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In Dialogue with Logistics

Successful logistics with 2-man handling


2-man handling for the last mile: The all-round, carefree logistics package for customers

Ordering everyday necessities online has almost become standard practice. However, more and more people are also ordering large items that they want delivered to their homes, such as a washing machine, fitness equipment or a new kitchen table. This represents a huge challenge, particularly for logistics specialists because they not only have to bear in mind the general inner-city conditions, e.g. traffic and the corresponding delivery exigencies, but also customers’ requirements and wishes.

The proportion of furniture items purchased online was already about ten per cent of total turnover in the sector in Germany alone in 2017 and this figure will probably continue to increase even more during the next few years – up to 17 per cent in 2022, according to a forecast by the ‘statista’ organisation.

The growing importance of furniture sales on the Internet is partly due to the fact that large and bulky objects do not have to be transported in people’s cars and because, over the past few years, the pandemic has meant that more and more people have been ordering items online. The retail sector is convinced that this is not a passing phase, but growth in the all-delivery economy can be maintained in the long term because the advantages of electronic shopping have convinced many new online shoppers. Instead of making purchases at static furniture stores, they now simply order kitchen furniture or sitting room suites for delivery to their homes at the click of a mouse. The market for home fitness equipment is growing too. Turnover is likely to almost double to USD 448 million by 2027 compared to the figure for 2019. This development means that logistics specialists in particular have to optimise their delivery processes and adapt to customers’ needs. 

Nils Thiesen, the Managing Director of Sales and Market Development at Rhenus High Tech and Rhenus Home Delivery, and Axel Mallon, the International Sales Director at Rhenus Home Delivery, talk in the podcast about the logistical challenges of delivering bulky goods such as washing machines, fitness equipment, medical devices, cash machines and the like. They explain why smooth delivery process operations are particularly important – and how extra services can achieve high levels of customer satisfaction. Alternative delivery options such as small vans with electric power trains, cargo bikes or solar-powered vehicles, which could be increasingly used in future, are currently being tested to make goods deliveries even more efficient and environmentally friendly. Smart controls for supply chains provide further huge potential for logistics companies such as the Rhenus Group.

Please note: This episode is currently only available in German. You can find the podcast with German and English subtitles here.

Logistics People Talk | Episode 10


Logistics People Talk | Episode 10

Nils Thiesen and Axel Mallon talk about the challenges of delivering goods to their place of use. Everything revolves around how to make delivery processes with 2-man handling even more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Transcript of our podcast episode

Andrea Goretzki: Welcome to Logistics People Talk, the official Rhenus podcast for everyone who wants to stay up to date with logistics. We are ...

Gwen Dünner: Gwen Dünner ...

Andrea Goretzki: and Andrea Goretzki. Our topic today: ‘2-man handling. Successful logistics on the last mile.’

Gwen Dünner: We all know the postmen and parcel carriers who deliver our online orders to our homes. But sometimes it's a bit bigger, a bit heavier or bulkier, e.g. a piece of fitness equipment, furniture or household machines like a washing machine. Sometimes fitness studios are delivered to instead of us, or therapists’ practices, hotels or hospitals, receiving large items of fitness equipment or coffee machines. At Rhenus, such transports are handled by the Rhenus Home Delivery and Rhenus High Tech business units. Both specialise in delivering goods that are often bulky and require assembly at the point of use.

Andrea Goretzki: So our guests today are two experts in this field: Nils Thiesen, Managing Director Sales and Marketing for Rhenus High Tech and Home Delivery, and Axel Mallon, International Sales Manager at Rhenus Home Delivery, the logistics specialist for furniture, household appliances and sports equipment. Welcome to Logistics People Talk, you two.

Nils Thiesen: Hello, I’m glad to be here.

Axel Mallon: Thank you for inviting me.

Andrea Goretzki: With pleasure.

Gwen Dünner: It’s nice that you are here and that we can finally get down to brass tacks. I have a complaint. Two years ago I moved to Dortmund and, of course, as is always the case, in a rented flat you always have to order a kitchen. Measuring, deciding which items, colours and surfaces, delivery, no problem at all. But when it came to ‘Can you also assemble it?’, the kitchen manufacturer says: ‘No, we don’t do that.’ I write texts, I do podcasts, I can’t build a kitchen. Then, of course, I first had to find an external company that could take care of this. Axel, would that have happened to me with Home Delivery?

