IJS Global is a mid-sized forwarder in an industry full of them, but even with all the competition — and the presence of companies much larger than IJS — the firm has found a role for itself in the air cargo field. IJS is content not to be the biggest, the company’s chief commercial officer Rene de Koning told Air Cargo World during The International Air Cargo Association’s Air Cargo Forum in Atlanta last month. A decision to not be the biggest offers flexibility, but doesn’t mean the company isn’t dedicated to growth. In a wide-ranging conversation, de Koning talked about IJS’ internal moves, the state of the current market, and where he sees future opportunity for expansion.
1. How’s the first year at the helm of IJS Global been and what are your expectations for year two?
Last year, we moved our global headquarters from Stamford, Conn., to Amsterdam. We did some restructuring, and we made some changes in Asia. We removed some overhead, and we made the company a little bit more lean and mean. We started to initiate some global sales programs, like our PO management system. So we took some steps to tweak the organization to make it a better fit.
And we made tools now to facilitate growth in the coming years. We have a tool, ID Visibility, where costumers can do PO management on a web-enabled IT system. Everything we do in our system, the customer has access to it. If I have a shipment out of Shanghai, the moment my colleague in Shanghai starts to type, my customer in the UK can already see it. We’re building milestones — so you can have one to 40 milestones — where customers can trigger the information.
So the moment [the shipment] leaves the factory, arrives at the dock, goes to the airplane or arrives at Customs, they get a text message or an email message or an EDI message to their system. So these tools, we’ve matured them. And what we’re doing now is training people to sell it to our customers. It’s actually what you do; everybody can ship a box. But not everyone can make the supply chain.
With having all of our own offices throughout the world, we can really make this work. The problem you have if you have an agent’s network is that you rely on the systems of somebody else. In most countries, we have a home office network for our own systems. And in countries where we don’t have an office, like India, South Africa and Latin America, our agents are using our system. So that’s what we’ve being doing for the last year — tweaking the company, rolling out sales tools and developing our program that we call ID Visibility.
2. How has 2012 been so far for IJS Global?
Europe is stabilizing so our existing customers are doing less. We don’t lose customers but they tend to do fewer shipments. And what you see is where they had, sometimes, once a month a very large shipment, they now have, once a week, a smaller shipment. Competition is getting tougher.
In Brazil and China, there’s still very strong growth. In Australia, we’re doing extremely well, and that’s because there we focus on verticals that are not really affected by the economic crisis. Pharmaceuticals are really driven from Europe. Aerospace and defense are verticals that are relatively stable.
3. Please talk a little about the economic crisis in Europe and how it’s affecting forwarding globally?
What I’m seeing is that when I do sales in China, Asian customers are a little bit scared because they’re afraid that what happens in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal also happens to the other countries, like France, the Netherlands and Germany. So you see, out of the exporting countries in Asia, a hesitance, and also in a number of projects that we have for customers from China and Taiwan. In warehousing, they say, “Let’s postpone all of our plans.”
You see less demand in Europe because our customers are selling less, which also means we import less from China. You see a shift from airfreight to oceanfreight because the customers are really starting to plan their business more professionally. The planning, they can do with the pipeline of oceanfrieght for 28 days. On the other hand, we see some of our fashion customers, like Michael Kors, are growing. So for them, we do the store openings, and we do freight out of Asia into Europe and from the U.S., and that’s still growing. And we see the big high-tech firms are going down.
4. What regions are you eying for growth and why?
It’s Brazil; it’s China. It’s India because it’s a huge market that grows. We just saw for the first time, exports to China grow faster than the exports out of China. What I expect within five years is that India will also reach a certain wealth rate. We’re also looking to grow in Australia because we have a good team there. You can have a strategy about where you want to open up offices, but you can better have a strategy about where you have a good team. They can grow the business. So, what you see in Australia is very stable growth. They’re doing very well, and they’re very
5. What’s the No. 1 goal you would like to accomplish in your role as head of airfreight business development at Leipzig/Halle Airport?
In light of the current capacity bottlenecks at Western European airports, it is our goal to press ahead with the positive development of the airport and steer additional flows of goods to and from Europe through Leipzig/Halle, which will attract new airlines. Our major focus is on textiles, pharmaceutical products, perishables and goods associated with the automobile sector. But we are also providing services for niche markets like large animal transportation and outsize cargo, along with focusing on a greater intensification of charter traffic. The airport also has areas, some of them with access to the apron, which we want to develop together with airfreight logistics companies or industries linked to airfreight.