Able Freight ships California’s delicacies all over the world. For example, strawberries reach Singapore’s supermarkets 72 hours after harvesting in the USA.
Fast innovative pace.
Fast innovative pace.
"One thing I understood very early on: we all need to eat,” says Orlando Wong. Born in Hong Kong, the 55 year-old self-made man founded the perishables specialist Able Freight in Los Angeles more than 20 years ago. But Wong also learned quickly: the worldwide transport of fresh goods is a highly complex field for complete specialists. Every hour counts when shipping food: “Amid the global increase in the standard of living, above all in Asia, ever more people want food that is as fresh as possible. However, perishables such as berries do not survive transportation by sea,” says Wong. His reply to the increased demand for fresh products is a combination of numbers: 24/7/365.
Able Freight’s 300 employees spread over six locations mean it is accessible for its customers around the clock. In Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Kona, Guadalajara and Mexico City, the Able Freight professionals maintain close ties with large fruit and vegetable producers, farmers and exporters for whom they organize the worldwide export of perishables.
In Santa Maria near Los Angeles, Wong is in close contact with David Medina from the berry producer Driscoll’s. After picking, the quality of the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries is immediately controlled. They are then packed, pre-cooled for the transport and loaded into airfreight containers by Able Freight employees in the refrigerated warehouse. At the latest 72 hours following the harvest in California, the fresh fruit will be on sale in a supermarket in Singapore. Wong has established a finely-tuned international network of perishable professionals, his local heroes, who at all additional stations ensure that the delivery chain, including to the trade, runs smoothly.
Able Freight supplies the entire world although Asia is one of the principal sales markets. Ninety eight percent of all deliveries are made by airfreight, e.g. with Fresh/td in Lufthansa Cargo’s cooled freight areas and temperature-controlled containers.
The challenges are as diverse as the goods in the refrigerated containers: during the cherry season from May to July in California and Washington, the task on hand consists of making available large volume capacities for the transport to Incheon in South Korea – “if necessary via fully chartered aircraft,” says Wong.
Honoring the strict requirements, the Performance Qualifications (PQs), is the top priority in that respect. While the US military requests a precise mixture ratio of salad mix ingredients for military bases in Japan, South Korea and Guam, the large supermarket chains specify stringent transport standards to extend the shelf life and therefore the sales period.
The strict control regulations of the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA), on the basis of which 100 percent of the goods need to be checked according to defined security procedures, pose an additional challenge for all transport operations involvingfresh food. “That not only costs valuable time, it means perishable transporters need to make a huge effort in respect of putting in place suitable infrastructure and training and appointing qualified employees for the security checks,” says Orlando Wong.
Each transport hour needs to be deducted from the storage period in the supermarket and for the ultimate consumer – the shelf life. Therefore, Wong consistently relies on innovative technologies to further reduce delivery times.
Where possible, Able Freight now uses the eAWB. “The exchange of information via electronic data interchange (EDI) is much quicker and more detailed than by e-mail or telephone. Our sector needs to become more modern,” says Wong. For the entrepreneur that means that the tracking of goods must be further improved by way of complete tracking technologies. “We are analyzing the extent to which a higher level of automation can save personnel and – more importantly – reduce human error.” Automated fault management was also crucial in this respect. In addition, Wong believes that in ten years’ time business intelligence, that is the evaluation of big data from Able Freight’s daily data flow, will play a much bigger role in the short and medium-term control of the company. In Lufthansa Cargo, Able Freight has a partner capable of matching its fast innovative pace. Orlando Wong: “Lufthansa Cargo has a good network and great employees who grasp the importance of correct temperatures. Above all it is the company’s readiness to embrace new technologies that we find convincing.”
Solutions for fresh professionals.
When Orlando Wong talks to David Medina from Driscoll’s Inc., the berry producer located in Santa Maria, CA, it is often about how the fruit can reach the supermarket shelves even quicker and with greater sensitivity. At Lufthansa Cargo, the product selected for perishable commodities is Fresh/td. By way of a temperature-controlled environment during the flight and storage, as well as specially trained personnel, Lufthansa Cargo offers the best conditions for transporting sensitive goods fast. Whatever the cargo, the customer decides whether it should be sent as a standard or extra fast shipment, i.e. via td.Pro or td.Flash.
