“We need to avoid, by all means, anything that allows someone to come between us and our customers,” Jochen Thewes, chief executive officer of the global logistics provider said in an interview with American Shipper.
The integrated global logistics provider Schenker is prioritizing the internal development of systems that automate transactions between the company and its customers, executives told American Shipper in an interview Wednesday.
“We believe that, in particular, in the air and ocean freight business there is a lot of opportunity on the one side for increased transparency and on the other for improved efficiency,” said Jochen Thewes, chief executive officer and chairman of the management board at Schenker. “It gives the opportunity for the entire digital interaction, from price request to execution to payment, to be done with little or no human interaction.”
Thewes said Schenker has been very mindful of the amount of capital being invested in logistics startups, and that the company won’t sit idly by as a result.
“There’s been a lot of money invested in tech startups, and their entire intention is to position themselves between us and our customers,” he said. “We need to avoid, by all means, anything that allows someone to come between us and our customers.”
Schenker’s digital strategy is focused on segments of the market that these new startups are best designed to reach: namely, smaller shippers or ones looking less for a traditional relationship and more for an automated transactional platform.
“The focus is on attracting new customers,” Thewes said. “A decisive factor that customers base their service decision on is speed and ease of doing business. Instant quotes, instant execution. Speed is an important part of this.”
Thewes noted the way new procurement and execution technologies are changing behavioral buying patterns.
“In the markets over the last 12 to 18 months, customers have tendered more in spot environments, which plays into the use of these technologies,” he said.
The expectations around these technologies is particularly high in North America, said Philippe Gilbert, Schenker’s Americas region CEO.
“Customers will say, ‘I’m getting the Uber app, why can’t I get the same things from you guys,’” Gilbert said. “It’s more of a challenge in U.S. than in Europe. Digital tools are a very effective force to improve the ease of doing business and allow customer to buy in more direct manner.”
Thewes added that “technology is a more differentiating factor in the U.S. and North America. What we see is more managed transportation and 4PL type operations. It’s more advanced here than in Europe.”
Both Thewes and Gilbert said they see opportunities for growth in the North America, particularly in cross-border “NAFTA-type” trade, customs brokerage, and traditional air and ocean freight markets. Thewes said Schenker is seeking to actively become less reliant on its home market of Europe, where roughly two-thirds of its revenue is derived.