DHL Exec "We’re Entering Extremely Exciting Times for the Industry"
The below text is a Q&A with CEO of DHL Global Forwarding in the Americas region Tim Robertson. Herein, Mr Robertson outlines why the industry should be very excited about the future, as well as answering a series of questions on the move from a ‘just-in-time’ supply chain to a ‘just-in-case’ model.
1) Hi Tim, thanks for being with TLME today, can you start off by telling us how you see the future logistics landscape given the experiences of the last few years?
Hi, great to be with you. In answer to the question, in essence we’re looking at 4 key future trends right now. These are e-commerce, globalisation, sustainability, and digitalisation. These are going to be the key drivers in the industry for years to come as a more connected, more automated and more customer-centric sustainable supply chain takes centre-stage.
2) We’ve seen a lot of talk surrounding the move from a ‘just-in-time’ supply chain to a ‘just-in-case’ supply chain, is that influencing your thinking at DHL too?
In a word; yes. We’ve seen a significant shock to the system of the global supply chain in recent years and the pandemic showed us that the just-in-time supply chain was convenient, but not resilient. This means the whole sector is having to remodel how we conceptualise the supply chain and how we work.
When we look at our customers, we see that many are retooling and changing models. To keep pace with this, we’ve been working on a full suite that can operate in a multimodal environment. This allows customers visibility across land, sea and air and will allow us to stay malleable to the changing needs of our customers and the changing models of the market.
3) Well that certainly sounds very exciting and timely, are there any other exciting plans you can tell us about that DHL has in the pipeline?
Sure, DHL has long had the mantra ‘connecting people and improving lives’ and that has never been more relevant than today. Over the past year or so, in the Americas alone we delivered 250 million covid-19 vaccines while supporting other key regions such as the Middle East.
We also have somewhat shifted our strategic focus to delivering excellence in a digital world and one way in which we’re doing this is our new customer service agent AIDA. AIDA allows our customers to track their goods and deliveries, get vital FAQs answered in real-time and to get a whole host of key information immediately over platforms like WhatsApp.
On top of this, we’re also investing in industry verticals such as pharmaceuticals, cold-chain, warehousing & distribution, and e-commerce.
4) That’s very interesting here, what about supply chain visibility tech, are you investing more in that?
Yes, we are, and this is a very exciting space at the moment. Longer-term investments depend largely on the customer and market need, yet in the present we already have MyDHLi that gives customers the opportunity to get immediate quotations and to book services immediately. With regards to IoT (Internet of Things) technology, we’ve implemented CapTrack, which focuses on the temperature of cargo and the state of goods with an IoT tag built into the shipping label, while offering end-to-end visibility.
On that note, we’re really excited about the potentialities blockchain is offering as we believe this is the tech that can enable full end-to-end visibility across the whole chain – that includes ships, planes and ground-based transport methods.
The pandemic has been very hard for everyone globally, yet it has also forced our sector to collaborate on a new level, and we’ve never seen the convergence of technology as we have right now, along with such demand for new solutions. We really are at the precipice of major change and it’s extremely exciting for us and the sector at large.
5) So, if collaboration is to increase, how will competition of the future work?
In essence, future competition within the sector will be conducted on a different basis. A lot of the gains for companies will be in the ability and skill in extracting key trends in shared and stored data. Secondly, the new frontier for competition will be in how frontline operators interact with customers. The very frontline is where we’ll see the true dynamism and creativity fostering new working models and opportunities in real-time, so a lot will depend on which companies can nurture such relationships and how we work together.
6) Sustainability is a massive issue at the moment, in fact, it’s more than just an issue, it’s a demand. What is DHL doing in this regard, and is it coming from genuine concern or the demands of the global consensus?
Well, firstly, DHL engages in all of its sustainable operations because we are just as concerned about the planet as everyone else at the moment. This is evidenced by our major efforts reaching back more than a decade, long before the recent round of new legislation developed at COP26.
We’ve long-been engaging in tree planting in South America and the USA, as well as having a goal to hit net zero by 2050. In order to do this, we have several aims for 2030. What we want to do is burn clean and burn less and embrace sustainable fuels. Secondly, we want to have 60% of our fleet electrified by 2030 and every building we’re investing in to be carbon neutral. Finally, a very important step is that we have to embrace what is known as circularity.
Circularity is the practice of reusing, recycling, and refurbishing key products as we’re seeing in the consumer electronics and fashion sectors. In fact, DHL has already partnered with companies in the fashion sector in this regard. You may have noticed many DHL signs at Formula 1 races? Well, we’ve been working to repurpose these banners with names in the fashion sector to create luxury luggage and to highlight sustainability initiatives. It’s initiatives such as this we intend to continue.
7) Another major threat for the future is cybersecurity, how is DHL shaping up in that regard?
We’ve seen many major names be prey to cyberattacks and we are taking this very seriously. Obviously, I can’t say too much on what we’re doing technically, but we have rehearsed several scenarios to prepare ourselves for any eventuality.
8) Finally, what do you make of the Middle East region and Dubai?
Well, this is my first major trip outside of the Americas after the pandemic and it says something that it’s been to Dubai. Dubai has huge opportunities for investment between the Americas and the Middle East as each look to diversify its consumer base. DHL aims to play its role in facilitating this development and I foresee trade growing exponentially between the two regions.