Most of the Able Freight goods go to Asia, almost always as air freight. Buyers can look forward to fresh fruit: only three days pass between harvest and supermarket shelf.
Freshness is a family affair.
Thanks to airfreight, consumers can enjoy fresh produce all year round. The Kuehlewinds from California have turned this into a flourishing global enterprise.
His father used to clinch business deals with just a handshake. Today, Wes Kuehlewind’s customers can track their freight online across the globe and in real time. There are two things whose importance remains unchanged in this second generation at the helm of Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI): trustworthiness and reliability. Canadian salmon, blueberries from Oregon, Mexican asparagus – anything forwarded by CFI is fresh.
And must stay fresh. Each type of cargo comes with its own, highly specialized requirements. Wes Kuehlewind knows them all, and he is proud of his expertise. It is an ambition Kuehlewind inherited from his father.
Alfred Kuehlewind was one of the pioneers in the business of shipping perishables from California to the rest of the world. “I remember very clearly just how much time and energy my father put into the business back then.”
When he was still at high school, Wes Kuehlewind was already helping out in the family business, loading containers at the warehouse. That he would one day be in charge of the company never even occurred to him back then. And the fact that in his first job after having completed his business degree he would be responsible for shipping fruit and vegetables for a company transporting perishables? Sheer coincidence. Some time after that, joining the family business turned out to be the logical next step.
Today the father of two would not even think of doing anything else for a living. Working alongside his brother, he has now been with CFI for over 15 years now. And ambitiously so: “When we set out to do something, we strive to be the very best.” And always with one thing in the back of his mind:
“My father turned a one-man outfit into a company with more than 600 employees. That is quite an achievement,” says Kuehlewind. “And it is a success story that could not have happened, had it not been for airfreight, and for Lufthansa Cargo, at least not to this extent.”
Lufthansa Cargo is a valuable partner for CFI in the European and Middle Eastern markets. What Kuehlewind appreciates above all is the reliable and exceptionally well documented distribution cold chain.
Perishables logistics is a challenging business. For this reason, Kuehlewind assigns great importance to maintaining a close relationship with his staff, some of whom have been working for CFI for over 30 years. “We have an incredible team of people who are very diligent in their work,” says Kuehlewind. Having a team like that is a must, because everything always has to be done quickly. And everything needs to be carefully prepared and supervised: “If we don’t pack and label the goods properly or if the transport documents are not filled in correctly, we end up jeopardizing the strategic goals of the customer. We need to plan for any conceivable contingencies,” says Kuehlewind.
This means in effect that CFI must be fully familiar with the laws and regulations of the various destination countries and markets, as well as continually working towards making the handling more efficient. The company’s 14 locations in the United States are all no more than eight kilometers from the nearest airport. For good reason: “Airfreight is one of the mainstays of our success.” CFI ships 99 percent of its cargo by plane. And especially with Fresh, operated by Lufthansa Cargo. It is this kind of reliability that customers appreciate, sometimes for 40 years: “In some cases our fathers already did business with one another. And now it is the second generation who are still working together.”
Since 2017, CFI has been part of Kuehne + Nagel, one of the world’s leading logistics companies. Of course, that would not change anything regarding the vision of the company founder Alfred Kuehlewind, but enhance it through access to a global logistics network and an extended service scope. The second generation of the Kuehlewinds is still pursuing their ambition to act as a partner offering individual solutions for the worldwide transportation of perishables – a partner on whom customers can rely at all times.
On November 11, 2017, China fell into a collective buying frenzy for the ninth time. Following the example of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” in the United States, the Chinese celebrate their so-called Singles’ Day. Originally starting out as “Bachelors’ Day”, it has today become the highest day of sales in the world, thanks to the numerous bargains on offer. China’s largest online retailer alone, Alibaba, generated record sales of 25.38 billion US dollars on this occasion – an almost unbelievable 40 percent up from the previous year. There is increasing demand for international brands in China.
More than a third of Chinese consumers bought products from businesses in Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia and, of course, from Germany as well. For the logistics companies involved in this operation, like Hermes Germany, it is an enormous task. Planning for the big day – in collaboration with their subsidiary BorderGuru and the Chinese Alibaba subsidiary Cainiao – starts as early as three months in advance, according to Carsten Riedel, Head of Branches Frankfurt and Leipzig for Hermes Germany.
