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Riding high

Technology investments are helping the forwarder maintain its growth rates at above-market levels, as Helen Massy-Beresford finds out

DB Schenker is looking forward to a good year in 2017 both for the business and the industry at large, says Thomas Mack, Senior Vice-President of Global Air Freight at the German company, after an encouraging 2016.


“In 2016, year to date, we see a market growth of something in the 2% range. The year is not over yet but at Schenker air freight we have grown a bit above market,” Mack says. 


“For 2017, talking to our customers and what we hear from the market, I would also assume that we would see a moderate growth, probably in the neighbourhood of 1.5% to 2.5%. Of course, our intention is always to be better than the market.”


The company’s performance has been strong in all regions this year, Mack says. “We have been blessed with a good performance in almost all of our regions. We show very good growth outbound in Europe, we show good growth also in Asia and we show good growth in the Americas.” 


But one stand-out sector has been automotive, he adds. “I would say, if you’re looking for one highlight, we have been able to participate to a good extent in the growth of the automotive industry. That is where we have been lucky to secure some new business and additional business.”


The company has always had strong links with automotive customers, whose businesses have in recent times been growing, Mack explains. 


Like many others in the air cargo industry, DB Schenker, which is ranked third in the global market and transported over 1 million tonnes for its customers in 2015, is also looking for ways to make the most of healthy growth in the perishables sector. 


“We do have a sizeable perishable business already and we will continue to develop it of course,” Mack says.


Pharmaceuticals also provide a growth opportunity, although the company knows a sizeable amount of investment would be required to lead the market in that field. “We already have customers in that field but I have to admit we are not the market leader in that area. That requires significant investments. This is something where we will take a little bit more time than to develop in other vertical markets,” Mack says. 


“We will continue to invest specifically in pharmaceuticals but we are also looking at that as a medium to long-term investment, over the next two to three years. It’s definitely a growing market that has to do with the emerging markets and also with the population getting older and older and consequently needing more pharmaceuticals. In our opinion, in mature markets, we will see growth in that vertical market of pharmaceuticals too.” 


Investment is very much on the agenda at DB Schenker, with the forwarder set to begin rolling out its new global operating system, an entirely new platform for air freight operations, starting in around April or May 2017. 


A pilot scheme is already underway and, all being well, the rollout of the real system should take around three years, according to Mack. >>

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