DSV South Africa – Innovating the Supply Chain
DSV is a global transport and logistics company providing end-to-end supply chain support across a range of verticals. Since it was established in Europe in 1976 it has grown through successful mergers and acquisitions to achieve a reach and capability that stretches around the globe. We learn how innovation is helping DSV improve the supply chain even through turbulent times.
I would say that what makes our value proposition unique is the way we do things, with the key strategic objective being operational excellence. It is through this that we uphold our key value of ‘Customer First’,” says Candice Liebenberg, general manager of DSV. “We strive for the best performance across our whole organisation. And our ownership and initiative drive true collaboration with our customers. In South Africa, one of the things that set us apart is the end to end supply chain capability that enables us to support customers’ supply chains from source, first-mile, through to warehousing, middle mile and final delivery to customers, last-mile logistics.”
“True collaboration” sounds like the sort of copy you would find in any company brochure, but it’s clear talking to Liebenberg that she takes the concept seriously, not just as a bells and whistles feature, but as the underlying foundation of the business.
“I think first and foremost, the foundation of the relationship with the customer has to be built on trust,” she insists. “A value we hold very dear is that every contact point is an opportunity to build trust. No matter how big or small our promises are we keep them – if I say I’ll call you in an hour’s time, I will.”
That trust for Liebenberg is about more than delivering on promises, it’s about ensuring company and customer can work together from the assumption they are on the same side.
“It affords both parties the ability to create that collaborative approach, leverage their relationships and sit on the same side of the table to unpack supply chain requirements,” she says. “It means we can understand your business strategy and the supply chain beneath that and once we have a complete view it helps us achieve results together. We prioritise initiatives to deliver the most impact, whether the goal is boosting sales, increasing availability, or building customer satisfaction levels by reducing transit times. It’s important we understand that and create a willingness to share that information. That’s when true collaboration comes through, and the customer’s real mandate is that whatever solution we put in place helps them achieve their objective. We’re not selling something for the sake of it.”
Innovation Through Calculated Risk
As well as close collaboration, another key facet of DSV’s approach is innovation, which DSV pushes forward hand-in-hand with the Africa Innovation Hub and Global Innovation Hub.
“We track global and local business and technology trends, to ensure we focus on solving the right problems for our customers with the appropriate technology,” Liebenberg says.
DSV’s innovation efforts include Robotic Process Automation to aid in the capture and updating of information from sources that cannot be connected to traditional EDI technology. It allows for a greater level of data accuracy and the ability to update data more frequently, providing greater visibility for customers. DSV is also investing in the Internet of Things (IoT), collaborating with several technology partners to provide greater real-time visibility to DSV’s customers, including temperature monitoring on temperature-sensitive cargo across the supply chain, and GPS positioning to add an additional layer of security for higher risk cargo.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also inspired avenues of investigation including 3-D Printers used to produce contactless door openers, allowing people to open doors with their feet and reducing contact with germ-transmitting doorknobs. DSV has fast-tracked the development of a COVID-19 app for monitoring the location and health status of all its employees, allowing DSV’s emergency response to target areas of greatest risk while ensuring employees stay healthy and safe when they are required to be in the workplace.
Innovation is always to some extent a question of catching lightning in a bottle, but DSV is structured to encourage innovation across the business.
“DSV has always had a culture of decentralised decision making, which encourages calculated risk-taking to enhance our service offerings in the local markets,” explains Liebenberg. “Together with this, DSV employees have a real passion to deliver great service, which ties into the first, and most important point, that all innovation must be focused on delivering better service or enhanced service offerings to our existing and future customers. We actively encourage our employees to bring ideas forward and work with the Africa Innovation Hub to rapidly build and test prototypes. A large percentage of these prototypes are destined to fail, but that is not a disincentive as calculated risk-taking is the second important aspect of fostering innovation. The Africa Innovation Hub provides a safe space with available expertise to move ideas forward.”
Designing a Smarter Locker
A great demonstration of DSV’s innovation in action is in their “smart locker” technology, developed in anticipation of the exponential growth that e-commerce and other direct-to-consumer services offered.
The DSV Locker removes the need for a parcel and customer to be available on the same date, time and place for a successful delivery to occur, adding an additional element of convenience for customers. The locker is integrated into DSV’s business and transport management systems, enabling geolocating parcels at any time, providing customers with click-through links to maps of where the locker with their parcel is located, and messaging customers to alert them when their parcel arrives.
By the end of 2020 businesses and private consumers will have access to more than 400 DSV Lockers throughout South Africa.
DSV introduced the locker concept into South Africa in 2016, but in the post-COVID era, it’s easy to see how the concept is about to come into its own as coronavirus has led to an explosion in e-commerce.
“Covid-19 radically changed the business and the business landscape,” Liebenberg says. The pandemic has also brought many challenges with it, but DSV has risen to those challenges.
“We have always had to contend with external challenges,” Liebenberg points out. “The point to remember is we have not only survived them, we have grown our business, gained new clients and developed new products and services. We have been able to do this because it has always been our policy to invest in our people, our communities and our business – and the most obvious example right now are the new Gauteng and Western Cape HQs which will come on stream in 2021.”
Liebenberg makes a compelling case for DSV as a strong and well-organised company, able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances that will protect itself and its people for the longer term. “We are innovating as I talk to you,” she says. “We’re crafting new opportunities in e-commerce and elsewhere to ensure we remain competitive and relevant in our marketplaces. We improvise. We innovate. We use our agility and knowledge to adapt. These characteristics have been the foundation for our success over the years, and they will see us through this pandemic to the other side.”
Looking forward, DSV’s mission is clear. “We will continue to adapt to circumstances and remain true to our core objective to grow our business leveraging the synergies we will achieve through our new, consolidated Gauteng and Cape Town facilities,” she tells us. “Innovation and agility are part of our DNA and we will continue to explore opportunities to better service our customers and grow our business.”