Axel Mallon: I could answer the question now with a simple ‘No, that wouldn’t have happened.’ In fact, we do it a bit differently. You have to look at several processes. First of all, of course, the kitchen and the goods have to come to us. We pick the goods, put the shipment together and, when the complete kitchen has been delivered to us, i.e. the kitchen furniture, the worktops, the electrical appliances, we first make an appointment with you to agree when we can come to you at all. When we make the appointment, we also agree on the service portfolio once again. What has been agreed upon and what else we can perhaps do for you. In your example, we would have asked: ‘We see, we are only supposed to deliver. Would you also like to have your kitchen installed?’ At that point, at the latest, you would then have been able to see in the dialogue that we can do the assembly work. We don’t just transport from A to B any more. It’s become a bit more. We bring the goods to your home, we carry them to the place of use. In this beautiful example, it’s the kitchen. That’s where we start with the services that we have agreed upon with you. So we unpack the goods, position the kitchen furniture, align it, assemble it. Then we have the installation, so the connections have to be made. Induction hobs have to be connected to the mains. The cooker has to be fitted. The refrigerator has to be installed and so on. Then we also have to do the supply and wastewater, because you also want to do the washing up or your dishwasher should also work. In other words, at the end, we conduct a nice function test and you can start working with your kitchen. To make sure you don’t end up with all the rubbish, we are also happy to dispose of the packaging material properly: cardboard, polystyrene, plastic. If you happen to have an old washing machine or an old cooker at home, we would also offer to dispose of the old appliance and place it in the recycling loop in a certified way. Long answer to a short question: Yes, we do things differently.

Gwen Dünner: Good answer.

Nils Thiesen: I think you’ve noticed directly that Axel doesn’t just sell the product, he lives it. He knows every detail. Gwen, the next time it doesn’t work out, you can just call him directly. Then you can assemble together. That’s also incredibly character-building.

Gwen Dünner: Very nice.

Andrea Goretzki: It definitely sounds like the complete package with you.

Axel Mallon: Exactly, and the complete package is not only a kitchen, but we are also talking about furnishings. Whether it’s a sofa or a box spring bed, a wall unit, a bookcase, a piece of sports equipment, which is a very emerging market right now, in the last two years, or was in times of lockdown, where the gyms were closed. So we can also wonderfully deliver sports equipment to the home, set it up and connect it to the Wi-Fi so that the online tutorials can be started.

Andrea Goretzki: I know Gwen a little bit and I know she is always super prepared and a client like out of a picture book, of course. Now maybe that’s not always the case. From your experience, what would you say are the biggest challenges when supplying customers? How can you, as a client, make sure that the delivery is optimal? What can I do to help?

Nils Thiesen: I’ll jump right in here and start at the beginning. The challenge in our 2-man handling area is of course always that the products are relatively large and bulky. It’s not the classic package that you drop off at your neighbour’s, but you need very, very good neighbours to be enthusiastic about putting a three-seater sofa in their hallway. That’s why the challenge actually starts there, to arrange the right appointment that fits into the customer’s calendar. Relatively quickly, of course, but still relatively frictionless. We prefer to do this via an online portal, where the customer can open their calendar in parallel and discuss with their wife, grandmother and children whether Friday at 1 p.m. really suits them. Then they can book the appointment directly. I believe that this is a fundamental difference between the premium service we offer and everything that comes on a pallet or as a package. That is perhaps one aspect where it is very, very different. Do I get a sofa delivered or just the accessory, i.e. the two cushions that typically come in the parcel network? Perhaps another example from real life. I think the average customer thinks less about logistics than the four of us, naturally. There is this moment. I have finally found the right product in the online shop after much research and discussion. Then I click, and with that click I have an expectation that the next thing I know, mysteriously, the new dining table is upstairs in my maisonette. And perhaps I haven’t thought about the fact that the tabletop, real wood, three metres long, 135 kilos, is really difficult to get up into this flat via the small spiral staircase. On the one hand, it’s a challenge but, on the other hand, it’s fair enough. That’s what we’re here for; that’s our job. That’s why we have trained colleagues in Customer Service and also, of course, with the drivers, to deal with exactly such situations and still get the table there or find other, sometimes creative, solutions. Maybe these are two aspects of your question.

