DHL Express’s new Brussels hub was officially opened on 22 February. The volume handled at the new centre today is already larger than at the time when Brussels was still the company’s main European intercontinental hub.
Upgrading the operation
CEO Ken Allen said that the new Brussels complex is part of a larger infrastructure upgrading operation. DHL Express is also investing in newer and larger aircraft and a state-of-the-art IT network. And more investments are in the pipeline, he indicated. In this way the company tries to keep pace with its growth, which has been more than 7% over the last 13 months. “It is not only the traditional B2B business that is bouncing back. On top of that there are the small and middle-sized enterprises that can expand globally thanks to our services.”
The new facility has been operational since September 2017, but apparently the company wanted to wait until this year to set up its official inauguration. As CEO Benelux Danny Van Himste pointed out, the company is sort of celebrating its 40th year of presence in Belgium this year. The Brussels hub was set up 33 years ago.
42 daily flights in and out connect BRU to other destinations in Europe as well as the rest of the world. There is a daily flight to the company’s American hub in Cincinnati, as well as to Lagos and Bahrain (via Bergamo). Asian destinations are served through Leipzig, which took over Brussels’ role as intercontinental hub in 2007. Between 50 and 60% of all the packages arriving in BRU are subsequently on-forwarded to a further destination.
Koen Gouweloose, Vice-President of the Brussels hub said that the new facility ensures the capacity necessary for growth. When planning the new infrastructure he was convinced that it would create 200 direct jobs (and 200 indirect ones as well) by 2020. “I am happy to say that we have already reached that number at the end of last year,” he said.
At a cost of €140 million, a sum that includes lease expenditures, the Brussels hub is the biggest investment in the BRU cargo area over the last 40 years. The facility has a handling capacity of 42,000 shipments per hour. It is equipped with two fully automated sorting systems - one for big and one for small parcels. Its 36,500 m² space (including offices) almost quadruples the capacity. This catapults Brussels into the top five most important gateways operated by DHL Express worldwide.
“Which means that the European Distribution Centre based in Belgium will be able to grow with us,” Koen said. “This is supported by our very strict lead times, being 5 minutes between offload and reload and the late pickups.”
The new centre has also been provided with the most up-to-date equipment. Nine Real Time Tomography (RTT) systems allow explosive screening of 2,500 pieces per hour. Connecting the landside to the airside are 26 unique airlocks, enabling ULD’s to pass through without any human intervention. It is a unique design for which DHL collaborated with Brussels Airport Company, the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority, electricity provider Engie, internal logistics systems provider Intrion and Saco Airport Equipment.
Brussels Airport CEO Arnaud Feist said that the new facility makes BRU the leading cargo hub for flown and trucked cargo in Belgium. “It enables us to enlarge our network around the globe and BRU wants to grasp this market,” he said, adding that two other new investments will be announced shortly.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels