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[Herald Interview] COVID-19 to reshape logistics: DHL exec

Future of logistics and supply chain industry depends on use of data, Oscar de Bok says

DHL Supply Chain’s global CEO Oscar de Bok (DHL Group)
DHL Supply Chain’s global CEO Oscar de Bok (DHL Group)

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic outbreak around the world has had a profound impact on global supply chains and logistics.

For example, the South Korean automotive, aviation and heavy industries that rely on foreign demand have shut down their operations and are suffering from constrained inventory control and capacity at sites.

But the latest crisis is not the first time that the global supply chains have been significantly affected. Over the last decade, disasters like volcanic eruptions, tsunami, floods and hurricanes have shown how logistics and supply chain firms were unprepared.

According to Oscar de Bok, global CEO of DHL Supply Chain, who assumed the position in October last year, the post COVID-19 era will shape new warehousing solutions and transportation services. 

“Indeed during the crisis, it has become more clear that the essential role of the logistics industry is to keep supply chains operating around the globe. We expect to see major acceleration of trends that started before the pandemic, such as ensuring that supply chains are more flexible, not dependent on one location or market, and are more flexible to swiftly respond to changes such as volume fluctuations or unpredictable events,” said de Bok during an email interview with The Korea Herald. 

After the virus outbreak, demand for important deliveries in the life science and health care segment has rapidly increased. According to DHL Group, it transported around 100,000 COVID test tubes a day from China to Germany and the Czech Republic in early June. 

A logistics industry veteran, de Bok joined Deutsche Post DHL Group in 1999. He has served as CEO of DHL Supply Chain Mainland Europe, Middle East and Africa in recent years, after taking charge of operations in in Italy, the Nordics and Southeast Asia. 

“I noticed that in Asian countries, people tend to be fast in adapting new ways of working and commercializing new technologies. As a global company, these cultural differences are important because we can capitalize on various lessons from around the globe and use that to enrich our business,” he said. 

With the future of logistics and supply chain industry expected to be heavily depend on digitization, automation and robotics to increase efficiency and productivity, he highlighted DHL supply chain’s use of data. 

“In order to really move the needle forward, it is not enough to implement some robotics in one or two facilities. What makes the difference is that with the use of data, you can implement collaborative robotics at scale using the findings from one side of the world and apply it to similar operations around the globe,” said de Bok.

“Then you can really make a difference. That is why, within DHL we have a globally standardized approach to identify and deploy key digital technologies at scale in a wider number of sites, tracking their benefits to maximize supply chain efficiency and resilience to serve our customers.” 

Last week, DHL Group released a report on how new and emerging wireless technologies will be applied to solve connectivity challenges and enable new internet of things-based approaches in the world of logistics, making supply chains more flexible, efficient and predictable. 

“The current pandemic has definitely had an impact, not just on the logistics sector but also on the global economy. Overall, it is a bit of a mixed picture for DHL Supply Chain -- we see industries where volumes have increased tremendously -- LSHC, pharma, groceries and e-commerce,” he added. 

In the first quarter this year, the group’s new e-commerce solutions division showed strong revenue growth of 5.5 percent to 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion), the first year since it was spun off from post e-commerce parcel division. 

For a sustainable business management, de Bok also stressed DHL Group’s goal to reduce logistics-related emissions to net zero by 2050. 

“Reinventing logistics to become emissions neutral in the next three decades is clearly a huge challenge but we are optimistic that we can achieve the goal, and have actually taken important steps in parts of the supply chain,” he said.

“With the help of new technologies, the dedication and expertise of our employees and through collaboration with our customers and partners, we are already able to offset emissions for certain aspects of our operations by installing solar panels and LED lights, and also reduce water wastage.”

By Kim Da-sol (
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