Axel Mallon: Of course, you have to try to determine and intercept the whole thing in advance, to find out, because we don’t want a surprise. We want to have a smooth, nice customer experience, i.e. a nice delivery. That’s why it’s also important that we ask precisely about these conditions, parking facilities, narrow staircases, narrow corridors and so on, in advance as well. Whether it’s via the online channel or in a direct customer dialogue, i.e. by telephone, to rule that out as well.

Andrea Goretzki: In principle, you both said that you often have to think about creative solutions for these challenges that arise. Does that actually also apply in the high-tech sector, Nils, or is that more of a B2C issue?

Nils Thiesen: I think in all of these cases, creative is one thing and, on the other hand, we have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of shipments that we bring through a logistics network. There is already a high degree of standardisation. That’s why there is the creative element on the ground, but in total, our job as a logistics provider is to operate a large network on a large scale, as we call it. That’s why we have the network business and then special projects where we get really creative. When the holiday home on Norderney is equipped, if it is a special request, as Axel said before. Then we get a lot done there, which is amazing. To come back to your high-tech question, it’s different again, I think, based on the products. A sofa with four feet on it or even a kitchen naturally has complexities, but when I look at the high-tech product portfolio, starting with the normal ‘printer’ and ending with the medical device that we bring into the hospital, and have to lift the roof half off beforehand, as I always say in a nutshell. You can already deduce that there are quite different challenges waiting for you. If you imagine a bank machine, for example, and think about the fact that an insurance company naturally has certain expectations in terms of explosion protection. These are topics where we really go deep into the subject. Anyone who has seen something like this and talked to people feels that our colleagues don’t make such a big deal out of it. But for someone who comes from logistics, but not so much from this special niche, maybe didn’t grow up there like I did, I have to say that this is really ‘nitty gritty detail’. To manage that in such a way that at the end of the day a satisfactory service is provided, that is already flexibility at the actual place of service provision and good planning, a good system, a good structure in advance. Those are, I think, the ingredients that you need to make it successful.

Gwen Dünner: Absolutely. And as you have just mentioned, in order for the delivery to run smoothly for all sides, it is especially important to be able to set the positive purchase experience, i.e. also the individual delivery date. We know this, not from Home Delivery, all’s good there, but you know it from all kinds of online shops: ‘Please be ready between May and October from 07:00 to 18:00. We’ll be arriving then.’ Nobody really wants that. There’s nothing worse than someone saying again: ‘We’ll be there in the morning between 7:00 and 12:00.’ If you work from home, that’s fine. But if you have a child or someone wants to go out in the meantime, they will, of course, come right after you leave the house. To cut a long story short: do your customers also have to wait this long?

Axel Mallon: This is a podcast. You see me sitting here with a big grin on my face. I’ve been doing this for a few years now. When I started in the business many decades ago, after we had the choice, we tried to reach the customer by phone via a landline number because mobile phones didn’t exist yet. Then you didn’t reach them and then you sent a postcard. With the postcard, you then had to wait a few days for it to be delivered, and then at some point hopefully the delivery was made. I am so glad that times have changed and that we have developed further and that today we actually have the possibility to use some communication channels in the way that is needed or that the recipient likes. We also determine this in part through the ‘customer’ channel. Is this an online shop customer? Is this another one who comes from the stationary trade? This can be deduced from the fact that we actually manage to reach the customer quickly at short notice in order to arrange this delivery date in the shortest possible time. E-commerce retailers, for example, no longer measure the delivery time, but actually measure from the time of the order, i.e. when you click ‘Place order’ online until delivery. That is the important time frame for them and it should be as short as possible. That’s what we have to do in our processes, or we have actually adjusted our processes to that.