“The preparations start with the booking of capacity with Lufthansa Cargo and end with the planning of the work shifts for the staff,” adds Riedel. “On average days we process between 800 and 1,000 parcels a day at our Kelsterbach location near Frankfurt Airport (FRA),” says the logistics manager. “After Singles’ Day 2017, the volume peaked at 22,000 parcels, with an average of 20,000 parcels per day.” To cope with the flood, Hermes switches its operation to three shifts per day already in the lead-up to the event, and then for about 14 days afterwards. The peak period lasts about ten days, but then it transitions seamlessly into "Black Friday”, which is followed in turn by a similar Alibaba event on December 12. “So essentially we end up planning for continuing high volumes until Christmas,” says Riedel. To date it has been mainly cosmetics and baby food that was shipped to China, for example via Shanghai (PVG), in addition to clothing and IT products. “In the future it could well be that foodstuffs as well as pet food will be the growth sectors. But on the whole we anticipate growth to occur in all fields,” adds Riedel. Nothing therefore seems to preclude the next record being broken.
We all know the shiny silvery pouches with colorful print, into which users can skillfully poke an drinking straw. We have all tried at one time or another to noisily slurp the very last drop from the pouch. But just why is Capri-Sun so well-known around the world? Year after year they sell almost as many of these pouches as there are people on this planet: six billion of them. People quench their thirst with the 200 milliliter pouches in more than 100 countries worldwide. Their origin lies in Eppelheim, near Heidelberg, where they not only produce the beverages with flavors ranging from orange to “monster alarm”; they also manufacture the packaging. To this day Capri-Sun is the only beverage brand that has developed both the filling process and the packaging in-house.
The European market is supplied directly from Eppelheim. Overseas licensees also receive the raw materials for the production of the delicious drink from here. “We distribute to more than 100 countries around the world. That can only work if everyone works hand in glove,” says Harald Rohatsch, Director Logistics at Capri-Sun. This logistical masterpiece starts out back in the production halls in Eppelheim. The pouches go through a filling station that takes up just a few meters. An operator loads the pouches into the machine, and the machine opens them and fills them with 82 degrees Celsius hot Capri-Sun. Less then two meters further along, the pouches are already hermetically sealed and chilled in a water basin.
Next, the familiar drinking straws are attached to the small pouches – the large ones are fitted with a screw cap – before they are packaged, again in a fully automated process. Through a tunnel, the beverages leave the production building and enter the logistics hall. Here, yellow gripping arms are busy playing Tetris: with great precision, they position the cardboard boxes on a conveyor belt, which in turn loads a pallet – again, in a fully automated process. But then there is a break in the automated sequence.
“Our trucks are loaded using forklift trucks operated by our employees,” explains Rohatsch. “They can do the job more quickly than any machine. It takes us an average of a quarter of an hour. The fastest automated loading system that has been demonstrated to us to date took 30 minutes.” Rohatsch knows the strengths of this logistics operation. “I’ve always wanted to be involved in setting up a warehouse operation from the ground up. For me this is a dream come true.”
The warehouse, which was commissioned in 2015, is a model project. Highly complex and also digitally absolutely state of the art. “In food production, the annual IFS certification is the measure of all things. Certification was obtained swiftly, soon after the warehouse first opened, and the logistics passed with flying colors,” Rohatsch says proudly.
It is a demonstration of the standard to which Capri-Sun holds itself, as well its partners.
Once the pouches have been loaded into the truck, the logistics services provider EMO-TRANS takes over. “Food transport runs are always subject to very special conditions. In this respect we need to be 100-percent reliable in our performance,” says Nicole Ahrensfeld, Key Account Manager for temperature-sensitive transportation at EMO-TRANS. “When things have to go fast, airfreight comes into play.” In the case of Capri-Sun, this applies especially with regard to bottlenecks in the supply of raw materials, or when there are special editions and marketing campaigns.
“Some very typical destinations for Capri-Sun are Dubai, Korea and China. This is where the high-frequency network of Lufthansa Cargo makes for the perfect fit,” says Harald Rohatsch. “But we are continuing to expand into new markets and we want to conquer even more of the world out there. In this respect we benefit from the fact that Lufthansa Cargo also flies to more exotic destinations.”
