Rhenus is Keen on Air Freight

Cargo activities are a main business pillar of Rhenus Logistics. The group with a total headcount of 25,000 generated sales of €4.2 billion in 2014.
We spoke with Executive Board member Tobias Bartz about the role airfreight plays for his company, intentions to broaden the international reach and the growing importance for logistics firms to offer clients sustainable transport solutions.

Tobias Bartz  -  courtesy Rhenus
Tobias Bartz - courtesy Rhenus

Q: What’s the overall role of airfreight for your group’s entire business? Did cargo increase lately, remain stable or fall behind other segments of Rhenus commercial activities?

A: In close coordination with our clients Rhenus always tries to find the appropriate and best suited transport solutions for each individual customer on a broad intermodal basis. Speaking about airfreight I can confirm that this specific segment has gained importance within our service portfolio during recent times. This, because shorter cycle times within a globalized economy demand fast transports spanning great distances. We have responded to this trend by identifying innovative and improved offers to the market by our business unit Air & Ocean. This also includes appointing managers responsible for enhancing and further developing individual cargo products within given markets, whose job is further to negotiate and conclude contracts and consolidate volumes.

Q: What’s the cargo ratio on Rhenus’ total turnover?

A: As family-run enterprise Rhenus is subdivided into numerous divisions. For classification reasons I can say that air freight contributed between 40 to 50 percent to the total turnover of our unit Air & Ocean.  

Q: Could you identify main competitive advantages over your competitors if there are any?

A: We consider ourselves as a customer focused service provider that takes its time to develop tailored transport solutions together and in accord with our clients that best suit their individual needs. It goes far beyond offering certain systems but includes a pragmatic way to successfully develop logistics chains focused on their specific requirements. We aim at engaging in strategic partnerships with our customers, including carriers flying the goods. This trust-building approach offers in our opinion future innovation potential for making processes even more efficient which all participants are capitalizing on. 


Q: Which are the markets Rhenus is having a strong position. Where is further need for action?

A: Within Europe we are well placed in Germany and Spain but also particularly in the Dutch market. There, we are among the top cargo agents according to IATA rankings. In future, we intend to penetrate Italy, France and the UK even more effectively. Generally speaking, we identified Asia as region for achieving the highest growth rates, particularly when it comes to air freight. In addition to our successful business in Greater China we intend to gain a stronger foothold in India, Thailand and Singapore. In addition we are looking at Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Zurich-based handling agent Cargologic is part of Rhenus Logistics  - source: hs
Zurich-based handling agent Cargologic is part of Rhenus Logistics - source: hs

Q: There are still white spots on Rhenus’ global landscape. Which way do you intend filling them, by growing organically, through mergers or cooperation with local partners?

A:  In the Western hemisphere, particularly in North and Latin America but also South Africa we cooperate confidentially with partnering firms or agents. Our claim is that clients don’t notice any difference in product quality, no matter if Rhenus’ own staff is taking care of their cargo consignments or a partnering company outside our organization. Accordingly, we will decide based on circumstances and situations and in accord with other Rhenus business units where to establish our own stations or rather cooperate with partners.

Q: Does Rhenus prefer collaborating with a selected number of preferred carriers to obtain the best possible transport quality or are financial terms like low rates the main driver for deciding which airline is handed over your consignments?

A: You are right, we follow a consistent preferred carrier policy, since we appreciate the value of such partnerships, allowing us to offer our clients reliable services on a high level. But being a commercial enterprise it goes without saying that prices play an important role as well. Generally speaking I like to stress that cooperating with major carriers, utilizing their quality and efficiency enables us to continuously improving our services, drive innovation forward and creates potential for greater cost efficiency.

Q: Which efforts have been made by Rhenus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while designing and implementing customized supply chains, including air transportation, and what role do environmental issues play for your company’s strategy in total?

A: When developing our business portolio we pay attention to sustainable transport services, handling operations and storage procedures. We are convinced that environmental protection is not a marketing tool but is an issue of present-day practice. For example, in air freight we try to reduce our paper consumption by implementing E-freight wherever possible for documenting and transmitting required data. Similarly, we try to minimize energy consumption in our existing logistics centers or when building new ones by implementing new technical procedures. A prime example of this approach is our cargo terminal at Amsterdam Schiphol airport that is a classic example of a resource-protecting operation of a logistics center. I like to add to this that our cooperation with preferred carriers that are committed to a sustainable strategy helps to up these airlines’ market share.

Interview: Heiner Siegmund

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