Ditlev Blicher is the CEO Asia Pacific for DB Schenker. Originally born in Denmark, Ditlev oversees the 14,000 employees currently operating across 400 locations in 20 countries throughout the Asia Pacific region for DB Schenker. With over a decade of experience based in Asia, Mr. Blicher is no stranger to the region. Prior to joining DB Schenker, he was most recently President of Asia Pacific & Europe, Co-President Global Freight Forwarding and Executive Board Member of a multi-national supply chain management company.
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Hello and welcome to the leaders in supply chain podcast. I am your host Rapala Mario global logistics and supply chain practice head for Morgan Phillips executive session. My job is to connect you with local experts, thought leaders and executives in all things supply chain. This is, this is at sewed 11, and I'm happy to have with us today depicted here. CEO, Asia Pacific for DB Schenker. Originally born in Denmark, did level with, sees the 14,000 employees, currently operating across 400 locations in 20 countries through the Asia Pacific region for DB Schenker with over a decade of experience based in Asia. Mr. Baker is no stranger to the region joining DB Schenker who was most recently president of Asia Pacific in Europe and co-president for the global freight forwarding and executive board member or a multinational supply chain company who received his bachelor's degree in business administration from Northwood university and completed executive studies at Oxford university. You'd left. Welcome and it is a pleasure to have you with us today. Thank you. The pleasure's all mine.Speaker 3:
Uh, so let's start a little bit with some questions regarding the industry. So, uh, in terms of the top strategic directions that shank is trying to achieve in the next years, could you share with us some of the top goals for the company by a, that the company is trying to achieve in APEC by 2020?Speaker 4:
Sure. So a really, our core focus is around the client. Um, and, uh, started about a year and a half ago where growth, uh, was, was lacking, uh, honestly, in the, in our organization at large. So we put a lot of focus on the client and on growth and, uh, you know, from, from that we really had a record year in 2017, uh, by far the, the highest growth rates in, in Asia Pacific, but more importantly, also globally, so every one of our four products that were growing, uh, globally. So we're very happy with that. Super. Um, and,Speaker 3:
and obviously we're looking at the industry and is transformed radically in the last couple of, uh, couple of years and it's accelerating because of technology. So what, what technology trends do you see and, and which one is most likely to make an impactSpeaker 4:
by 2020 or the next two years? Oh, there's many that, that that's moving. And we really, we recently kicked off again, a big focus on, uh, the many movements technologically there that's occurring in our industry. Uh, we truly look at our industry as a burning platform, uh, and it comes across a little bit more negative than we really take it. We take this as, uh, as an opportunity for us. So that includes, uh, the likes of, uh, digitalization, uh, robotics, uh, artificial intelligence, what have ya. Uh, but, but more so it's, it's really about getting, getting close with your clients and exploring what are all of these new things that are happening on the horizon, how we can apply those as before. There's also a lot of hype involved in it. And it's essential that we have a methodical way by which to sift through where, what's happening and only apply, apply the aspects that have a true value add. Um, and in case of a failure, then fail fast. Uh, so this is, um, from, from our standpoint is that one, one aspect that we're focusing on, but we're very engaged in, in, in all of these very exciting things that, uh, that are correct. Okay. And then it is true that, uh, at the end of the day, a technology is a, is over-hyped or certain technologies are over-hyped and you need to make sure that it is something pragmatic and practical for the client before, uh, you know, uh, jumping for the full steam ahead. Um, and what are some of the biggest challenges that you see logistics companies in general? They shrink or in, in particular when, uh, when trying to implement some of these technologies? Well, I think, I think it's exactly that. It's selection there. There's a whole plethora of, of company, of upstarts, of technologies, and there's a lot of pressure, you know, uh, from, uh, from the environment in terms of pushing, pushing the needle forward. So I really think the biggest obstacle for us and for the industry, maybe maybe for many industries right now is to make meaning out of the madness. So our approach as an organization was we went through a filtering mechanism where we took the 140 liters of the organization. We mapped out everything that we saw of the horizon that was of impact to our, uh, to ourselves and to our clients. And then we distilled that into 10 a strategic beliefs, if you will. So these are areas that we believe are going to be really important to the client, our clients or, or towards, uh, that could be both technologically equity from a people standpoint, uh, from many different aspects. Uh, and that has given us a good guide path for which to de-select aspects that we believe are hype and to select the things we truly believe that there's going to be an importance and then map it to the DNA of the