Logistics service providers innovate with apps

Various European logistics service providers have launched a digital offensive. Just a couple of years ago, logistics companies made widespread use of apps by start-ups and other third parties because they couldn’t integrate the numerous internal applications fast enough themselves. In recent months, however, several different logistics service providers – including Gefco, DHL and Damco – have developed their own apps for customer use or have even launched a start-up of their own.

By Martijn Lofvers

Over the past five years, the French logistics service provider Gefco has transformed from a logistics subsidiary of carmaker PSA into an innovative independent player. In response to the changing needs in the automotive market, Gefco has now developed an app called ‘My Car Is There’ which enables car dealers to arrange international vehicle transport. “The car market is changing dramatically,” explained Gefco’s CEO Luc Nadal during a recent press conference in Paris. “Today’s market for second-hand cars is pan-European rather than regional, and it even outstrips new car sales. We enable car dealers to get a used car photographed from all angles in a studio, upload the photos online and then arrange international delivery through us to the buyer. The hire-car market is evolving rapidly too; it increasingly revolves around mobility and is even shifting towards direct delivery to consumers.”

Gefco has developed the app itself, supported by developers based in India. The app forms part of a EUR10 million investment in internal R&D by the company, which is also collaborating with a London-based accelerator to identify supply chain start-ups. “The accelerator isn’t only looking at which solutions the startups have to offer, but also at who is working in the teams,” continued Nadal. “You can invest in all kinds of start-ups, but only a small percentage of them actually manage to survive.”

Own start-ups

In January 2017, the logistics service provider Deutsche Post DHL launched the independent startup Saloodo, a digital marketplace for European freight in 17 countries. The digital transport platform has been available in the UK since August 2017, and Spain and Portugal are next on the roll-out list. Over 4,900 transport companies in Europe have already signed up to Saloodo, making it a direct competitor of other startups such as Quicargo from the Netherlands, Cargonexx from Germany and Fretlink from France.

In April last year Damco, the logistics subsidiary of Danish container shipping company A.P. Moller-Maersk, launched a digital freight-forwarding startup called Twill, initially in the UK market for sea freight to and from China. Twill is competing against independent startups such as Kontainers from the UK, Transporteca from Denmark and Shypple from the Netherlands.