Nils Thiesen: I think, to make it a bit more complicated – you can also differentiate this based on the products, for example. A short preface: normally it’s not up to us. Often it’s not our fault, it’s due to various aspects. Why are delivery times delayed? I think anyone who has seen the photos of ‘how many ships are actually lying around off the coast of Shanghai or in the North Sea right now?’ can already deduce three reasons. But let’s take the case that the goods are already in the country and are available as stock in the right colour, size, whatever. Then a logistics system like ours can deliver the goods at good speed, not the same day, of course, but within 24 or 48 hours. But then there is the exciting question which is what I was just getting at: product differentiation. Do I really need that? Do I really need my new wall cupboard? Do I really need it the day after tomorrow? Is that the case? Or do I first have to think about how I’m actually going to get rid of the old one? And, on the other hand, let’s play out the scenario. I have a family of six. My washing machine breaks down. That’s dire, of course. Actually, today, tomorrow, the new washing machine has to be there. Plugged in, ready to use and the old one gone, of course. What’s the point of asking? I think these are the different aspects you can play through. When I studied logistics 15 years ago, this was also true, or it was one of the mantras of our professors – and this can also be said of high tech, home delivery, especially for these niches: punctuality before speed. When you look at time, I think the issue is that if you promise something, you have to deliver it, and your example, if you are out walking the dog for even a minute, you will miss the delivery. The typical note in the letterbox. Then there’s traceability, online traceability, so that you can really see that it’s coming in the next few minutes. He told me beforehand that it would arrive between 2 and 4 p.m. and then it will be there. I can track it on my mobile phone at the same time. I think these are the questions that are actually more important at the end of the day for most of our clients than ‘Will you be there tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in three days?’

Axel Mallon: It’s all about being informed. When you have ordered your goods, you simply want to be kept up to date. Over the years, we have learned to create opportunities for proactive communication. This means that people want to be informed by us, on the one hand, i.e. push messages via text or email: ‘Your delivery will come then and then ...’ or in the 2-hour time window. Or, what is really becoming more and more common, is being able to check online: ‘Where are we right now?’ For example, we have this online portal. You can access it via a desktop, a tablet or a mobile phone with rhenusmydelivery. And there you can check exactly: ‘What is the status right now? What have I actually ordered? That’s actually what it says. My sofa consists of three packages, which are so and so big and so and so heavy. You can also check again, will it fit through the door, for example? Then: When is the appointment? When was it agreed upon? When is the 2-hour time window and then, on the day of delivery, also track the consignment. And really, because we have GPS-tracked vehicles, we can simply track how many consignments, how many stops there are before my delivery arrives. We make this 2-hour time window, for example. We say we’ll arrive between 12:00 and 14:00 and on the day of delivery it actually says: ‘Expected arrival 13:37.’ Then you can really walk the dog or run to the bakery and get some croissants.

Gwen Dünner: For the nice delivery people.

Andrea Goretzki: Exactly.

Axel Mallon: Thank you for that transition. I would like to take up the ball immediately because, at the end of the day, it is also our staff that is on site. The delivery team consists of two trained employees who can also communicate. They also do a driver’s avis; they call beforehand and say: ‘We’ll be with you in about an hour,’ and ask again if there are any problems or similar issues that they should be prepared for. It’s very important that we are there with two people who are trained in communicating, in being polite and everything that goes with that.

Andrea Goretzki: Now there is more to a positive buying experience than just meeting an exact delivery date. It actually already starts when I am interested in a product. How do you see the relationship between the customer journey and customer satisfaction at Rhenus?

Axel Mallon: Measuring customer satisfaction? It is very important to measure at the various touchpoints along this customer journey where were we good and where were we bad? We make this customer satisfaction measurement. That is immensely important for us. You have to be able to measure satisfaction. The factors that had positive or negative effects must then be determined and the right adjustments made. That is a very, very important criterion for us. That is also the conclusion of these entire customer journeys, when the customer receives his delivery note, to ask the question again: ‘How satisfied were you with us? We do all this using the so-called net promoter score, or NPS. This is a scale that can be used to evaluate from 1 to 10. There is then a calculation algorithm that shows us how satisfied or dissatisfied the customer was. Then you can go in there and see: Where was it? Why were they dissatisfied? If, of course, the customer was kind enough to evaluate it. Then there are always these topics, the Trust Pilot, which we know from various everyday things in life. Be it a hotel, be it shopping in a supermarket or in a fashion shop. The Trust Pilot is also an instrument that is being used more and more nowadays, especially through the internet.

Nils Thiesen: I agree, and perhaps one more aspect. I believe that the customer does not necessarily differentiate between the service of Rhenus Home Delivery and the corresponding online shop that is behind it because in principle, in many cases, online above all, this is the first human contact that the customer has at all in the entire customer journey. I believe that this is all the more important for the decision-makers in the respective companies to consider once again what effect this actually has and what are my marketing costs or my investment in logistics if I save at this point, to put it in plain language. But this is the first time that the customer really has physical contact. Then I have made the overall shopping experience more negative than it actually has to be. That’s where it’s our job, and we’re very happy to do that, to integrate ourselves very well into the customer journey of the respective client. With white label solutions, that everything actually works in a flow, e.g. for major customers, and the processes harmoniously intertwine and we don’t necessarily have to explain to the customer: ‘But that’s not our fault at all because it wasn’t complete in the warehouse of such and such. I believe that, as soon as you get into such discussions, you have already lost half the battle. The whole process has to be completely smooth from ‘I end up on the homepage’ to ‘The sofa then ends up in my living room’.