But reach is not the only argument in favor of Lufthansa Cargo. “A reliable and transparent cold chain is the be-all and end-all in food logistics,” explains Nicole Ahrensfeld. “When we ship the raw materials for Capri-Sun, we rely on the Fresh or the Cool product.” Shipments of machinery or packaging materials travel as td.Pro or, if particularly urgent, as td.Flash. “It feels great to be part of an enterprise that is taking such a well-known product to the world. No matter in which country I spot a child holding a Capri-Sun, it just makes me smile,” says the logistics manager. Laughing with her, Rohatsch can only agree.
Asparagus meets the Big Apple.
“In spite of its triumphal progress through the kitchens of Europe, white asparagus is relatively unknown in the United States,” says Irene Fuchs, Senior Events Manager at the German-American Chamber of Commerce in New York. “That’s why tickets to our asparagus gala dinner are always highly sought after.” Every spring the German-American Chamber of Commerce invites members and guests to this exclusive event featuring traditional German cuisine. This year it will be held high over the rooftops of New York, in the fashionable Tribeca Rooftop. The white asparagus the guests will be able to enjoy while gazing out over the Big Apple comes from the asparagus farm Schulze in Weisenheim am Sand, 20 kilometers west of Mannheim. “We usually order between 220 and 270 kilograms. Transportation to Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is handled by EMO-TRANS,” explains Irene Fuchs. “Lufthansa Cargo then flies the asparagus as a Fresh consignment to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.” For the 6,200-kilometer journey, Lufthansa Cargo deploys a Boeing 777F or an MD-11F, depending on the day of the week. This way the asparagus, having been harvested earlier that morning in Weisenheim, arrives right in time for sunset on the roof terrace in New York.
Asparagus is a vegetable of noble provenance: it is said to have been a favorite of Louis XIV, the Sun King. People also call it “white gold”, or “edible ivory”. White asparagus is the number one vegetable in Germany: the area under cultivation covers more than 27,000 hectares, making it the undisputed market leader. The annual harvest in Germany amounts to around 120,000 tons. Asparagus was already appreciated in ancient times by Egyptians and Greeks, who dug up plants that were then still growing wild. The Romans were the first to cultivate asparagus, in the region around Ravenna.
And while it may then have slipped into obscurity for centuries, from the Renaissance onwards the love for these white stalks spread from Italy to cover the whole of Europe. As a special spring delicacy that is only available for a short time, asparagus was especially popular with the nobility, where it was served on festive occasions. Today the asparagus season in Germany regularly ends on June 24. Lovers of this exquisite vegetable then have to be patient for almost a year. That is how long the plant needs to recover. This is because asparagus is not planted anew every year, as one plant can be harvested over a number of years.
Cargo is our lifestyle.
Penta Freight in India has earned itself a reputation as one of the country’s best forwarding agencies for pharmaceuticals over a period of 25 years. It is a success story that has its roots in the airline past of the company’s two founders.
You can watch a portrait about Penta Freight on the YouTube channel of Lufthansa Cargo.
White and some orange dominate the interior of the open-plan offices. Solid, well-proportioned room dividers with rounded corners are reminiscent of Apple’s design philosophy. Special accents are set here and there: a historic aviation photograph, a door offset in a contrasting color, the statue of an Indian deity. White desks and monitors heighten the impression of cleanliness and tidiness. It is an ambience that is a suitable setting for the activity of the people who work here – their job chiefly is to look after the transportation of pharmaceuticals and chemicals by airfreight.
The Penta Freight head office on the 9th floor of the Times Square skyscraper on Andheri-Kurla Road in Mumbai would stand a very good chance of winning an interior design competition for office spaces. Everything is clean and clear, yet without looking sterile. Here tradition and modernity link up in an intelligent manner. The result is a workplace atmosphere where each and every individual can breathe freely while still being fully integrated into the team.
These austere yet chic offices are, for the time being, the crowning glory of 25 years’ hard work in the airfreight industry. When Shashi Narayan Kanchan and Prasannan Watson Kurup established Penta Freight a quarter of a century ago, they shared a mini-office inside a warehouse. It was all the two cargo managers could afford at the time, having traded good jobs with established airlines for a sense of professional freedom. Today 140 personnel work for Penta Freight. Branches have been established in the major hubs of India’s pharma industry. Besides – and this is the company’s most vital asset – the extremely demanding shippers in this industry sector entrust Penta Freight with their products, as do some of the country’s leading chemical companies.
