DHL Express Australia is investing heavily in its facilities and infrastructure as it moves to grow further in one of its longest-standing markets.
DHL has been in operation since 1969, when in San Francisco, Dalsey, Hillblom and Lynn launched the world’s first intercontinental express delivery service. Today, DHL’s air and road network spans over 220 countries across the globe, and has become a household name and market leader in express delivery.
It may have a truly global reach; but it is still important to differentiate between the way operations are run in different territories of the world. Using the correct terminology can be important in putting across the right message and managing expectations: for example, DHL Express Australia operates seven ‘gateways’, as opposed to the ‘hubs’ of the European model.
“Unlike Europe, Australia doesn’t have a central hub—where a plane flies in to Leipzig, say, and the cargo is unloaded, sorted and the plane flies out again,” explains Lachlan Powell, VP of Network Operations for DHL Express Australia. “If you ship a parcel from the UK to Australia you don’t want to then ship it from Sydney to Perth as this adds to the transit.”
DHL Express Australia was established 40 years ago and is thus one of the company’s oldest non-USA markets. It is headquartered in Sydney and now has seven gateways in Brisbane, Darwin, Cairns, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne. And the Brisbane gateway is currently the subject of a major AUS$10 million investment.
“The shipment growth in Australia means continual investment in new facilities. The current Brisbane facility is at capacity so we’ve commenced building a completely new gateway there,” says Powell. “The new facility will remain strategically located on-airport and will include new state-of-the-art X-ray technology. New global security regimes are coming into force and it’s a matter of ensuring that our supply chain is secure.” The new facility will keep DHL Australia ahead of the game: Powell describes the building as looking like a typical on-airport warehouse but the interior and its equipment will belie its modest exterior. As well as the X-ray equipment, it will have a more automated environment, with the capacity for direct loading onto delivery vehicles.
“It will increase our capacity significantly,” he explains. “It is difficult to say exactly how much because we get more efficient every year, in many ways, but we are forecasting that it will meet our needs for the next 10 years.”
DHL Express Australia deals with a range of global businesses in the medical, aeronautical and fashion sectors, providing express and just-in-time delivery of items as diverse as clothing, car parts and contact lenses. Freight arrives by air from China, Europe and the rest of the world and is then dispatched to service centres, which undertake final deliveries. The service centres utilise some cross-docking techniques and they are strategically positioned to provide the earliest deliveries and latest pick-ups for customers.
Australia has particular needs that are dictated by its geographical and other realities: it’s a huge country but the population is small and mainly confined to the coastal margins. It has major mineral activities but not a huge amount of indigenous industry. That means that the majority of consignments that DHL—and other shippers—handle are inbound to the country; the ratio is around 70/30. Bulk servicing is by airfreight and ocean freight; few people would need to deliver finished goods by express mode.
“We are involved in the express component,” says Powell. “This is a premium service and we operate where customers are looking for fast, reliable, consistent service levels on a regular basis.” DHL’s service includes shipping, tracking, export and import, domestic and time-definite deliveries, as well as complete industry and small business solutions. Delivering consistently high levels of quality service is absolutely key.
Each year, DHL Express Australia handles millions of shipments weighing several million kilos. DHL recently upgraded its Tasman aircraft to a Boeing 757 freighter which operates daily between Auckland and Sydney: the larger aircraft was required to provide greater cargo capacity and ensure the highest service levels are achieved. Partnerships are in place with several airlines to utilise their cargo holds to move freight into and out of Australia, providing direct access to key markets with the fastest routing.
DHL Express Australia has also developed a partnership with eParcel to strengthen its residential delivery capability to meet the increasing demand from online consumers.
“This strong residential delivery model enables us to provide our customers with different delivery solutions,” Powell explains. Among those offers is the ability to collect a parcel from the local post office, or from the DHL office, if a customer misses a delivery because they were out when the courier called. The partnership has been valuable in driving DHL’s growth, which has been exceeding 20 per cent each year—but Powell and his team are not sitting back and just letting things happen.
“Leveraging mobile technology is a key part of our strategic plan,” he continues. Something as apparently simple as getting the consignee’s mobile phone number helps to improve service; it is a more direct and effective communication route than online tracking or even e-mail. The company uses various high-visibility tracking methods, based on robust, tried and tested technology, with checkpoints and physical scans of barcodes. “We are committed to driving continuous improvement in every aspect of our business, to sustain our credentials and corporate responsibility.”
The company has also invested in a new fleet of vehicles, in partnership with Ford, which are proving to be around 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than the previous model. But, in the end, high service levels can only be delivered by people who are well recruited and effectively trained, and Powell pays credit to a strong internal culture within DHL of investing in training for all staff.
“We are essentially a people business: we are selling a high quality service and that is about having the right people on the ground,” he asserts. “We invest in our people and ensure we have the right people in the right roles. The quality of our staff is confirmed by our high results and feedback from our customers. We have systems to proactively ensure that our service levels are the highest they can be; and we invest in quality controls and processes at all our facilities, to ensure the experience of shipping by DHL is the best in the industry.”