DB Schenker is a global leader in logistics across multiple industries, last year extending its wide reach into the cruise sector. World Cruise Industry Review talks to Sergio Herrero, its director of cruise line logistics, about the firm's experience in managing the intricacies of a cruise ship supply chain and its plans for aggressive expansion in the coming years.
Provisioning a cruise ship is more of an art than a science - something that Sergio Herrero, director of DB Schenker's cruise line logistics arm, knows all too well.
"We once had a client that left some items in Los Angeles and asked us to ship them to Cancun within 48 hours, for delivery to Costa Maya, Mexico," Herrero recalls. "There are 200 miles between the closest airport and port. We had to deploy three couriers to check in 24 bags on a commercial flight departing at 11.50pm and arriving at 6.40am the next day."
Thankfully, the passenger's luggage arrived safe and sound in Costa Maya later that day. Altogether, though, it's not a surprising performance from DB Schenker. Founded in 1872 in the German city of Essen, the company is one of the oldest freight-forwarding companies operating in the world today.
"We're a trusted brand in our industry, recognised on a global scale," says Herrero. "We're constantly engaging with our clients to help drive their businesses forward. Our focus is on providing what clients need without unnecessarily complex strategies. As such, we use a structure methodology that is tested and proven to increase operating efficiencies while driving down costs and protecting our customers."
That vast experience in moving almost anything under the sun from A to B proved doubly useful when DB Schenker made the decision to move into cruise line supply management. After all, the challenge of provisioning such a large vessel is huge.
For each cruise ship it supplies, the company has to not only make sure the vessel is fully stocked with food and beverages, but also coordinate order management and emergency resupplies; oversee warehouse stock, and the movement and safe storage of luggage; guarantee full transparency in the inventory process; deliver mail for passengers and crew; and accomplish all of this under strict deadlines. Herrero likens the whole process to shooting at a moving target.
"You only have one opportunity to hit it," he says. "And cargo will vary from parcels to full truck loads and ocean containers."
Despite these challenges, DB Schenker has a proven record in delivering its services to its clients on time and on budget.
"We consistently earn our clients' trust," says Herrero. "And we continue to help them with business requirements, offering expert solutions without resorting to complicated strategies. In the end, we deliver continuous improvements to our customers throughout the cruise and marine industries."
This doesn't just include moving goods on deadline; DB Schenker can provide support up and down the entire cruise operator's supply chain.
"We deliver customised, scalable and flexible solutions that we can integrate seamlessly into a business model, no matter how complex," explains Herrero. "This includes everything from inbound and supply management to the distribution of finished goods, and the support of landings, dry docks and newbuilds."
In the years ahead, the company sees several opportunities for instilling efficiencies across its own network. DB Schenker is increasingly focused on streamlining its communications strategy, working to phase out a reliance on phone brokers to connect them with third-party haulage firms in favour of cloud-based platforms that perform the same function.
Its recent acquisition of transportation start-up uShip is a sign of the company's long-standing commitment to innovation that will benefit not only its cruise supply business, but its work across other industries, too. More importantly, it will allow the firm breathing room to plan the further expansion of its cruise industry services.
"We intend to continue our expansion in the cruise and marine markets as we help our customers support their businesses around the globe," says Herrero. "In 2017, we expect additional growth in all facets of our services to cruise and marine clients as we become recognised in the industry."