“Isn’t it fabulous, the kind of opportunities airfreight has opened up?” says Prasannan Kurup. “Without this industry sector, fully geared as it is towards internationality, and without these people who live and breathe the cargo spirit, our success story would not have been possible.” His co-Managing Director Shashi Kanchan is just as enthusiastic: “This industry has become our home. This is where we have built an existence for ourselves. Our personnel are considered more of a family and many of them have been associated with us for fifteen years or more.”
Penta Freight – “penta” is the Greek word for “five”. The name stands for the five core values that have made this company great: integrity, responsibility, diligence, perseverance and discipline. In addition to this exemplary work ethic and 25 years’ experience, India’s pharmaceuticals industry and its strong strategic position in the global market has also played a major role in Penta Freight’s success story.
The industry draws its strength not least from the very size of its domestic market. Experts believe that the country with its 1.3 billion people will move into the top 3 of the world’s major pharmaceuticals markets by the year 2020. India has a vast number of companies manufacturing pharmaceutical raw materials, medicinal drugs and vaccines. The only country boasting more internationally certified production facilities is the United States. In addition, there certainly is no shortage of well trained pharmacologists and chemists. These are the strengths that have enabled India to join the top group of pharma-exporting countries worldwide.
Generic drugs are one example. India has for decades had comparatively lax patent laws, ensuring that the masses get timely and affordable access to important medicines. The result is that the Indian pharmaceutical industry was able to specialize in this area at an early stage and export generic drugs in increasing volumes thanks to favorable production costs.
The industry sector’s growth has accelerated further in the years since 2011, when numerous patents on successful medicines expired in the United States and in Europe, including drugs for common diseases such as hypertension and cancer. At the same time, customs formalities for exports were streamlined. In this way India has been able to garner a 30-percent share of the global market for exports of generic drugs. However, a success story like this can only come with the help of an efficient international logistics operation of the sort that Penta Freight can provide to their customers.
The company’s recently commissioned warehouse close to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is the only one of its kind in Mumbai, and the tidiness and clarity of its design is the same found at the Penta Freight headquarters: white walls, scrupulously clean, and with a strict separation of the shipments according their specific requirements into the various temperature-controlled rooms. The warehouse holds several dozen of the characteristic blue transport barrels sealed by the shippers and containing anti-inflammatory agents and antibiotics, as well as containers of vaccines and small batches of samples and ingredients for cancer drugs. The labels attached to the consignments give an indication of the most important target markets for Penta Freight: around 60 percent of the shipments are for destinations in the United States, 20 percent in Europe, 10 percent in Latin America, and 10 percent to Africa and South-East Asia.
“We invested a great deal of money in these premises so that we could raise the standard of quality for the transit storage for consignments even further,” says Prasannan Kurup. “However, we take most of the consignments directly from the shipper to the airport just in time, so as to speed up the process and minimize the impact of handling.” Transport is carried out by Penta Freight’s own fleet of refrigerated trucks. The consignments themselves are covered in thermal blankets and fitted with devices for recording the temperature. As part of their arrangements with airlines, handling agents and forwarders, Penta Freight makes sure that the shipments are always kept in appropriately temperature-controlled environments during the entire time they are in transit.
“We have already been cooperating closely with Lufthansa Cargo for two decades,” says Shashi Kanchan. “The quality of service, the constant availability of freight capacity, and full transparency in the way they deal with imponderables – these are the decisive advantages of this airline.” Penta Freight ships more than 4,500 metric tons of goods with Lufthansa Cargo each year. “We primarily use td.Pro and td.Flash. In addition, we use Cool-Passive and Cool-Active for temperature-sensitive products which need precise temperature to be maintained throughout transit. We fully depend on Lufthansa Cargo for their consistent performance,” says Prasannan Kurup.
While the colorful, chaotic street life swirls around the suburbs near the airport, at Penta Freight they keep their cool at all times and stay focused on their path towards further growth and quality. Their next move will be to open their own offices in the United States, and later also in Europe. Shashi Kanchan: “We want to be part of the action with the top players in this segment. Even after 25 years, the best is yet to come!”
