Logistics Expert

Expert Q&A: Logistics trends, trade, and COVID-19 in Europe

Through Twill’s supercharged partnership with Maersk, we have access to some of the best minds and expertise in logistics, with years of experience under their belt. We thought our customers would benefit from their insight – from what makes logistics tick, to trends and thoughts on the future.

In the first of these expert Q&As, we spoke to Duncan Wymer, Maersk’s Ocean Export Trade Manager for the NWC Area (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland):

Hey Duncan! Could you describe what it is you do in your role at Maersk?

Hey Twill! At Maersk, I lead a team that is responsible for delivering around one million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers every year, exporting from the NWC area to the world.

We are market experts, so we keep our sales and support teams informed on trade and market developments, which enables customers to plan better and make more informed decisions when shipping their cargo.

In your region, what are the trends you have spotted in recent years?

Well, automotive exports from the NWC region are significant, given that we have a number of the world’s biggest car manufacturers here, so if you operate in this sector there is a lot of interest and demand. With that comes an increasing demand for faster transit times and reliability to key markets.

Then, of course, we have the reason why so many people love visiting Europe – our food and drink! The food & beverage industry is a key growth segment for exports. That’s because export quotas in the EU – which pre-determine how much of certain goods can be exported to/from the EU – have been lifted in recent years, providing more freedom, and many consumers around the world crave European produce like beer, milk powder, cheese, chocolate and meat.

We can’t avoid the COVID-19 question at the minute. What have your initial thoughts been on the resilience of supply chains?

I think, from our perspective, the immediate observation is that supply chains are incredibly robust and in fact once started they are hard to stop. With retail markets shutting down or contracting, and demand for certain goods plummeting, we have actually seen some customers struggle to slow down their supply chains.

I see our responsibility as logistics providers as being ready and prepared to support our customers during times of crisis. Whether that’s with products and services, or providing insight and expertise on handling a crisis – particularly for SMEs who perhaps don’t have the security that a major brand does.

Building on that idea, what do you think are the main barriers stopping SMEs entering international trade or scaling-up their business? And how can these barriers be overcome?

I think the barrier that I know Twill are trying to overcome for SMEs is the lack of integration into the global market, which is something I have noticed in my region. Then there is, of course, the impact of high freight costs and general trade costs on these businesses.

Again, I think Twill is fighting in the corner of these businesses to knock down both of these barriers. An SME today has access to an online platform like Twill which can help reduce the cost of doing business and/or level the playing field on freight rates with large companies. The Twill team also give their customers guidance and insight into the world of trade and the knock-on impact of this is that those customers have more leverage when dealing with suppliers or their own potential customers.

Take, for example, the instant and transparent pricing at Twill, and guaranteed loading. By making freight rates available online for customers and guaranteeing that Twill will only book what it can ship, smaller companies are able to reduce costs and compete with large global brands on equal terms.

How about looking ahead. What one key issue, development, or innovation/technology do you think will define the next 3-5 years of trade in your region?

A lot is now up in the air due to COVID-19 of course, but Europe leads the way globally in the pursuit of a green economy, and I believe that environmental sustainability in the supply chain will be a major theme in the coming years.

A few ocean carriers have started to trial eco-fuel solutions, and Maersk has even pledged to be CO2-neutral by 2050. Behind these are technological innovations that need to be sold to our customers, and we are already seeing the first success stories that hint at a new model of contracting that supports more positive outcomes. As consumers put more pressure on businesses to act responsibly, the logistics providers who are willing and able to provide solutions to support that will thrive.

Thanks so much Duncan. Before you go, can we ask you to leave us with a unique or interesting piece of advice for our SME customers?

Companies that outsource their logistics reduce shipping costs, on average, by about 13 per cent. So, outsource your logistics to Twill, save on costs and give yourself peace of mind!