Axel Mallon: I wanted to add that of course we also share this customer satisfaction measurement with our client and then also enter into a dialogue with them directly. It’s not just about whether they were happy with the installation of their kitchen or not; we also have to look at the overall picture of our clients and share it with them. Of course, if we then find things like the customer was not happy with the product or with the packaging of the product, we can share that with our client as well. That is teamwork. It’s a partnership that we enter into with them, designed to be as long-term as possible. Of course, this also helps the overall quality standards and the overall picture because this returning customer is also very important for online shops. They also measure the number of customers who come back again and again to make purchases. And it’s very important that we play a significant role there because, as Nils just said, in the end our employees are the only living people, often the only ones they see with the goods. Then it’s very important that we stand there properly so that the customer says: ‘That was great. The sofa is wonderful. The delivery worked. Now I’d like the armchair to go with it.’

Gwen Dünner: Absolutely. Axel, you mentioned that just now too. There used to be postcards. That is, customer satisfaction hasn’t somehow become important recently, it probably always has been. But to what extent has the situation or the market developed because of the developments already mentioned, from stationary trade to e-commerce?

Axel Mallon: It has changed. In the past, of course, we also made quality enquiries and our drivers were requested to ask: ‘How satisfied were you with our performance?’ But then you can imagine that when two burly guys standing in front of the door with a truck asked, ‘Were you satisfied with my service?’, most people said, ‘Yes, we were.’ But there could also be no further measurement because there were no subsequent follow-up questions. Nowadays, with all the technology at our disposal, the customer is of course much more willing to give an assessment. Be it with us via the query or with the client. The client is also able to differentiate quite clearly. In his quality queries, it was a logistical error, it was a product problem. The feedback rate is much higher nowadays than it used to be. That means it’s easier online, when you’re just printing out your delivery note, to press a rating. It’s neutral, it’s quick and you’re happy to do it because you want to. Nowadays, people have this need to communicate. We see it in the social media channels, how many people nowadays like to share what they think or explain their experiences. Of course, this has developed immensely in the last 30 years. We have to pay attention to that and take it into consideration.

Nils Thiesen: And maybe if I can add this: above all, the net promoter score measurement is one aspect in our logistics where we can actually take very good decisions and develop our model based on the data. I’ll give you an example that came as a bit of a surprise to me at the end of the day. Behind the NPS, of course, there are the usual key figures, i.e. a key figure pyramid, and that the customer is more satisfied if we are more punctual. That is perhaps not particularly surprising. But, for example, we also make a driver call 45, 30 minutes before we actually arrive. My idea was always that we do everything totally digitally, we write emails, we write text messages, whatever. So we don’t really need this driver call. But what the data has shown us is that the customers who are called are actually happier than those who simply receive an automated text message. I still don’t understand exactly why. But what I do understand is that if this makes our customers happier, then we will continue to run this for now, the model, until we come up with something better and we can start the next A/B test with it. That’s the beauty of it, that we used to get more qualitative feedback and now we have mass data that we can A/B test with and then just gradually evolve our business model and increase customer satisfaction. At the end of the day, I think that’s always the best sales argument. Now, with the NPS, we even have a chance to quantify that and not just say we’re doing a great service, but also put a value on the board or put it in the report and say, ‘Not only do we believe that, but here’s the proof.’

Gwen Dünner: Maybe the variable that’s missing from the calls is: what did the employee’s voice sound like? Maybe people are particularly happy when someone calls with a very resonant voice.

Nils Thiesen: I’ll have to talk to our sound expert to find out if we can measure the amplitudes of the responses to friendliness. Then we can certainly emphasise that.

Gwen Dünner: We are looking forward to the results. Now the target locations for the different devices, in the B2C sector especially, are not commercial areas in the middle of the city. They are mostly flats, mostly in very urban, i.e. municipal or metropolitan areas. Another issue plays a role here, namely sustainability. It is often in environmental zones or in traffic-calmed areas, in narrow streets or driveways with difficult angles. Are these 7.5-tonne trucks suitable for delivery there as well?

