DACHSER is an exemplary figure in the field of global logistics. A renowned family-owned enterprise, it is paving a new path for effective yet responsible services and operations for its customers, partners, and employees around the world. Ralph Riehl, President and Managing Director – Americas, tells us more.
INSPIRING GLOBAL INTERCONNECTION
Ralph Riehl is an individual that’s particularly well acquainted with the benefits of cultural blending.
Raised in a bi-cultural French-German household, he was exposed to the various ways in which diverse customs, practices, and beliefs could be infused throughout his childhood.
“I was fascinated very early on by the best way to bridge cultures,” Riehl affirms.
Fast forward to today and integration and globalization remain important to Riehl, as is reflected in his career path to date.
Having worked for logistics specialist DSV Panalpina in Europe, the Americas, and Asia since 1989, he opted to join DACHSER in February 2021 as President and Managing Director – Americas, overseeing all activities across the US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru.
“The logistics industry does not only connect goods – it connects people, countries, and cultures,” Riehl highlights. “It is truly system-relevant, especially in the globalized world that we live in today.
“Without freight forwarding and logistics processes, there would be no access to even the most basic commodities. Just think of the Covid-19 pandemic – when most of the global economy was on halt, the logistics industry had one of its great moments.
“Even those without any connection to this industry could feel the system relevancy of logistics, and how crucial this industry is to give us access to goods that we depend on every day. In a nutshell, the logistics industry has always been and continues to be an exciting space to work in.”
FOUNDED IN FAMILY VALUES
Heading up DACHSER Air & Sea Logistics across the Americas is a particularly relevant role for Riehl owing to his background, the company being one of Germany’s 50 largest family-owned enterprises, as well as one of the biggest logistics companies in the world.
Indeed, in 2023, Armstrong and Associates – a leading third-party logistics (3PL) market research and consulting agency – ranked the company among the top 20 largest global 3PLs in terms of revenue.
Such a significant reputation is in part owed to the vast global network of over 370 branches and the synergies between the Air & Sea Logistics and European Logistics networks.
Regarding the latter, the European Logistics road network is an invaluable source in its own right, as it means that every corner of the continent is covered by a DACHSER branch.
“Our air and sea freight customers, for example from the Americas region, benefit from this network as well. No matter the origin or destination of the shipment in Europe, our clients can be certain that their supply chain is handled by one single supplier,” Riehl highlights.
The synergy between Air & Sea Logistics and European Logistics warrants numerous advantages for customers from around the globe, including a secure door-to-door service with transparent IT tracking, and the highest transport quality, and fast, reliable transit times.
“While we are already well connected, we are constantly working on streaming and optimizing all processes of the operational and digital interfaces between air and sea freight, and road transport in Europe and beyond.”
For Riehl, DACHSER’s status as a family-owned enterprise has also been vital in enabling it to become so successful.
“In comparison to a publicly traded company, a family business does not need to focus on maximizing its shareholder value in the short-term,” he explains. “We do not need to respond to volatility in the market to such a high degree, which allows us to keep focus on servicing our customers and pursuing long-term strategic goals and investments.”
Underpinning this family ethos are six key company values: entrepreneurship and the courage to innovate, inclusive responsibility, sustainability, loyalty and commitment, integrity and honesty, and openness and respect.
In the eyes of Riehl, the firm’s staff have a particular affinity with these, driving deep-rooted loyalty among the employee base while also serving to create a positive workplace. “This mentality and way of thinking may sound hypothetical at first glance, but it is truly noticeable in everyday work,” he adds.
Looking outside the firm’s own four walls, this unique culture also enables it to excel in a competitive market. Indeed, one way in which DACHSER differentiates is through its management of key relationships with all stakeholders, opting to develop long-term partnerships and be a reliable constant for its customers, employees, and partners alike.
“For our day-to-day operations, partners and suppliers are crucial,” Riehl explains. “They are an integral part of our whole supply chain and to a certain degree, we are only as good as our partners and suppliers are. It takes time to build up strong connections, but this is exactly what we are striving for.”
Building from these strong foundations, the firm can successfully pursue and execute several key projects, with Riehl highlighting recent focus on warehousing in the US.
Here, DACHSER has opened three new warehouses in Atlanta, Chicago, and New Hampshire in the past 18 months to better support customers in new regions.
“Alongside inbound warehousing and quality distribution, we offer numerous value-added services, including pick and pack solutions, reverse logistics, order assembly, and kitting – the pre-assembly of individual items into kits,” Riehl says.
