Time-sensitive cargo in good hands

by Wing Kei

Andreas Becker, managing director, Schenker International (HK) Ltd

Logistics services are growing in step with world trade

The business community in Hong Kong learned long ago that time is money. It's a lesson that the logistics industry, in particular, has taken to heart. Specialists in the sector realise just how vital their transport networks and streamlined services are for arranging on-time deliveries around the world and ensuring the wheels of international trade keep turning.

As one of the leaders in the field, Schenker International (HK) Ltd is well aware that, for some consignments, even a day's delay can cause major commercial problems. "Our focus is therefore to provide express delivery services at minimum cost," says managing director Andreas Becker. "This is our area of expertise, and our long history in the industry has allowed us to develop procurement, distribution and invoicing systems which exactly meet customer needs."

With the support of headquarters in Germany and a worldwide office network, the company handles all aspects of transportation and logistics. The 1,500 employees in Hong Kong and mainland China are part of a global team of 39,000 staff in 1,100 locations. The company's core activities relate to sea freight, airfreight and project services. However, they also have divisions to handle relocations, fairs and exhibitions, warehousing and value-added logistics, as well as a travel agency.

According to Mr Becker, today's customers expect not only speed and reliability, but also an innovative approach to solving operational problems. Therefore, Schenker is often asked to advise on supply chain improvements and to manage the day-to-day relationship with trading partners. "We also look for opportunities to help customers increase sales, enhance efficiency and reduce production costs," he adds.

Performance levels

HR manager Yvonne Ha explains that much depends on having well-trained and motivated staff. They must be able to guarantee high levels of performance and have access to the latest information systems.

Ms Ha helps to oversee in-house training programmes which are available for all staff and tailor-made to individual needs. "Our courses don't just cover the Hong Kong market, but include information about different overseas regions to give employees a truly international perspective," she says. The company regards training as an investment priority and also offers short-term internships to give potential recruits a better understanding of the industry.

In addition, there are exchange programmes with overseas offices. "We have delegates and trainees from overseas working in Hong Kong and they can generally stay here to explore new business opportunities for the company and develop their own international experience," says Mr Becker. "It's a very good cultural exchange and, since the logistics business requires a lot of international communication, having staff who can speak different languages certainly increases our efficiency."

Generous rewards

Mr Becker says this is all part of creating a good work environment and, ultimately, makes it possible to maintain a low rate of staff turnover. "We value our employees and reward them well for good performance," he says. "We treat everyone equally and encourage them to maximise their potential."

When recruiting, the company prefers candidates who are self-motivated, persistent, detail-oriented and have good communication skills. English and Mandarin are more or less prerequisites since there is now so much contact with mainland China and overseas. "Logistics is a competitive industry and sustaining growth requires a lot of hard work," Mr Becker says. "We are lucky to have so many staff who are devoted to their jobs and have allowed the company to establish a strong position in the region."

This year, Schenker celebrates its 40th anniversary in Hong Kong and will continue to extend its China network by exploring new business opportunities. "The Chinese market needs sophisticated logistics services to support many industries including automobiles, electronics, hi-tech and furniture," he says. "We will be looking to build more logistics hubs there in the near future."

Specialised services

  • The modern logistics sector plays an essential part in international trade
  • A wide range of services can be tailor-made to meet unique customer needs
  • Service providers must be able to come up with innovative solutions and advice
  • Candidates should have an international perspective and good language skills
  • The China market is the focus of major expansion plans

Taken from Career Times 31 March 2006
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