Logistics and freight company DACHSER South Africa may not quite be moving mountains, but they are transporting items that are just as challenging, in the form of mega-machinery and highly specialised equipment. Moving these items across vast distances and multiple jurisdictions on a daily basis requires scrupulous planning, product expertise and forward momentum. Perhaps the two most crucial elements of logistics are intelligent, integrated technical processes on the one hand, and on the other, talented individuals that are detail-oriented, determined and have the stamina to continually drive those logistics processes.
Marcel Kohn is the Route Development Manager at DACHSER South Africa, responsible for the South Africa-Germany routing. He outlines what it takes to manage route development for one of the leading logistics and freight companies on the African continent.
“I joined DACHSER South Africa towards the end of last year, although I have been part of the DACHSER global family for six years, working in Germany. Prior to this I had undertaken a formal 3-year apprenticeship to learn the basics and gain certification as a freight forwarder.
“Upon joining DACHSER in 2010, I worked in national distribution within the sales team for DACHSER ASL (Air & Sea Logistics) at the Langenau branch in the South of Germany. As part of my onsite training, an initiative that DACHSER is very committed to for all personnel, I moved through the different departments including air freight export and import, and sea freight export and import. This helped me gain the necessary insight to be able to provide clients with the correct advice.”
Kohn cannot under-estimate the benefit of DACHSER’s onsite training. “I was exposed to a variety of topics from customs and sales training, to air freight security and training on trade lanes. This was to enable me to fully understand the trade requirements of different countries and their particular markets. All these courses are certified. This means that the ultimate benefit is producing a pool of skilled logisticians that can contribute to the logistics industry as a whole.”
In 2012, Kohn began work as an external sales executive, with the core task of consulting to clients, advising them on the relevant solutions and services for their logistics requirements, and alerting them to any innovative developments that might benefit their needs. “This remains my focus today,” he says, “And with our worldwide DACHSER network, team and brand, consulting and selling our services has always been well received with both existing and potential clients.”
As Route Development Manager for DACHSER South Africa, Kohn says that a large part of what he does is to generate new business from key account customers that operate on the German-South Africa trade lane. “It may be surprising for the person in the street to realise just how many German companies have a large presence in the South African market, and that a great deal of products are continually imported from Germany to South Africa,” says Kohn. “It is important for me to travel to Germany quite a few times annually to meet with the suppliers and ensure that we consider how all their requirements can be met via our logistics processes.”
Internally, DACHSER South Africa has well-established products and processes, but given the fast-moving pace of the freight and logistics industry, the company must make sure that these products and processes remain relevant so as to provide the best service to their customers. To this end, Kohn as Route Development Manager, must be cognisant of the different market situations in the trade lane: “The South African and the German markets are very different in a lot of ways and as part of route development I must be the connector to both sides. This means that I must make sure we understand – and can accommodate – the particular requirements in each market so that the client experiences a seamless process from one jurisdiction through to another.”
Kohn believes that a successful Route Development Manager should be someone who has a passion for the business, and thrives on working with different people across different teams: “Logistics is a wide industry that covers many components, and often the different DACHSER Business Lines such as Air and Sea Logistics, Food Logistics and European Logistics – who are all specialists in their areas – work closely together for one client. We refer to this as interlocking. It is imperative that our teams have the necessary skills to promote and manage this concept.”
Finally, the Route Development Manager should have an active curiosity and interest in the client. Given that the trade lane must accommodate a variety of different customers from different market verticals, it is crucial to keep abreast of any developments or changes to the clients’ industries, both globally and locally. Kohn says, “To ensure ongoing customer satisfaction, we are committed to working together with the customer. At DACHSER South Africa, we like our customers to regard us as partners. And an important aspect in any partnership is to maintain ongoing and open communication, and to be flexible and open to new ideas.”