MUNICH — The recently released GEODIS 2017 Supply Chain Worldwide Survey (SCWS) underscored the evolution of supply chains, from the simple delivery of products to “a crucial lever for business performance.” Trends such as e-commerce require more specialization than ever, which, in turn, drives complexity
According to the survey, 74 percent of firms use four or five different modes of transportation in 2017. “In the wake of globalization and rampant digitalization, commercial trade flows have evolved dramatically,” the report found. “At the crossroads of strategy, marketing, sourcing, manufacturing, business development and customer services, supply chain has become the key strategic ‘hub’ of companies’ activities.”
During the Air Cargo Europe 2017 show, Air Cargo World talked with two managers at the heart of this transition at GEODIS, Joseph Fordney, regional sales director, EMEA, and Florence Gautrais, director of regional business development, EMEA.
Fordney, who transferred to GEODIS’ Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) region from North America a few months back, found the maturity of the European market to be “dramatic” and competitive. He noted that growing business in such a mature market is a challenge, forcing the company to “differentiate by adding value.” His observations align with the SCWS findings that supply chains were moving away from a cost-oriented approach to a value-oriented one, in order to maintain the level of service demanded by more customers.
These demands, Fordney explained, stem, in part, from customers moving away from an expensive integrator model, and instead looking to rationalize costs without impactive service delivery, because “online businesses are very focused on the feedback.” He cited the example of eBay’s customer ratings model. When GEODIS takes on one of these customers, Fordney explained, they take on a responsibility to protect their client’s reputation.
Fordney also said that forwarders can get ahead by, “leveraging our strengths with their [the customer’s] pain points,” and taking the “noise out of the system.”
Gautrais pointed to the role of technology is to meet these objectives, as well as the importance of the human element. “Iris,” the company’s intelligent information system deployed around the world, offers traceability and document management features. “How to embrace digitalization is a daily conversation,” she said, but added that a platform can’t “know it’s customers.” For Gautrais, that final step will always require forwarding expertise.
“We have to embrace technology,” Fordney added in response to the emergence of online freight forwarding startups. “I don’t see a direct conflict between a company like Freightos and ourselves, or other startups. There’s a lot of knowledge that needs to be leveraged by the community… There’s tremendous experience at these companies,” which goes beyond just a website or an algorithm.