organization. Correct, correct. Um, that's a good way of, uh, of doing it obviously. And, uh, and also, I mean it ties very well in the client focused approach that you mentioned earlier. So moving a little bit to that aspect, you are working with some of the top shippers and manufacturers in the world. Um, what are some of their biggest challenges? Uh, what are some of their biggest problems that, uh, that they are currently facing and, and how is division could, trying to address that? So I think most many industries that we deal with, including our own, are changing, uh, on many different axes, if you will. So it's not a, it's not a monochromatic problem or challenge or opportunity that we're looking at. It's essentially after certainly our industry have had relative stability in terms of how it's operated, how it looked and what the differentiators were has been fairly stable over the past decades. All of a sudden now, um, whether it's, it's a technologically driven, whether it's a consumer demand, we see a lot of changes on, uh, um, you know, on a lot of axes, uh, as, as I call it. And this is happening simultaneously. So I believe the biggest challenge for us as well as for many of our clients and, and, and friendly competitors is to, uh, is to shift from a stable environment where optimization, you know, was what was critical into being, um, be more agile. Yeah. Know, how do you create a culture that becomes comfortable with failing or failing quickly? As I mentioned before, you know, that's very much a cultural component, uh, more so as a, than a singular technology, if you will. And this is, this is something that, uh, that, that we've really put us, our preeminent, uh, focus that's around, you know, getting that culture to shift from being precision, focus and stability into really at embracing the future, embracing a new aspect on an ongoing basis and take them from being potentials into being actual value ads for ourselves and our clients. Yeah. And now,Speaker 3:
interesting. Good to, to tap on what you just shared. I mean, I think that's, that's happening throughout industries. Logistics has been, uh, has been for many, many years actually. You know, you can call it a more traditional steady industry, but now with technology, with all these startups, with all these smaller, nimble players that they are very quick to adapt, that are very quick to, um, to innovate. Uh, everybody is being forced to step out of the comfort zone and try to try to match them. Um, and, uh, and yeah, and a lot of times there is not a lot of a, it's not a very long duration that a, that comes into place between activation to implementation. So I think that's a, that's crucial timing is crucial nowadays. Um, and uh, and talk about the new developments. I think you also, uh, we saw a lot of development specifically about one solution. The DB Schenker is, uh, is very strong in which is the real solution and there's been a lot of, uh, uh, development between APEC to Europe. So can you tell us more about what division is doing about that in the region?Speaker 4:
Yes. That's actually interesting because that's very much of an old economy technology, if you will. You know, so a rail has been been in place for many, many years, uh, obviously, uh, from, uh, from our, uh, our DNA or we're very close to it, to rail from being part of, of a German rail and Deutsche Irvine. Um, only recently, um, has the connection of, um, Asia and Europe become really viable. Uh, we've been a pioneer in a market leader, uh, in that and we were, we're still a market leader and it's become a real alternative, a real tool in the, uh, in the, uh, uh, the design of supply chains today. That's one component that's very important for us in the second component is the, uh, the silk road, if you will, or the one belt, one road, uh, initiative, you know, which is really focusing on not just the, the, uh, the origin and the destination, but certainly also on, on the, on all the points and all the markets between Asia and Europe. So we continue to, uh, to, to lead in that regard and very happy to, uh, to share that. Uh, just recently have, we have, we started, um, uh, perishable, perishable transport in our rail solution as well, uh, into not just all the way, but also to Moscow. Wow.[inaudible] very good.Speaker 3:
And I need to, yeah, the, the one belt one road definitely is going to shape is shaping already the way, uh, the way their roots in the trade, uh, trade zones are being established. And I think China is leading tremendously on that aspect and it's good to capitalized on it and to, to get on the train. And if you may not not get hit by the train. So it's a, it's a good product to have. Um, and if you were a, if you were an investor, and if this is a tricky question to ask, but if you were an investor, which technology related startup would you invest in and why?Speaker 4:
