Interview

“Ahead of the plan”

DB Schenker’s contract logistics segment in the region Middle East & Africa is developing in leaps and bounds – and will have even more to offer its customers in future! Ako Djaf, the man in charge of this business unit, fills us in on the most recent developments

Ako Djaf has worked in the logistics industry for more than 17 years. After joining DB Schenker in 2005 he held many leading positions in central and eastern Europe until in 2012 he became Head of CL in the region Middle East & Africa. Photo: DB Schenker
Ako Djaf has worked in the logistics industry for more than 17 years. After joining DB Schenker in 2005 he held many leading positions in central and eastern Europe until in 2012 he became Head of CL in the region Middle East & Africa. Photo: DB Schenker

Mr. Djaf, under your leadership as the regional Head of Contract Logistics (CL), a mega-site is taking shape in Dubai. Please tell us about the project’s current status. And which industries are going to benefit from the site?

The construction of our Dubai Logistics Center (DLC) II with an area of 35,000 square meters is slightly ahead of the plan. We expect a punctual go-live in March 2019. Looking at the customers we are successfully partnering with in the region, you’ll find a good mix of best-in-class companies from the automotive, electronics, industrial and consumer industries. Consequently, DLC II – our second own facility in the region following the opening of DLC I in 2016 – has been designed to accommodate companies from all these four key industry segments. Our aim is to keep a healthy mix of the different verticals with a multi-customer shared facility.

 

What are the benefits of the facility?

Its location has been strategically selected: the Free Zone of “Dubai South Logistics District” is among the region’s busiest logistics junctions. It’s only a few kilometers to Jebel Ali Port, the biggest harbour in the Middle East, as well as to Al Maktoum International Airport, the biggest in the world. DLC II is located at the main highway used for the land transport flow into the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The facility also is a flagship model in technical terms. Only one example: this is DB Schenker’s first mega-site worldwide with 100 percent energy supply through solar panels. It goes without saying that the technical equipment will also be absolutely state-of-the-art.

 

DB Schenker has offered CL in your region only since 2012. Why is that so – and how has this segment developed since?

For a long time, DB Schenker focused in particular on air and ocean freight in the Middle East and Africa. This was due to the high complexity of CL operations in general and particularly due to the difficult conditions in most of the relevant countries, such as the scarcity of top-notch personnel. However, with growing customer demand looking often for one-stop services, we established a regional CL strategy. Since then we’ve been able to develop successful operations across the region, following our global customers to their target markets. We have established a wide range of know-how and technical capabilities such as solution design or IT set-up focused on standardization within our regional SAP environment. At present we operate 22 sites with over 1,000 top-performing staff members.

 

How do you make sure to get enough top talents to join your team?

This is a big challenge as we consider highly qualified and dedicated employees our most important asset! Yet we’ve decided to face it and find ways to make it work without compromising our service level and standards that our global customers expect from us worldwide. Today we have strongly established set-ups in all our CL countries and highly qualified teams. It is not always easy to keep it at that level. A key message is to ensure a high-performing environment that attracts highly skilled, qualified and motivated employees.

 

In which markets does DB Schenker maintain CL operations and where do you perceive the biggest potential?

Apart from the United Arab Emirates and especially Dubai, most relevant with regard to our customers’ demands and presence are Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya. Over the last five years, Saudi Arabia has been the fastest-growing market and will remain a key focus market for us. In addition, we’re represented in Namibia, which will remain a small CL market for us, yet it serves as a strategic gateway for our distribution network into northern Africa. In terms of the development of own facilities, we are currently assessing potential business cases in Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Not to mention Dubai Logistics Center III, the construction of which is under way and is to be completed by 2021.

 

What fascinates you personally as far as the CL business in your region is concerned?

Basically, CL is a very dynamic environment characterized by its never-ending evolution corresponding to the fast-growing customer and consequently supply chain demand. The market here in the Middle East and Africa in particular is still an emerging one. Yet the evolution in both footprint development and technology are happening at immense speed. It’s fantastic to see ourselves establish mega-facilities in the middle of the desert or at deepest locations in Africa where we provide first-class logistics services to global customers based on the most modern technologies and solutions.

Mammoth project: the logistics center currently being built in Dubai represents the largest investment undertaken to date by DB Schenker in the region Middle East and Africa. The photo of the groundbreaking ceremony which took place earlier this year shows Ako Djaf as the second person to the left

Photos: DB Schenker



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