Tailor-made solutions

In order to fulfil its purpose as a forward-thinking and reliable logistics solutions company, APL Logistics follows the path of attracting the best industry experts to service the company’s key accounts. “Our overarching goal is to continue building solutions and developing relationships with our main customers, which include some of the biggest brands in retail and automotive,” maintains Jens Romer Sode, Regional Vice President for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Earlier this year, when Jens joined the company, APL Logistics was in the process of putting a proper strategy for the future in place, defining what it wanted to be known for in the marketplace.

“Utilising the opportunities presented to us by the latest IT developments is one of our major focus areas at the moment,” he claims. “These not only make supply chains more efficient, but also enable us to test new solutions such as track & trace. This is why we are looking to invest in new technologies to add to our portfolio. Right now, we are planning to buy a new web-based system that will allow us to offer relatively simple integration solutions to some of the smaller and less advanced factories we serve, in places like China and Bangladesh, for instance. It will facilitate end-to-end purchase order management by enabling them to quickly access information on when they need to deliver, what kind of QC they need to apply and what the packaging should look like.

“The development of what can be referred to as ‘app mentality’ is something else we would like to achieve in this space. The availability of dedicated mobile apps tailored to our accounts’ needs is poised to become a sought-after aspect of a logistics company’s proposition,” Jens reasons. “We feel that if we have a customer, whose needs differ from those of a bunch of other clients, it will probably be easier, faster, and cheaper to develop a separate app, which can then be used by the others if they find it useful.”

Another component of APL Logistics’ strategy that is perceived to contribute to the company’s ongoing success is the maintenance of its global network of offices. Jens explains: “Because we work with large and renowned global apparel and sporting goods brands, we have to have a very robust organisation to meet their requirements. We need to demonstrate our expertise everywhere, be it in China, Myanmar, Poland, or the UK, because if you do not possess in-depth knowledge of the variety of factors that come into play in different locations, your supply chain solutions are likely to be either too slow or inefficient. I call the staff in our offices around the world our ‘local heroes on the ground’, as they are the ones who implement our vision of making our customers’ supply chains a true engine of their growth.”

Jens also notes that sticking to its asset-light business model has proven especially beneficial for APL Logistics. “We do not own trucks, airplanes, or warehouses. Instead, we rely on our partners to provide us with the necessary vehicles and infrastructure. We aim to take the best from what they can offer and piece together the right solutions for the clients. We can provide different ocean and air freight options, as well as a railway service for goods transported mainly from China and into Europe, but what is important here, is that we always look to customise our offering in accordance with the situation, instead of imposing some pre-defined solutions.

“The heat zones for us understandably remain Europe and the Middle East, but East Africa could also be holding significant potential, especially from a sourcing point of view,” Jens discusses. “We have also set a good footprint in countries like e.g. Saudi Arabia, as we were able to move very fast in the area when the country decided to take active measures towards reducing its dependence on oil. Our main job there is to organise the import of a vast array of goods – from tyres to apparel, but we also do some contract logistics and end-to-end distribution.”

Sharing his views on the state of the industry, Jens admits that there is a number of uncertainties in the economy of the world at the moment that make it difficult to predict the ways the sector is going to develop. “There is the possibility of a hard Brexit and of a trade war between China and the US, which will undoubtedly have an effect on logistics. Nevertheless, I am confident that logistics spend will go up and we, as a company, will have to face fewer challenges than our competitors in the event of major economic cataclysms. This will be so, because we can quickly trim our costs as we do not have any owned assets.

“Being asset-light really pays off in present times, because, if you take the Brexit situation, there are companies who have their own warehouses either in the UK or on the continent, who will be at a disadvantage when Britain leaves the EU, because they will not be well-positioned to serve what will be two distinct markets,” Jens continues. “For us, staying agile will be key in navigating through the difficult conditions. We are trying to make sure that a lot of our decision-making is anchored in our frontline staff who are involved in customer service and the day-to-day account management. Moreover, it is of utmost importance to stay very close to both our customers and suppliers. We tend to pick up trends before they become mainstream, which helps us to react faster and stay ahead of the competition in developing innovative solutions,” he adds.

Meanwhile, APL Logistics is working hard to increase its employee value proposition, in order to attract new and retain existing talent, thus addressing the shortage of labour, presently rife across Europe. “First of all, we can offer our people the chance to work in multiple departments in a period of three or four years, enabling them to quickly grow their skillset. Also, for the best of our employees, there is the possibility to embark on an international career, which, I have observed, is becoming increasingly important for both junior and senior members of staff. I also believe that we can be an attractive workplace for our future employees, because we work with a lot of reputable customers, meaning that they can experience collaborating with these global brands first-hand.

“We also have a talent programme, which is offered to those employees that excel at work, allowing them to take a management (for junior colleagues) or a leadership (for more senior employees) course and helping them to climb the corporate ladder. Overall, we are offering career opportunities not many other companies can present to their employees and we certainly want to leverage this as part of our recruitment and talent retention programmes,” Jens lists some of the benefits of working for APL Logistics.

Alongside growing its employee value proposition, APL Logistics is showing aspirations in placing continuous investment in developing its strategic partnerships around the world. Jens maps out the business’ future intentions: “Naturally, we would like to grow our key accounts. There are various aspects of logistics, such as international purchase order management and flow management, where we are among the two or three best-in-class companies and we want to maintain this position. On top of that, we want to continue recording strong financial results year-on-year and grow steadily in the years to come, whilst strengthening our business relationships and acting according to our customers’ requirements.”

APL Logistics
Develops custom end-to-end supply chain management solutions
Serves some of the largest international brands in retail and automotive
Has a turnover of $2 billion