“Replying before the customer even asks the question”

Whether it’s a smartphone manufacturer or a cloud service provider: DB Schenker offers a wide range of services for customers in the electronics sector. And this range is steadily expanding, as Thilo Koch, the man in charge, explains in an interview with “logistics NewsFeed”

Thilo Koch (44) has been working for DB Schenker since 2006. Based at the Essen headquarters, he has been running the Vector Market Electronics, Global Contract Logistics for the last three years. Photo: DB Schenker

Mr. Koch, as Vice President Vector Market Electronics, Global Contract Logistics, you take care of the leading brands in this sector. What’s your greatest challenge?

We are a team consisting of almost a dozen colleagues located in the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore and Japan, with interfaces to various regional and local teams as well as to functional specialists. We talk with about 70 top companies in our sector on a daily basis. This is why we are aware that for our customers, speed and agility are absolute top priorities. Take the server farm or cloud solutions providers, for example, where we are currently seeing

increased demand: it is vital for these customers to secure market share through rapid growth. And we need to reflect this in the way we design our solutions towards speed and flexibility. This is our biggest challenge. An added factor is that our customers expect us to provide state-of-the-art technological and IT solutions on a level of leading technology enterprises which our customers simply are.

How do you and your team manage to adapt to these demands?

Well, we do it on the one hand by calibrating our organization toward a maximum of flexibility and rapid decision-making. And, on the other hand, by increasing the number and depth of standardized solutions without compromising the respective customer’s focus. Speaking of customer focus, it is also a matter of continually improving our knowledge and data management, so that we can answer questions from customers more quickly and – here we are again talking about speed and agility – be able to respond to upcoming relevant changes faster. Sometimes we are ready with our answers before the customer even asks the question.


So speed is one thing, but what about innovation in an industry that relies heavily on its own innovative strength?

If we did not have the ability to innovate and play a leading role in the digitalization of our industry, we would indeed face significant problems. Virtually all of our customers expect us to be proactive to safeguard their interests. This includes aspects like pursuing innovation as well as looking out of the box from time to time, or questioning basic assumptions. Ideally, we can do this working hand in hand with the customer, as in the case of the “Digitized Warehouse” in Houston, where we have been and will continue to be testing various new technologies together with Cisco. The insights we gain in doing this will of course also benefit other customers.

“Digitized Warehouse” in Houston: together with key customer Cisco, DB Schenker is developing logistics innovations such as facial recognition as a means of regulating access to a warehouse or even to certain parts of a facility

DB Schenker also offers technical services like repairs to electronics customers. What can they look forward to in the future?

In this respect we are currently active worldwide, especially in the segment of mobile phones and tablets. However, we perceive increased demand for more technical activities or their coordination. We have therefore launched a project aimed at consistently adding further product families to our range. In some instances, we are bringing integrated partners on board, but in others we are doing it ourselves. Our customers are provided with their own individual solutions which can be copied worldwide. In addition, we are currently exploring services covering the circular economy, refurbishment and material planning.


In terms of a strategy, what is the significance of such services that go beyond basic contract logistics?

All of our competitors are capable of building or operating a warehouse just as well as we are. Having said that, it is worth bearing in mind that doing so is by no means trivial. Especially in view of the fact that the continuing boom in the e-commerce business means that the availability of warehouse space and personnel is becoming scarce. That aside, developing complex logistics solutions that are tailored to the customers’ needs and then consistently making them available worldwide represents a challenge of quite a different order – and it is one where our strengths come to the fore.