Cuckoos for Malaysia.
The history of the world-famous cuckoo clocks begins with a souvenir. In the 17th century, Black Forest glass bearers brought home an unusual item from one of their journeys: a small wall clock. Historians assume that it originated in Bohemia or the Rhineland. What is known is that it inspired the people living in the Black Forest, who had a long tradition of fashioning their tools for daily use from wood, to build clocks of their own. Once they added two bellows to make the cuckoo sing, the clocks became a bestseller, and a symbol for the Black Forest. Because these cuckoo clocks were initially made entirely from wood, they cost less than clocks with metal movements. That made them affordable for ordinary people. In the early stages, the glass carriers took these clocks out into the world in their backpacks. But eventually the clock manufacturers started to market their products themselves. The history-making Black Forest clock gets into full swing in the 18th century. By the end of the 20th century, only a few cuckoo clock manufacturers are left. Then, at the beginning of the new millennium, the demand for high-quality handmade one-off products “Made in Germany” starts to rise once again. The cuckoo clocks are especially popular in Asia.
For example, in the metropolis of Kuala Lumpur. Large numbers of cuckoo clock enthusiasts from all over Malaysia wander around the showroom of the clock experts at Siew Cheong in the Mid Valley Megamall every day. The name of the company has been synonymous with exclusive, high-quality mechanical clocks from all over the world for over 60 years now. “Here at Siew Cheong Clocks, we only sell the very best cuckoo clocks. Each timepiece is selected by the most renowned manufacturers in Germany. Quality and high-quality workmanship in every clock that we offer our customers are the be-all and end-all for us,” says Ke Phon, the Managing Director.
To make sure customers do not have to wait too long for their new precious pieces, the clocks are transported by air freight from the Black Forest to Southeast Asia. The cuckoo clocks first travel from the Black Forest via Stuttgart (STR) to Cologne/Bonn Airport on the Road Feeder Service. From there, a Eurowings Airbus takes sun-hungry holidaymakers to Phuket in Thailand, some 9,400 kilometers away, every single day. The clocks travel in the belly of the A330 as a td.Pro consignment. From Phuket, a truck takes the precious cargo to Kuala Lumpur (KUL). The clocks arrive at the showroom of Siew Cheong after a journey lasting only three days.
To us, the sky and the sea are one.
No fewer than 3,054 islands are all part of Greece. That is equivalent to 82 percent of all islands in the Mediterranean. The vast majority of the islands can only be reached by sea. Without regular ferry services, they would be cut off from the outside world. Airfreight is indispensable if supplies to the people and the livelihoods of all islanders are not to grind to a halt. This was the message Alexis von Hoensbroech, Member of the Executive Board and Chief Commercial Officer at Lufthansa Cargo, took away from his most recent visit to Greece.
His host during his stay was Kostis Achladitis, Managing Director of Golden Cargo, one of the leading ship parts logistics companies in Greece, based in Piraeus. Achladitis ended up in the logistics business almost by chance. After completing his studies in London, he worked for the procurement department of Golden Union Shipping, a shipping company that operates a fleet of several bulk carriers around the world.
“One day a spare part from Japan was urgently needed for a vessel in Greece,” recalls Achladitis. “The cost of shipping was as much as the price of the spare part itself. That’s when it occurred to me that spare parts logistics could be quite a lucrative business. I wondered whether we would be able to organize it ourselves, and at a lower cost.”
That was the beginning of Golden Cargo, almost 30 years ago now. At first Kostis Achladitis only took care of the shipping of spare parts that were needed by the company that employed him. Over the years, he also acquired other customers in the maritime shipping sector. Today, the logistics specialist serves more than 2,500 ships worldwide and is also a contract logistics provider for major producers of ship spare parts. Golden Cargo ships 70 percent of all consignments by airfreight.
Planning is virtually impossible.
“Providing logistics services to the maritime industry is a challenging business. To succeed, you have to know just how the sector operates. We know exactly what the requirements of the shipping companies are. Having our roots in this industry gives us a competitive edge,” says Achladitis. “That, in combination with the diligence and perseverance, the flexibility and sense of responsibility of our staff.”
