Interview with the CEO Dr. Detlef Trefzger

“Strategy and deployment
key to success”

The logistics industry has proven just how important it is to the global economy in a challenging market environment. So too has Kuehne+Nagel: over the past two years, the Company has continued its strategic focus on customers, systems and staff, it has accelerated implementation of its strategy once again and it has far surpassed its ambitious financial targets.

Logistics has never attracted as much of the world’s attention as it does today. The container ship “Ever Given” damaged in the Suez Canal in March 2021 impressively demonstrated the fundamental role that international trade plays for the global economy. “We bring together people and goods worldwide. Our 78,000 colleagues are working relentlessly despite the uniquely difficult environment and the currently high service requirements to provide our customers with effective solutions,” says Dr. Detlef Trefzger, CEO of Kuehne+Nagel.

The incomparably high demand for goods has led to unprecedented bottlenecks in global transport networks. The current situation is the result of a multitude of factors such as the pandemic-related shift in consumer behaviour and even the lack of staff as we have seen with the truck drivers. Challenges in port infrastructure have also become very much evident. Only every third ship in sea logistics arrives on time at the moment — a historical low.

Since Kuehne+Nagel has none of its own vessels or aircraft to operate, the Company is able to collaborate flexibly with all shippers and airfreight carriers. “This puts us in a position to offer our customers the best possible logistics solution in terms of quality even in the current dynamic situation on the market,” says Detlef Trefzger.


Implementation of proven strategy accelerated

Despite all the turbulence on the market, Kuehne+Nagel was able to close 2021 on a highly successful note: the Group generated record earnings for the eighth year in a row. Along with the unparalleled performance of its employees, Detlef Trefzger mainly attributes this to the Company’s long-term strategic direction: “We were focusing on close contact with customers, sustainable employee planning and pioneering technologies even before the pandemic began. This has paid off in the pandemic and has gone so far as to enable us to accelerate implementation of our strategy. We took the decision early on to expand our healthcare and e-commerce growth fields and have successfully invested in the transpacific growth market through our acquisition of leading Chinese airfreight service provider Apex Logistics.

This is reflected in our figures. With a conversion rate of 30% in 2021, Kuehne+Nagel was able to far surpass its ambitious financial targets. Detlef Trefzger summarises the recipe for success as being “consistent implementation of our strategy, designing agile logistics solutions using digital tools and state-of-the-art technology as well as the dedicated problem-solving approach of our employees. And all this worldwide applying the same high standards around the clock.”

We bring together people and goods worldwide. Our 78,000 colleagues are working relentlessly despite the uniquely difficult environment and the currently high service requirements to provide our customers with effective solutions.”

Dr. Detlef Trefzger

Digitalisation for more customer benefits

The digitalisation of logistics processes is of crucial importance. This is where Kuehne+Nagel builds on the proven synergy between logistics expertise and data intelligence. “Our experts deploy our systems and data models alongside their knowledge of local factors to realistically assess and evaluate the situation on the ground.”  

The trend toward full transparency and the ability to take control oneself using online tools dominates more than just the private sphere. Kuehne+Nagel is also seeing its customers use its digital services, such as its myKN customer platform, more and more. The solution allows all its logistics services to be accessed at the touch of a button – from its transport offering to shipment tracking. However, use of state-of-the-art technology at Kuehne+Nagel goes even further: “We have teams dedicated to optimising the use of artificial intelligence, which makes precise and high-quality network planning possible,” says Detlef Trefzger.

The online platform Seaexplorer enables customers to track all container ships worldwide in real time and anticipate the transit times of the ships. In air freight, Kuehne+Nagel’s Shipment Data Wallet application digitalises bookings that are still made non-digitally. This prevents input errors.

Deployment of data and artificial intelligence also benefits Kuehne+Nagel in another area: the Company has set itself the goal of making supply chains worldwide more sustainable, firstly to help its customers cut their CO2 emissions and secondly, to actively contribute to a more sustainable future as a responsible logistics provider. As an example, Kuehne+Nagel deploys digital tools that visualise and analyse trade flows on the basis of data to help its customers reduce their CO2 emissions by optimising their flows of goods or by resorting to transport alternatives with lower carbon emissions for individual routes.  


Confident about the future

We cannot say for certain at the present time that the general situation will ease. Kuehne+Nagel expects planning of global supply chains to continue to be greatly impacted in 2022.

Nevertheless, Kuehne+Nagel’s CEO remains optimistic: “Over the past few years, we have proven our ability to perform in highly volatile markets and will continue to do so in future. We aspire to remain a reliable and world-leading logistics partner going forward – for our customers, our suppliers, our shareholders, our employees and for society on the whole.”