I think as, um, as mentioned before, they said there's a plethora of, of, of options, uh, out there. Um, so as, as an investor, I think I would, I'll be focused on one that will be cap. They'll be focused on, on client and capturing markets. Um, and we'll also already have a captured customer portfolio, if you will. So there's many ingenious, uh, technologies out there or platforms. Um, they don't really get very far because the, uh, they don't really have a client base with which to engage. So I see whether it's a close connectivity to an existing client base that, that technology can help bring forward. So I think that access point is important. Um, as well as just pure clients interested. Yeah, no, it's a sum is it, you know, uh, an organization or a solution or a platform that is really focused on client, uh, you know, client, uh, value that, that's bringing forward. And so, um, yeah, I can't share with you one at like a stock tip or anything like that and it stands, but you know, it's, it's more that the DNA of the organization than it is a particular, I don't want a one trick pony, if you will. Yeah. You know, things are moving so rapidly these days that it's really about the DNA of a particular organization that I, that would attract me more so than the latest and greatest mousetrap. Good. And then talk about the DNA andSpeaker 3:
indeed the all organizations and the best organizations. The DNA comes down to people. It's what we do. Uh, it's also what the, what the, what we engage on a regular basis with our clients in terms of headhunting services is the same in, in Schenker. And I'm sure that the, you know, to achieve all the goals that you've set by 2020, uh, it has to be done through people. So in terms of finding the right skill sets to take the organization to the next level, what types of skills would you say are, are critical, uh, and, and you're trying to find, develop or important to division?Speaker 4:
Right. It's an interesting question actually. You know, uh, being based out of Germany and where that with a long history in Germany that has a proud tradition of apprenticeships and put a lot of, uh, pride and focus into our craft, if you will, unlike other places in the world where you don't have the system of apprenticeship or formal education within shipping and, and logistics, um, that makes us one of the best places to learn, you know, as a, as an organization. Uh, because we've, we've got, we've got the formal basis of that, uh, going forward, uh, as, as our environment is changing, we're very much focused on that as an organization. You know, what becomes critical is adaptability. You know, so we're looking at the, the, the DNA of the people that we are bringing into the organization, you know, and also we are reviewing our structures internally. How do we make ourselves a lot more nimble and more, a lot more, uh, adaptable. Um, in addition to that, there are particular skills, you know, that are becoming more and more important. Some that didn't really exist, you know, a couple of decades ago. Um, you know, and, and others that did exist but weren't really applied. So here we're talking about a statisticians, uh, computer engineering, uh, quants, mathematicians and the likes, which traditionally has not been in the DNA of a, of a, of a freight forwarder. But it's so important right now. The data analytics are our business. This is where this is so much upside potential. Um, so we're deploying that at different levels in the organization. Um, uh, whether it's in, in, in central sort of innovation hubs that we have, some of which are purely internal, some of which I set up, uh, in collaboration with our clients or throughout in our normal management or, or in, in our internal training programs. These are some of the quote unquote newer squid skills if you will, that we are bringing to the table, you know, in order to drive the organization forward. Uh, I think we were very focused on how our organization needs to be really pushed forward from the ground up. Uh, you know, you can, you can achieve so much with a, with a top down approach, but when things are moving this rapidly, it's so important that you have an empowered and a diverse workforce in terms of skills and backgrounds that can capture on these, uh, capture these new trends and have the autonomy, if you will, to drive the organization forward. Yeah, and it's,Speaker 3:
it's interesting that you mentioned the data, data science and data analytics capabilities. I think that's something that we are seeing from a headhunting perspective. We've been asked by clients across industries. So it seems to be like the Mecca of skillsets. It's something that is very, is fairly, uh, it's fairly new. Um, very few people know how to do it well. Um, but it's becoming more and more differentiated between the businesses that succeed and the businesses that maybe don't quite make it because it's the ability to really look in depth into your business, into the numbers and with, uh, withdraw some insights out of it to a, be able to action it. So it's, uh, it's interesting that you mentioned it is a focus point in the division career as well. Um, and, and indeed this entrepreneurial mindset almost that you are talking about in terms of being able to be grooming or importing leaders that, that, that can have that capacity to be fast, to think fast, to fail fast but fail, fail quickly. Um, and shift the business is again, something that we're seeing also on the, on the side of, uh, of our business. Um, but we also have, obviously logistics is people that have been doing this for 20, 30 years as well. And what skills do you think they should be focused on? And it might be a little, a little bit of an overlap, but the people that are already in the industry for many, many years, how can they continue to add value? How can they retrain themselves on,Speaker 4:
