LOGISTICS: How DHL Services Sub-Sahara
Recent Western Cape Business News
THROUGHOUT the world, DHL is the acknowledged market leader in the logistics industry, specialising not just in meeting customers requirements, but in many cases providing innovative and customised solutions to customers’ requirements even before being asked.
Across its DHL Express, DHL Global Forwarding and DHL Supply Chain divisions, DHL offers a high level of expertise in international express, air and ocean freight, road and rail transportation, contract logistics solutions and international mail services.
Take the case of DHL Express, whose Sub-Saharan Africa service, under managing director Philip Couchman, is run from Cape Town but stretches as far north as Mali, the Sudan and Kenya. In fact all of Africa apart from a few countries such as Egypt, Libya, Morocco at the very north of the continent, which are treated as part of their Middle East division.
DHL Express is known, of course, as a provider of international courier and express services for business and private customers, offering comprehensive door-to-door distribution services for packages - freight weighing anything from half a kg to 300kg - and business documents. But the range of work it undertakes is far more than that description suggests.
It has been in Africa for over 25 years now, serving 45 countries with what Couchman describes as ‘its own entity’ in most of them. Nigeria, Angola and South Africa have their own teams, reporting direct to Couchman. Then there are five cluster areas: West Africa, Central-West Africa, Central Africa, Equatorial Africa and Indian Ocean, also reporting to him, and which he frequently visits. In fact he is a much-travelled man!
One great advantage DHL has it that it runs its own aircraft - ‘wet-leased’ on a permanent basis from operators who provide a full crew and all other necessary support. At many airports it has its own gateways, with stand alone facilities apart from the general cargo areas, so that DHL cargo gets much faster clearance. To further speed the process, they offload their own cargoes and clear through customs themselves.
Manifests are sent ahead electronically, which again cuts time spent dealing with paperwork at destinations. Security is an important factor, and DHL is registered with the internationally known TAPA (Technical Asset Protection Association) providing CCTV protection and building security. They are also accredited to ISO throughout Africa.
DHL has an impressive operational system, designed in each case to meet requirements in specific areas. It operates a Boeing 767 freighter service six nights a week from Leipzig (Germany) to Lagos and back to Leipzig, carrying a wide variety of goods and equipment for Nigeria’s oil industry and other major clients in the region. From Lagos goods are delivered overnight in smaller aircraft to countries such as Mali, Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea.
In Angola it operates an air service from Luanda to Cabinda, and from South Africa a service to Zimbabwe, Lusaka and Maputo, using domestic carriers. It also operates services into East Africa.
“Communications play a vital part in the development of any country, and especially many of those in Africa, with limited infrastructures. But with the assistance of the services we provide - often instigated by us to meet a projected demand, and thus helping to create it - some countries have improved greatly over the past three years or so, and have seen a significant growth in commerce and industry,” Couchman says.
DHL Express has made an important contribution in a wide range of sectors, including:
• GSM - Telecommunications.
• Life sciences - cold storage, pharmaceuticals, temperature controlled items such as medicines, anti-retrovirals (but not food).
• Oil and Energy - especially in West Africa where DHL has teams on bases, managing companies’ mail rooms, ferrying urgently needed parts such as drill bits for oil rigs, where even a short delay is very expensive. “Express in those areas is a very important word,” he says.
• Testing Companies - They test various products for governments and industry. Big drinks companies, for example, send dozens of products to a laboratory in Midrand for testing and approval, which must be received within two days maximum to ensure freshness. DHL operates an overnight service.
• Banks - have always been major DHL customer, both domestically and internationally, for the transfer of a range of documents and other materials.
• Embassies - which use DHL for the transfer of visa applications, passports and other important documents.
• The mining industry - transporting coal samples to Australia for testing, and the delivery of urgently needed equipment wherever it is needed.
• Aircraft spares - to a wide variety of destinations.
“Though these are difficult times, the value of the services DHL Express provides can be seen in the fact that we have posted a double-digit growth in our number of shipments and in revenue for the years 2007 and 2008,” Couchman says.
“Our clients need good service, reliability, security and value for money, and that is what DHL Express gives them.”
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