In any organization, big or small, traversing the myriad of obstacles that impede progress is a challenging task. The barriers that arise can easily obscure the path that needs to be taken forward, and can leave a business lost and stumbling through the thicket.
To truly find the solutions for not just today, but the right solutions for tomorrow’s issues takes forethought, and a company that understands what innovation brings to the table. Always hunting for a competitive advantage, DHL has geared their operation in such a way that they are actively seeking out new ways to reduce cost and inefficiency in not only their own business, but their customers as well.
In fact, DHL has innovation centers dedicated to researching and implementing the next generation of logistics tools, technologies, and innovations. These advancements can be seen throughout all of DHL’s divisions, but a standout for the implementation and development of advancements for all industries has come from the automotive sector of the company.
At a local event for DHL Automotive customers, we sat down with Mr. Fathi Tlatli, President, Global Automotive Sector, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, and Ilhami Arslanoglu, Vice President Automotive, Asia Pacific, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, to discuss further what’s going on behind the scenes of their successful division.
The DHL Difference
DHL’s Automotive vertical has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Throughout this time, innovation has been at the forefront of DHL’s ambitions and has led them to where they are today as a global logistics leader. Those in the auto industry should feel relieved that there is someone at DHL that knows their industry like the back of their hand. This type of intimate domain knowledge on all the issues is something that doesn’t come easy and is a badge of pride for the DHL team. The one point of contact they offer is extremely enticing and helps insure customers that they will always know who to talk to if any issue should arise.
To further explain the structure and specialty that DHL has for automotive customers Mr. Tlatli said, “The company is structured around a family of divisions. We are organized around key sectors globally in order to take care of specific customer requirements. However, being a global company in scope, but local in implementation means that in all key countries, we have people dedicated to the automotive sector. In every business unit, you will find specialized people for automotive activities. It’s ingrained in the organization; globally, regionally, locally, and in every business unit.”
Mr. Arslanoglu spoke further about the unique proactive offer of their DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation division. “We provide DHL’s largest and strategically important customers with simplified access to the full offering of DHL, through our cross-divisional account management approach. We leverage the Group’s capabilities to deliver innovative solutions and drive sector oriented go-to-market approach globally. A unique integral approach as part of our value proposition for our key customers in automotive and other four focus subsectors.”
A Unique Approach
While most industries would likely say they are unique, but the auto industry really does have an emotional appeal to it. Cars and automobiles have a special connection to many people’s lives and evoke many emotions. Beyond taking feelings into consideration, service providers must also deal with a multitude of first tier and second tier suppliers, and parts deliveries to dealers; it’s enormously complicated. The holy grail that all service providers strive for is total integration, but only a select few companies could even attempt this type of endeavor.
For DHL, their approach is what gives them such strength. “There’s a variety of ways to go about this, from a sector driven and innovation approach, to key account management structures being put in place. However, the way we can differentiate ourselves is by having the widest service offering in the industry. Offering integrated express services, freight forwarding in air and ocean as well as the contract logistics business is a key element,” said Mr. Arslanoglu.
In addition, we have we’ve sectioned automotive off into sub-sectors, such as passenger & commercial vehicles as well as component & tire manufacturers. From there, each division has people dealing directly with customers, enabling them the ability to confidently understand their unique requirements. We can then leverage what we do from one country or region to another, and also leverage across clusters of customers to be more effective.”
Building Upon Innovation
As the affluence of Asian countries continues to build, more companies are taking notice. While the production of automobiles has long been a hallmark of the region, prosperity is spreading and a new generation dreams of owning their first automobile. This spark has been lit for many, and is partly why in 2015, DHL opened the Asia Pacific Innovation Center (APIC) in Singapore, providing a customer-centric innovation platform to serve the needs of the Asian market. As the only other innovation center outside of their home base in Troisdorf, Germany, it shows just how important this market is to DHL.
Mr. Arslanoglu said, “At DHL, innovation is in our DNA. Since the beginning, we’ve strived to reach for new and better ways of doing business. Our innovation centers are the epicenter of where much of this work and research is being done. With our colleagues researching trends in all industry sectors, it allows us the ability to better anticipate and develop innovative logistics solutions.”
The automotive industry is well known for its close collaboration with many industries, and auto tech has become a recent buzz word of sorts. There’s much more technology in a car now than there was 20 years ago, and only looks to continue increasing. These trends are cross-pollinating into other sectors, as Mr. Arslanoglu explained. “We’ve began implementing many innovations across our network. For instance, Google Glasses for vision picking on certain sites is now being deployed globally. In Bangkok, voice picking is becoming very popular. Warehouse operators carry around earphones and no documents, as they are guided through the warehouse’s different picking locations. As we speak, we are working on all kinds of developments. As a logistics company, the real goal is to see where the impact on logistics may be, anticipate that impact, and stay ahead of the curve.”
“At DHL, innovation is in our DNA. Since the beginning, we’ve strived to reach for new and better ways of doing business. Our innovation centers are the epicenter of where much of this work and research is being done. With our colleagues researching trends in all industry sectors, it allows us the ability to better anticipate and develop innovative logistics solutions.”
Mr. Ilhami Arslanoglu
When it comes down to it, often those who do not innovate are the ones left behind. As Mr. Tlatli said, “Without innovation, there is no future. As a company, we are continuously looking towards the future. We are developing new programs now with the goal of digitalizing our company. However, lest we forget, the other crucial element that goes alongside all this innovation is cyber security. They go hand in hand. Companies need to digitalize, but you need to make sure your data is secure, and always develop with that in mind as part of your innovation.”
He continued, “The digitalization movement is not only helping large companies, it’s helping all businesses to succeed. Smaller companies now have easier access to information and marketplaces. Especially in emerging markets, we see they are very receptive to these changes, as it gives them real access to compete. We are proud to bring something new like this into the lives of our customers everywhere. In the end, we don’t think innovation is costing money – not being innovative is much riskier.”