I think it's important to also know from what we just mentioned before, you need both sides of the equation. Yeah, no, you can't just have mathematicians or, or some of these, these new skills is very important. You know, that you understand your clients, you understand the, the guts of supply chain if you will. So, uh, within, I think within our existing, you know, existing business and, and uh, and staff also in our industry that's been in the industry for a long time. Uh, my recommendation there would be number one is not to be afraid, you know, of of these trends that are happening. It is, it's very easy to be caught up in, um, it been fearful, all these changes and so on and so forth. And boils down to it. When you peel back the onion, you know, it's actually not that scary. You know, so that challenge consistently is, and instead of being fearful of what's happening, embrace that and saying, okay, it's actually not that difficult. What it could do and what the whole intent is to make what we've been doing for our organization, for our clients over the past decades. How do we optimize that? Here are some new tools that you're bringing, bringing to bear, if you will. Um, so I think there's, there's a lot of, there is a, a lot of value that we already have in our organization and in our industry. Applying that with new technology, I believe is the key.Speaker 3:
And then the, and also the, there was a, and again, coming back to the practicality and pragmatism of the new technologies, and there's a few startups that failed on this principle that they were too disconnected from the clients that they were trying to serve. So, uh, they were a geeks, so to speak, that, that, that did not have the connection to the industry. So then, yes, you're trying to solve a problem, but without fully understanding the problem. So then it's you, you have the risk of being too theoretical. Um, and, uh, and in terms of, uh, if I'm to ask you also in terms of the leadership team in Shanko Bisley, uh, you are, you're sitting on the most, uh, and you're, you're leading the most, uh, one of the most successful and, and, uh, and prominent regions, APAC regions, but what attributes you're looking for when it comes to taking the company to the next level? What are you looking for in the guys in, in the, in the,Speaker 4:
in the team, in your team? So I'm looking for, uh, I'm looking for it, for it, for team members who do exactly what I, what I mentioned that has a little, you know, experience in, in who we are as an a, as an organization of what are the needs that we're trying to fulfill with our clients and is excited about the future, you know, that are seeing opportunities from this, you know, to embrace the new technologies that we are applying. Um, I think that's, uh, that's a number one. Um, always look for people that spend a lot of time and enjoy spending time with our clients and with our employees. You know, this is where when things are moving very rapidly, you can not be stuck in your box. You have to be out understanding how the needs the wants are changing, uh, amongst us. Uh, thirdly, I would say I have an absolute focus on a team, a team methodology. You know, that people that are dedicated to making the team, uh, operate, um, particularly because our, our services and now becoming much more intertwined with those of our clients as well as our, our suppliers. You know, so whereas beforehand you had very neat box and this is vendor and this is customer. Now those lines are a lot more blurred. Um, so I think from, from that standpoint, um, you know, a big focus on a on team deliverables is, uh, is important. Um, and, uh, and, uh, if we are to talk a little bit also about the, the topic of culture, because it's a, it's key. It's important going back to us with the DNA of an organization. Um, you're obviously one of the top influences for the Shinnecock, uh, culture. Are there some leadership principles that you follow in your day to day work? Yes, I mean, we'd, for, um, as part of our rollout, you know, in terms of pushing the organization forward, we'd identified six, uh, core values of, uh, of the organization, um, from a personal level, um, in my leadership style, if you will. Uh, authenticity, uh, is, is important, uh, that I try to just lead by and, and also inspire, inspire my teams to do so, um, uh, commitment to the mission, you know, so a true commitment, you know, to, to what we're trying to, to accomplish, uh, is, is important to me. And then consistent, consistent behavior. I, if you will. Those are some of the things that I'm trying to, uh, to, to apply to, uh, to my leadership style. And you got me curious too, what are the other three? So you mentioned that the six, the six behaviors that[inaudible] has identified, right? Uh, we have, uh, it's called walk the talk. So this is essentially leading, leading by example. Um, is one of them. Uh, one team, one goal is very much internally about how do we, how do we align and how do we align around a goal or a mission, uh, if you will. Uh, then we have, um, uh, let me see if I remember push limits. So pushing limits is really challenging, challenging the status quo, uh, you know, whether it's with or without clients, um, or whether it's internal, what's, what's possible, what's doable, push ourselves out. Um, um, take clients further. And this is, um, this is very much about customer centricity, um, and where we need to apply in everything that we're doing. Whether you're working, you know, in an in house department, uh, uh, or the like, um, and how many, many ways that a win together, uh, is a, is maybe the sixth one, uh, where we were taking a different approach with suppliers as well as with, uh, with our clients. I've mentioned before that we have innovation labs set up with some of our, our large clients. Uh, we are