Air Cargo Leaders: Roger Crook, Des Vertannes
Roger Crook: A new face in the forwarding game
Roger Crook took on the job of CEO of DHL Global Forwarding, Freight, in March after a long stay in the company’s express division. Since then he’s been settling into his new position, focusing on increasing marketshare while bringing some of the strategies used in the express arena to the freight forwarding world.
Air Cargo World: Look back at the past year. How has 2011 been for DHL Global Forwarding?
Roger Crook: The year has been — and will be — an excellent year for DHL. We’ve grown both our sales revenue and our profitability. I think the year started out more optimistic than it’s ending. Up until about June, we thought we were going to have a peak season in the second half of the year, and we haven’t seen that happen. It’s peaked a little bit here and there, and then it’s dropped back again. I think many companies are still
looking at their inventory levels and playing “wait and see.”
From my point of view, 2012 is a big question mark, and 2013 probably even more. If you look at us and our competitors during the last two to three months, particularly airfreight volume is down on last year. And you can actually see in our Q3 report that our volume was down 2 percent to 3 percent on average for that three-month period. Everybody’s hurting. I don’t see any of our competitors that I’ve looked at that are in any different position. Everybody’s looking at how can they make money.
ACW: At the start of the year, a lot of talk revolved around ocean carriers taking marketshare from the airfreight world. Is that still the case?
Crook: There was some of that in the beginning of the year. I think it’s switched now. People have held off on the peak season with ocean and now, potentially, you might see in the next few months a small peak of last-minute buys, people’s inventory running out, but it’s not really happening right now. We saw switching in the beginning of the year, but it’s not so much happening right now.
ACW: It seems like 2011 will go out with a whimper. What can you as a freight forwarder do to make 2012 more profitable?
Crook: There’s opportunity to grow even though the market is flattening or even declining. From my point of view, yes we can grow. We can become more effective in the marketplace through our sales acquisition process. The other thing is innovation. Obviously, there is innovation that continuously goes on, and I think we can be more effective about bringing that to market.
ACW: What are your customers asking for now?
Crook: Yesterday, one customer — we’re a big supplier to them from an airfreight point of view — said, “Well, I’m going to retire when this industry finally has the same visibility as the express industry.” What I see — and I’ve been in the express industry; I haven’t been in this job very long — is more and more customers are pushing for more visibility. They’re also looking for more defined or definite time in terms of transit time. They want a timed transit time; as opposed to five days or three days, they want it 60 hours or 80 hours. There is some trend in the industry that’s bringing it closer to express over time, but it’s a long way away before you get the visibility of express.
ACW: You said you haven’t been in this job for long. Has there been a steep learning curve? Do you feel like you were thrown into the fire?