Focus on International Quality Standards
First Step: Harmonization of the Logistic Services at Austrian Post
Since June 2008, Carl-Gerold Mende - member of the Management Board of Austrian Post - is in charge of the Parcel & Logistics Division. In his function, he is responsible for trans-o-flex, a logistics group active throughout Europe, located in Weinheim, Germany. Austrian Post has been sole shareholder in trans-o-flex since June 2008. Sonja Andres asked Mende about the future alignment and development of trans-o-flex and how the company will face the logistic requirements of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.
CHEManager Europe: What goals have the board of directors set for trans-o-flex?
C.-G. Mende: Individual goals for the trans-o-flex group are of course important, but they are not are only concern. My first task as a new board member is to forge a coherent unit out of the three main "stand alone" business units of the division - I am talking of the trans-o-flex group in Germany, the parcel & logistics business in Austria and the various parcels and logistics enterprises which we have acquired in recent years in the CEE. We have been working on this goal for the last nine months and have realized that trans-o-flex could contribute the lion share to the development of a uniform appearance of the division. We have decided to gradually combine all parts of the parcel & logistics division, which are active in the B2B-business, under the brand of trans-o-flex. We are not only talking about dealing with a common name, the brand rather signalizes a uniform service promise. It is our goal to accelerate the expansion of the logistics solutions and quality standards of trans-o-flex on a European level.
What are the key competencies of trans-o-flex in the sector of pharmaceutical and chemical logistics?
C.-G. Mende: For both markets it is our substantial experience, our know-how and broad offer of solutions, which constitutes the characteristic of trans-o-flex. Trans-o-flex transports goods within the pharma logistics chain on a daily basis: from industry to pharmacies and hospitals up to physicians. With Thermomed, a subsidiary of trans-o-flex, our expertise has been extended to include high quality active temperature-controlled transportation. We offer this service within the temperature range of +2 and +8 °C and therefore accommodate the requirements of the relevant laws which effect the transportation of pharmaceuticals. For the chemical industry logistics our offers for the transportation of hazardous goods are outstanding. The entire trans-o-flex net is appropriately equipped to handle hazardous goods, employees are trained and retrained accordingly, buildings and vehicles have the necessary safety equipments etc.
While pharmaceutical companies are operating internationally, logistic service providers still have to face different quality standards from country to country. When do you expect the introduction of a European network with uniform quality standards?
C.-G. Mende: International solutions with uniform quality standards are part of our top priorities and at the moment we are working on developing a two-track European network. So far we are the only company, which offers active temperature-controlled transportation between +2 and +8 °C not only in Germany, but also in Austria and in the Benelux. We're planning to offer this service on a uniform quality standard to more countries over a specific period of time.
Secondly we will continue to advance the consistent development of the cross border "combi-freight network" called Eurodis. Already today Eurodis offers uniform services and IT-standards. The European product portfolio will be extended to cover more of the trans-o-flex features in line with the developing needs of our customers. This applies equally for our partners in Western and Eastern Europe, where the Austrian Post acquired a number of companies, which will be integrated into the European net of trans-o-flex/Eurodis.
How international is your network for transport of temperature-sensitive goods? Are there plans for the extension of the network?
C.-G. Mende: In the case of the transportation of temperature-sensitive goods one has to differentiate between active and passive cooling. Some competitors praise an international network for temperature-sensitive goods, but what they mean is the transportation with passive cooling, thus with special packaging including integrated cooling agents. We accomplish this today within our entire European network. However, due to transfer times of international transportation as well as product requirements, deploying this kind of passive cooling is quite restricted. The longer the transportation takes the deeper the products have to be cooled down. This is neither economic nor practicable for all kinds of products. Therefore Thermomed specialized in active temperature transportation, where the goods are stored, transported and delivered within the desired temperature range. By now we can offer this service in Germany, Austria and the Benelux.
Complex logistic services for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries require reliable, responsible and highly-skilled employees. Is it - due to the crisis - easier for you to find employees with adequate qualifications? How do you assure the quality of your personnel?
C.-G. Mende: Our very low employee fluctuation is among the most conspicuous characteristics of trans-o-flex. Serving our customers with employees who have been around the organization for a long time provides continuity and gives us the competitive edge when it comes to experience and knowledge. We work to maintain this lead by consistently investing in the training and development of our employees with a long-term view. Beside the traditional forms of education trans-o-flex increasingly uses the possibilities of the dual education system in Germany, where young people are moving through a regular apprenticeship whilst obtaining an academic degree at the same time. In line with the increasing requirements in the logistics business our needs of qualified employees with high-quality education rises continuously. And despite the crisis qualified employees are scarce.
Is this concept only valid for Germany or is it also used at other European locations?
C.-G. Mende: Our education and training concepts are not limited to Germany. Throughout the entire organization and within all business units in Europe we execute education programs tailored to specific requirements to ensure that qualified personnel resources are available, wherever and whenever our customers need them.
Are the German standards also valid for the integration of the European companies?
C.-G. Mende: The brand of trans-o-flex is a promise of high-quality services and we are not going to rename any enterprise which does not provide the German quality standards, e.g. which is not able to offer continuous tracking and tracing or an adequate quality of service measurement. We compiled a definite catalogue of requirements, which is to be fulfilled completely before an enterprise may call itself trans-o-flex. That is already true for the Benelux area and Hungary