Axel Mallon: That’s a good question. You can’t answer it with yes or no. But a few years ago, we were almost only using 7.5-tonne trucks. That was the common vehicle used for deliveries. But exactly what you said, nowadays there are more and more restrictions, entry bans. Then you also have the issue of personnel because in the past you could drive a 7.5-tonne truck with a normal car driving licence. That is no longer possible today. So you have to have additional training to drive them. That’s why things have changed and we have other types of vehicles in use, vehicle types that are more suitable in terms of their size. We can come back to the topic of sustainability in a moment, in terms of e-mobility, etc. What we have also noticed is that the mail-order business has increased so much that we are now taking much shorter routes. We have delivered more consignments, which is why you no longer need these long-distance trucks, these 7.5-tonne trucks that can drive 350 kilometres a day. In my youth, when I learned to be a freight forwarder, that was still the case, i.e. long tours, long distances. That is no longer the case today. Short distances. We are much closer to the city centres with our delivery depots. We can reload and that’s why we don’t need those big 7.5-tonne trucks any more. That means, to answer your question, we are now more in the area of 3.5-tonne vehicles: vans, box vans, box sprinters, as we often say in the jargon. That is already one aspect: that they alone consume less diesel than a 7.5-tonne truck or, in the past, even an 11-tonne truck. That’s already a big difference.

Gwen Dünner: But that’s what I was getting at: We know, of course, in the background, that was a loaded question because we have already published some articles on that, on the different projects and pilot projects, especially with different types of propulsion. Nils, you have already completed some projects. Is that a focus for you guys, to test these different delivery modes?

Nils Thiesen: Yes, definitely. We have been intensively looking at what we can do in terms of technology for, I would say, five years now. I always like to divide it into technology and business model/process change. If we stay with technology, for five years, we have been looking at various electrified or CNG as bridging technology vehicles or special trailer concepts where you can park things and pick them up again or preload them, for example, which saves time. Back to the entrance. The main topic of our business is not the 120 packages that we have on the truck, but partly the 100-kilogram washing machines, which means a decent load and decent volume. We have to say that, until last year, the technology was not yet ready. Now, thank God, we can pick up speed and will also publish a good press release in the next few days and weeks on the fact that we want to really pick up speed as far as this technology is concerned. Perhaps briefly on the topic of what can be done to change processes or business models? I think there is, for example, the issue of whether I have to drive everywhere with the 7.5-tonne truck I mentioned or whether I can transfer to smaller vehicles in micro-depots. That is an aspect that we are testing and examining, or have already done so, and which looks promising for the time being. Of course, it’s a completely new set-up that has to be set up, and to be fair, it might be easier to load the 7.5 or 3.5 diesel at the branch and drive off. But that, I think, is also resonating in the question, will no longer be viable in five years, or maybe sooner, maybe a bit later. That’s why we have been intensively searching for five years to position ourselves more broadly in these two fields and to develop new ideas. On the one hand, there are micro-depots, reloading depots at the site. These are certainly one thing. Or what we have put on the road in a completely new way, everyone knows, I think, these small vehicles, cars with solar cells. We have just adapted the idea a bit. We haven’t completely covered the truck with solar cells yet, but first with measuring devices that measure the radiation density on a classic tour through Berlin, so to speak, in order to see if it makes sense to improve the range as well? Because, as I just said, it took a long time for the technology to reach a good level for us.

Axel Mallon: Of course there is still the classic way when you are in the city centres, namely the good old, revived cargo bike. Maybe we should also mention that at this point. This is something that has really increased in recent years. There are also various providers and we have tested a few models there as well. Although we mainly talked about 2-man handling, it’s really about delivering bulky goods. There are still bulky goods that weigh 30 or 40 kilos. We can do that too. And that’s what we do in Berlin, for example, with our subsidiary Deliver it, delivering goods by cargo bike. That goes down really well. The things look really great. Not in the way you imagine a cargo bike anymore, but I think they have a futuristic feel. It’s fun to look at.