A SOUND GLOBAL CORPORATE CITIZEN
Of course, it is not just operational projects that the firm is focused on.
In a world where success is increasingly defined by progress on fronts other than profit, DACHSER is accelerating its efforts to retain its status as a sound global corporate citizen, investing in several unique initiatives centered around digitalization and an extensive climate protection strategy.
Next to R&D in the areas of e-trucks and hydrogen drives and the installment of photovoltaic systems at company locations, a major project in terms of sustainability is DACHSER Emission-Free Delivery.
“This concept is built on a modular toolbox for city-center deliveries in Europe,” Riehl explains.
“Depending on local requirements, we use battery-electric vans and trucks as well as electrically assisted cargo bikes that are specially designed to carry groupage or palleted goods. Using a combination of these vehicles, all shipments to a designated downtown area are delivered with zero local emissions as standard.”
At present, DACHSER Emission-Free Delivery is available in 13 cities. However, by the end of 2025, it is expected that this will expand to 24.
In addition, the firm has also been working on a research project that has been developed jointly between the DACHSER Enterprise Lab and the renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics from Germany.
Specifically, the initiative aims to deploy hundreds of optical scanning units on the ceiling of a transshipment warehouse to create a digital up-to-date image of all packages, assets, and operations in a facility. This information can then be accessed by employees on digital devices, increasing transparency in the warehouse tremendously.
“We’re immensely proud of this,” Riehl affirms. “A few months ago, we were awarded the German Logistics Award of the German Logistics Association for this project alongside Fraunhofer IML, this being the most prestigious award in the industry in the country. This technological innovation has already been tested under real operating conditions in two of our German branches. For this year, we are expecting to start the systematic roll-out across our European branches.”
Simultaneously, in the Air & Sea Logistics arm of the business, R&D attentions are focused on the “Sustainable Fuel” booking option for air freight that DACHSER has made available globally since 1st March 2023.
“This is a major step for us regarding more sustainability in air freight,” Riehl acknowledges. “By blending sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), air freight shipments can be transported with 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Our employees are the core of our operations. At DACHSER, one of our guiding principles is “Logistics is people business”, so people are our top priority”Ralph Riehl, President and Managing Director – Americas, DACHSER
AN EYE TO 2030
Undoubtedly, initiatives such as these will continue to be balanced within DACHSER’s operational priorities moving through 2024 and beyond.
Looking ahead, Riehl reaffirms the importance of digitalization and the company’s efforts to continue developing its suite of software solutions and IT systems. Among these efforts will be the rollout and refinement of the DACHSER platform – designed to bring together the services of the Road Logistics and Air & Sea Logistics business fields in a user-friendly, modern interface.
“Supplemented by innovations such as end-to-end tracking across all freight routes, this will create a customized, digital one-stop solution for customers,” Riehl says.
Alongside this, Riehl highlights growth as a key target for the months to come, something that is hoped to be achieved through the systematic expansion of the network, both organically and through mergers and acquisitions.
Expanding its geographical footprint will naturally come in tandem with this, something the organization has been working towards with recent office relocations to larger facilities in Boston and Dallas. Furthermore, in the APAC region, new sales offices have been opened in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and in Da Nang, Vietnam in 2023.
With so many competing priorities, DACHSER will undoubtedly continue to evolve moving forward. However, Riehl is firm in his view of how that evolution will unfold.
“We do not have a new year’s resolution for 2024,” he says. “Rather, we wish to stick to our mission for the long term – to optimize the logistics balance sheets of our customers. However, with that said, we will be guided by our key targets as part of our target picture for 2030.
“First, we strive to become the world’s most digitalized logistics provider and lead the market in terms of quality and service. This will be realized with a well-balanced, robust network with intelligent IT systems.
“Second, we will encourage end-to-end process thinking, expand our range of standard services for carriers, and make our service partners an even more integral part of our global network than before.
“And third is people. They are the center of everything we do. Therefore, we have a clear commitment to multinationalism, diversity, and an employee-oriented culture with fast cycles of learning and decision-making.”
Finally, the company endeavors to continue the expansion of its global network and the interconnectedness between European Logistics and Air & Sea Logistics.
“The goal is to create a leading worldwide global groupage network. Referred to as ‘global groupage’, it will be one of our unique selling points (USPs) in the future,” Riehl concludes.
With an unwavering focus on achieving these targets in the long term, DACHSER’s short-term initiatives will all likely hold huge relevancy – something that will only serve to accelerate the company’s success moving forward.