, however, that one challenge still remains.
“In tough times the first thing clients will put a squeeze on is transport and logistics,” Stone explains.
“Often companies fail to see the advantages that efficient transport and logistics can offer the business. Having no products on the shelves or delivering goods late can lead to a loss in sales. Transport is often seen as a commodity, whereas it should be seen as a competitive advantage,” concludes Trumpfheller.