Hong Kong's strengths as a logistics hub and the gateway to China lie in its strategic location and state-of-the-art infrastructure. There are, though, a number of pressing concerns which must be addressed if Hong Kong is to retain its leading position and fend off the increasing regional competition.
"One of the biggest challenges is the lack of talent available for business expansion," says Analdo Li, general manager of the logistics division of Crown Worldwide (HK) Ltd. "The demand for quality people to fill middle management positions on the logistics frontline is very high nowadays."
As a result, the company has taken an active approach to attract and retain good staff. Crown recognises that, in the business of logistics, it's competencies that count.
To begin with, operations managers are needed and must be proficient in managing the entire workflow. They should excel in mediating between superiors, subordinates and customers in order to create seamless operations.
To help them, the company's "total logistics management" approach maintains accurate and updated information via a globally-networked database. This enables clients, staff and service partners to share real-time data about shipments. It also helps to manage and facilitate projects, keeping import processes on schedule and controlling costs.
Top sales managers are also needed. They must be strong communicators and able to analyse market situations, lead the sales process, and find tailored solutions to meet specific job requirements. Within the business, this can mean assessing storage locations, timeframes, types of facility, security and precise coordination for deliveries. Crown therefore provides sales managers with an extensive range of training programmes so that they can thoroughly understand operating procedures and the supply chain.
For example, the "Crown University" offers management training programmes, which are both theoretical and practical. Group staff and external tutors lead training sessions, which also focus on the role of a multinational corporation.
Mr Li explains that the development and deployment of cutting-edge technology has helped to streamline business processes, improve efficiency and reduce costs. A web-based tracking system provides clients with full visibility and allows them to monitor inventory and costs. Such systems, including barcode and paperless electronic communications are integrated into the company's project management software. It connects a shared IT platform with a network of multi-client distribution centres located around the world.
"IT is the enabler for logistics operations, making it possible to execute the workflow seamlessly and bring it to successful completion," Mr Li stresses. The ultimate mission is to be customer-driven, and the IT applications therefore have to be fine-tuned to suit the unique requirements of different businesses. Another key factor in the logistics industry is the intelligent application of appropriate IT resources in managing operation procedures.
Founded by Jim Thompson in Yokohama in 1965, Crown Worldwide is now the largest privately owned international transportation company. It has about 4,000 employees in over 140 offices worldwide and works with around 6,000 corporate clients.
In Hong Kong, the company owns five warehouses totalling one million square feet. There are 11 offices in mainland China, with a warehouse operating in Shanghai and one under construction in Beijing. Crown's branches in Hong Kong, the mainland and Southeast Asia focus mainly on luxury consumer goods.
"Hong Kong is the headquarters for Greater China. This reflects our confidence for business opportunities," says Mr Li. "We are optimistic about the future and we hope that more young people will take a genuine interest in a career in logistics. The prospects are looking really good."
Logistics management at Crown is the effective coordination of three business activities - warehousing, inventory management and distribution. Frontline managers are much in demand and have good prospects in the industry.
In search of middle managers
- Entry requirement is a degree, preferably in logistics
- Applicants should be hardworking, patient and meticulous,
especially in the handling of luxury goods
- Comprehensive knowledge of logistics operations at all
levels is required
- Training is given in forecasting and calculating storage
to minimise wastage and unnecessary costs