Nils Thiesen: To spice up the discussion a bit, I’d like to quote our Head of Innovations: ‘If the next person comes around the corner with a sustainability LinkedIn campaign and a cargo bike, I’ll eat my hat.’ So, fair enough, I’m on board too. I think they’re great. I’m an avid cargo e-bike rider but, of course, it has to be said, it only solves three per cent of the problems. Only inner city, only certain products. But just like Axel said, of course it’s cool and certainly part of the solution. I believe that this must also be stated as a major heading, for this topic of sustainability in logistics, there is not one big solution that gets us from A to B, but it is the building blocks of the many small right parts. There, fair enough, the bicycle will also play a role.

Andrea Goretzki: I can already hear that you are really passionate about the topic. That’s why I’d like to finish with a question. If you could dream up the perfect inner-city logistics: What would they look like? What could Rhenus customers look forward to?

Nils Thiesen: I’ll start off by saying that we have talked a lot about delivery scheduling and controlling the logistics chain. I think there is a lot of potential there because, as I just said, it is not about establishing one big solution and then the whole thing is sustainable. Instead, there are many small solutions and you also have to think about it from different angles. It’s not just the task of the logistics provider, now I’m exaggerating to make a point; but the customer, for example, also plays a role. What we are currently testing quite successfully, for example, is that we not only offer the fastest or tightest time window or the coolest services on our website, but also a green delivery date. In this scheduling alone, saying to the customer: ‘If you take Friday at noon in Rügen, I already have three stops in Rügen around that time, then you save us 120 kilometres of driving from Rostock.’ That at least is good for the whole chain and good for the CO2 balance of the whole chain. I think the intelligent control of the chains still has a lot of potential, as it always has. We also had this aspect, the topic: does everything necessarily have to be delivered the same day? Especially in our niche, we have the luxury or the customer understanding to say: ‘I’m also prepared to wait until Friday for the green delivery, whenever this is heard.’

Axel Mallon: I think we have raised many points, including your issue just now. It’s one of the most exciting ones for me. What we also have in mind, of course, is this issue of pick-up points. If a delivery cannot take place or if the delivery could not take place, that one has the possibility to make pick-up points. We have to smile a bit and say: ‘I would actually like to have the heavy washing machine delivered to my home, but sometimes it just doesn’t work,’ and then have the possibility, instead of driving back and forth, making another appointment, coming back again, to also give the possibility to serve this pick-up point. In other words, where you can pick up the device in a smart, central location. We should and will also look at this possibility, which is incredibly well accepted in France, for example, but more in rural areas. There, these pick-up points are commonplace. I was recently in France and had a look at this. It’s totally exciting. I didn’t think it would be so popular either. I think it’s a great topic for Germany, also for urban areas.

Nils Thiesen: Then again the topic of electrification. We were just there already. But that it’s actually ... you can also see from the LinkedIn engagement figures. People love electric trucks. Every one we test has a good range and is received very, very excitingly. Of course, when you see the effort or our commitment behind it, our investments behind it, it’s certainly one of the really big things that we want to strongly embrace.

Gwen Dünner: I’m already looking forward to the next kitchen delivery, then perhaps already CO2-neutral. In 20 years, when I’m ready again, maybe that will already be standard. Thank you very much for these really incredibly interesting insights. I think rarely do we have a topic where we can engage ourselves as deeply as with this one because we have all experienced it. Thank you again for being our guests. Great!

Axel Mallon: Thank you very much for the invitation. It was great fun to exchange ideas with you on this topic. Good luck.

Nils Thiesen: Thank you very much. I could have talked for a few more minutes or a few more hours, but I think we can catch up on that live soon. First podcast from us, Axel, I think? It was fun, wasn’t it? Thanks, Gwen. Thanks, Andrea. See you next time, maybe.

Andrea Goretzki: Also from my side, thank you very much, and Nils, thank you very much for this cue. I also wanted to say it, we would like to invite you again. I think the topic of goods delivery in the future is a very fruitful one. We can definitely talk about it again. I would be happy to.

Gwen Dünner: That brings us to the end of our latest episode of Logistics People Talk, the podcast of the Rhenus Group. Thank you all for listening. If you enjoyed it, feel free to subscribe to us wherever podcasts are available.

Andrea Goretzki: You can also find us on our LinkedIn channel Logistics People Community. There we not only always publish the latest podcast episode, but also exciting stories and insights about the logistics industry. Feel free to drop by and leave us a comment. Until then, we hope to hear from you and take care of yourselves. Greetings ...

Gwen Dünner: Gwen Dünner ...

Andrea Goretzki: and Andrea Goretzki.


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