Change is inevitable, but it’s how we respond to such change that determines how we grow and learn from it.
It’s easy to sit back and hunker down into what we already comfortably know, but to expand our understanding and to fulfill our full potential we must be willing to take risks. The proverbial waves of change will still often come crashing down and it’s always best to have a course of action mapped out.
This scenario is currently playing out in the shipping and logistics industry, with mergers and acquisitions abound as well as a wealth of new technology entering the fold, the face of the industry as we know it is in flux. All parts of the supply chain are having to adjust and respond, and through all of this the opportunity to evolve one’s business is there for the taking, and companies like Kuehne + Nagel are seizing the chance.
Known for their dedicated and diligent processes and procedures, Kuehne + Nagel’s sterling reputation for business excellence precedes them. However, times are changing and rather than be left waiting at the dock, Kuehne + Nagel are venturing forth with new initiatives that aim to change parts of their company moving forward, and in turn change the way that customers interact with their business.
Kuehne + Nagel’s new strategic programme is being hailed by the company as a complete range of transformative projects that focus on three dimensions – customers, technology and people. While the company still has a strong back office built upon their solid process driven policies, this new initiative looks to change the way Kuehne + Nagel is perceived around the globe. To find out more about the new initiative, goals and ambitions, we sat down with Mr. Bjoern Schoon, Managing Director of Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar at Kuehne + Nagel.
Mr. Schoon himself is a walking example of the dedication that Kuehne + Nagel places on their loyal employees. He has been working with the company for nearly his entire life starting right after graduation from an apprenticeship with Kuehne + Nagel in Bremen, Germany in 1997.
“I began my career in sea freight operations and import for key account customers which I worked diligently at for 4 years,” said Mr. Schoon. “After that, I sought to work abroad and was given an opportunity to work at Kuehne + Nagel’s Hong Kong office in 2004 where I began working as a customer service manager. Coming from a German sea freight import operations role and transitioning into a customer service manager role in Hong Kong was, of course, quite a swing, especially given the fact that I was responsible for 18 staff right away.”
“However, I really grew to enjoy this post and I was stationed in Hong Kong for nearly 6 years. In 2008, amidst a cluster group revamp for Kuehne + Nagel, I moved to Singapore to take on an operational sea freight management role. I went back to Hong Kong in 2011 to take up a larger sea freight role in Hong Kong & South China looking after all the operations of Kuehne + Nagel’s sea freight operations there. After 2 ½ years, I bounced back to Singapore when we were grouping the first clusters for Singapore and Malaysia. I worked there for another 2 ½ years before arriving in Thailand. It’s here where I’ve been given the responsibility of leading a premier team focused on our new global initiative.”
The major highlight for Kuehne + Nagel this year has undoubtedly been the official launch of KN+ NextGen. This new initiative is bringing major changes to the organization and is truly a game changer for their group. Mr. Schoon said, “The new Kuehne + Nagel strategic programme that we just launched in 2018 is all part of a reenergization as a group to focus on customers, technology and people. These all tie in to one another, as we’ve recognized that technology in the industry is changing the way our customers go about their business. We acknowledged that our way of doing business has to adjust alongside our customers, and by adopting and introducing new technology into our own business it helps our clients to become more efficient and more successful.”
He continued, “The new initiative is being embraced throughout every aspect of our company. While the strategic programme is our overarching global guideline, each country and country cluster in our group has worked on roadmaps to help them contribute to our overall goal as a company. For instance, each individual country and country cluster we have in our region is part of a roadmap called ‘Asia Pacific 2022.’ Each country has thought through in detail how they are going to develop our activities further. This all again ties into our focus on customers, technology, and people. The initiative is a corporate, regional and national initiative, and we are completely aligned with our corporate strategy that is intertwined with the group’s 128 years of success and organic growth.”
A Fresh Coat of Paint
As Mr. Schoon mentioned, this new initiative is working its way into every part of the company, even down to the local level. Kuehne + Nagel has been in Thailand in one way or another since the mid-1980s, and in September 2017, the group waved good bye to their base of operations of more than 15 years to open up the doors to a fresh start in a new office complex. The group of more than 330 employees spans two floors and helps to cover a wide range of solutions for customers including contract logistics, cross-border, air freight, sea freight, and customs brokerage all done in house. Combined with their other offices throughout Thailand and the region as a whole, Kuehne + Nagel is sharpening their resolve and are ready to assist any and all sized business looking for logistics related solutions.
Mr. Schoon said, “We moved into a wonderful new office that we’re very happy to call home. The new office has more space for open collaboration, where smaller teams can gather for group sessions. The new training room is also an important area that allows for training primarily focused on shaping a sense of customer excellence. This is our number one target, to create positive experiences for our customers when working with Kuehne + Nagel. Whether customers are working with our employees over the phone or they use new technologies to interact with us, we expect our staff to be equipped with knowledge and expertise on how to create positive experiences. We have many teambuilding facilities now and, in my opinion, we’re doing an outstanding job in most of our departments to build cohesive and competitive team leaders with excellent market knowledge that in the end leads to better customer relations and understanding. We are leading the transformation in our industry and cementing our position as the company people want to work with and work at.”
As Mr. Schoon goes on to describe, that this is all part of their roll out for their country-wide ‘Thailand 2022’ roadmap, focusing on country specific development initiatives. Under the cluster he manages, similar initiatives have been underway for Cambodia and Myanmar, wherein they’ve relocated almost every office into newer facilities. This covers the Yangon and Phnom Penh offices that are relocating and expanding to accommodate their increasing expected expansion plans, and it also extends to other offices within Thailand. The Laem Chabang office as well as the Chiang Mai branch have relocated, and the latter now has a new branch manager to help develop the northern Thailand area significantly.
“Our Thailand 2022 aspiration sets forth a roadmap for local business development. Of course, the network will be important, but we also have the responsibility to develop our own business controlled local portfolio and to increase the value chain contributions to our customers’ businesses. We are putting a spotlight on local companies and offering complete end-to-end services for them. As we continue to develop new platforms and new tools to manage our customers’ expectations, Thailand will soon see itself as a test pilot for a new tool we’re developing that is in line with our strategy.”
Through all of this innovation and new technology entering into the fray, Kuehne + Nagel is still keen to always keep people and the personal touch they can offer customers at the core of their corporate strategy. After all, the shipping and logistics industry in Thailand was built upon personal relations and even though the channels by which we communicate may be evolving, the importance of getting to know your customer and their business will never change.
“Training and developing strong and knowledgeable people is critically important to the success of the other parts of our corporate strategy. Both globally and locally, how we interact with our customers is important. The qualities we look for in people we hire are those that have a general focus on the customer. We are always looking for that positive spirit in a candidate to help us increase our business scope in Thailand,” said Mr. Schoon.
Kuehne + Nagel are known in the market for their operational excellence perfected from years of being market leaders and game changers. They understand that the industry is changing, that the way people do business is changing and that technology is driving this change. As Mr. Schoon sums it up, “Kuehne + Nagel are not riding the wave of change, we are leading the transformation. Every Kuehne + Nagel employee lives and breathes this new strategy, not because it is something that management has developed, but because we all understand our role in creating value to our customers and it is through this transformation that we will achieve better customer excellence. We are trying to go from great to greater and it’s all in the name of creating the best customer experience possible.”