now large clients of some of our clients. Uh, so is a lot more symbiotic. Um, uh, collaboration, you know, that we're seeing because ground seems to be shifting. Um, so that, that degree of collaboration seems to be, uh, uh, very much a core of, of what we're doing. So those are, I think I mentioned all six. Yes. Those are our six core values. These are penetrated throughout, throughout the organization. Um, and you know, a very important component of us in terms of pushing ourselves forward as a, as an organization to achieve our strategic targets. And thanks for sharing, uh, sharing that with us. Um, and what would be on the personal side, uh, you know, basically you're a, you were behind a successful, the executive. What is a personal habit that contributes to your success? Personal habit. Um, I think, um, as, as mentioned before, you know, trying to stay authentic yeah. Know at the end of the day, you know, can I look myself in the mirror? Yeah, no, in terms of how I engage with work with clients in terms of the promises that I make to our clients or to, uh, to our teams, our people, and of course, to, to our shareholder, uh, as well. Uh, outside of that, um, personally I take a lot of, uh, um, uh, inspiration from running. Um, so I both in terms of being able to push, push, push yourself, uh, but it's also sort of meditation, uh, for VI I think very well when, uh, when I run, when you get your, your, your body to operate in a, in a certain manner, it frees up, uh, I think creative, creative capacity. So that was maybe a couple of couple of aspects that I could share with you. Uh, and do you have anything, uh, when it comes to staying the M it's a forever changing, uh, changing ground like you said, or, or shaking ground, but do you follow any sort of supply chain resources or websites or reports or how do you get your inflammation? How do you keep yourself updated? Yeah. You know, yeah. I think, I think from that standpoint, I've, yeah, I read some publications, but almost that the thought of publications has disappeared. Yeah, no. So I have a number of, of different filters in place, you know, where I scan, scan the market for, for news. A lot of these come directly from, um, you know, from, from companies. A lot of them come from, from blogs or, or indeed from, uh, from, from a media just as, as this one. Um, other than that in terms of publications, maybe more for general information or, or the likes of, um, uh, the economist or we're German organization. So a handled splat is, is an important, an important aspect. And then Seabury and you know, different, uh, journal of commerce, those types of aspects. But, um, I can't say that I have one or two or three sources of information anymore. I've got a couple of filters, you know, that will scan, scan a newsfeed for if you will. And if you could, uh, we're getting to the, toSpeaker 3:
the last stage of the interview, but this is a very important question for the younger generation. Does listening to the podcast. So if you could give some advice to a 23 year old regulating university and wanting to achieve a great career in logistics, what would that be?Speaker 4:
I would say come talk to us. You know, we are, we are an organization on the move. Uh, we have really, uh, we, I believe that we really pushed the organization mentally and culturally forward over the past 18 months, not just here in Asia, but this is truly a global, a global phenomenon. Um, so we are very much embracing, uh, the future and importantly, so it's very much at the top of our agenda. Um, and we also have the means and the stability for us to actually invest and capitalize on these trends. Um, so it's, we're, we're, we're methodical at the same time. We're trying to apply some, some agility, uh, to that. So I would say, come, come talk to us. We are very much, uh, focused on, continue to be sucking up at talent, if you will, uh, in, uh, in the market. And then I think from my, from my personal, uh, STEM or piece of advice maybe to, to new entrance into the, uh, into the people regardless of what, uh, what age that you may be. Um, and be prepared for continuous learning. Yeah, no continuous adaptability, uh, and, and agility as it were. So that would be my two, 2 cents on that.Speaker 3:
Thank you. And I mean, obviously the same time I think, uh, uh, which is a learn, unlearn and relearn is, has never been as a, as a, uh, prominent as it is today. So I think that's something that we should all have very clear as, um, as a mantra nowadays. Uh, declare thank you very much for your time. Thank you for sharing your insights with us todaySpeaker 2:
and I appreciate that. Thank you for listening to a podcast. If you like what you heard, be sure to follow us on Rhoda Paula, mario.com/podcast for all the show notes, links and extra tips covered in the interview. Make sure also to subscribe to our emailing list to get the news in the Nick of time. If you're listening through a streaming platform like iTunes or Stitcher and you like what we do, please kindly review and give us five stars so we can keep the energy flowing it get more people to find out about our podcast. I'm most active on LinkedIn, so do feel free to follow me to stay tuned for our latest articles as well as future guests for the podcast. And if you have any suggestions or any other idea, please feel free to write to me. I respond to all, and also please make sure not to miss our next episode where we will be having a few other C level and top leaders in supply chain joining us. Stay tuned.