What is particularly challenging is the lack of predictability. Ships are constantly on the move and shipping companies operate their vessels on the basis of charter contracts. It often happens that they won’t know until the last moment which will be the next port of call of any given ship in one or two weeks time. That makes things complicated – not only in the event of an unforeseen breakdown, but even for routine maintenance. To compound matters, the spare parts needed come from various manufacturers located around the globe. The best ropes are made in Greece, engine parts frequently come from Korea, Japan, China or Europe, digital maps and control elements are often sourced from somewhere in Europe.
Yet the ships that depend on them may be waiting tens of thousands of kilometers away, perhaps at sea or docked in a harbor.
“Operating under these conditions, the shipping companies need to work with a flexible and reliable partner,” says Kostis Achladitis. “Together with Lufthansa Cargo, we have developed a contingency plan that allows us to decide very quickly from where, and how, we can best fly in case a spare part is needed.”
“Everyone here is engaged in distribution”
“Our network services the key hotspots for maritime shipping throughout the world,” explains Alexis von Hoensbroech. “As a rule, major ports double as locations where spare parts are manufactured and traded. We provide the links between the manufacturers of spare parts and the shipping companies, based on the close relationship with the experts from Golden Cargo.”
The specialized crew of Golden Cargo has meanwhile grown to reach 120 employees. The company hires only few recruits originally from other professions. They prefer to train new employees starting at the very bottom. Staff fluctuation is minimal. Their relationships with customers are also particularly close. “We don’t have a dedicated sales department. Everyone here does distribution. As a result, we all have close relationships with customers, and with the cargo that we happen to be moving. It’s a very special way of working,” says Kostis Achladitis.
The same also applies to the partners: “Our aim is to support maritime logistics companies like Golden Cargo in their global operations as best as we can,” is how Alexis von Hoensbroech defines the role of his airline. “Accordingly, Lufthansa Cargo has a number of products that make for a perfect fit for these customers, and we have a team that is thoroughly familiar with the needs of maritime shipping.” Kostis Achladitis adds: “We have a close relationship with the local Lufthansa Cargo team in Athens. At Lufthansa Cargo, we know we’ll always get an appropriate response. There is always someone on hand around the clock, which means there is always a way to find a solution on behalf of our customer.”
It is thanks to this capacity for finding solutions that Golden Cargo is growing at rates between 15 and 20 percent annually – and doing so despite the Greek crisis, which is yet to be overcome. “We’ve remained virtually unaffected by the crisis because we run a global business operation, and because we are one of only a few sectors of the Greek economy that is competitive on an international scale,” explains Achladitis. “I very much hope that other industry sectors in Greece will soon be able to catch up with the international competition. There are plenty of highly motivated people in this country who want to do just that – and we are a perfect example of this!”
While his working life is global in nature, Achladitis’s roots are right here. He originally comes from one of the many Greek islands: from Chios, in the eastern Aegean Sea. “Whenever I go home, I travel by ferry, of course!” An islander himself, he is very much aware just how vital dependable maritime links can be. “The ships bring tourists to the islands, they bring goods, and they bring us everything we need for everyday life. When the ferry arrives in port, that’s when life begins. It’s a good thing that we at Golden Cargo are also able to contribute to that.”
You can watch the interview with Kostis Achladitis in the iPad edition, free in the App Store, and on the YouTube channel.
Korea’s door opener!
Woojung Air Consolidation from South Korea chiefly processes exports for a variety of carriers. The key service entails consolidating the freight of several forwarders and sending it on its way with Master Air Waybill.
With a skilful arm movement a ground handling employee spreads a cover made of transparent plastic over a pallet – conjuring up an image of a fisherman casting his net. The key difference is that in this case the “catch” has already been landed, namely in a warehouse in Incheon, South Korea’s largest airport. Goods are packed in cartons from various senders – earmarked for just as many recipients in Europe. Woojung Air Consolidation Inc. is responsible for grouping together the cartons on a pallet in a “Shipper Mixed Unit”. In a few hours’ time, a Lufthansa Cargo Boeing 777F carrying the group consignment will take off en route to Frankfurt.
Agents such as Woojung that focus on consolidating shipments, and subsequently draw up the Master Air Waybill (M-AWB) for the consolidated consignments, play a major role in South Korea – in contrast to almost all other national airfreight markets. One factor has facilitated the high level of specialization is South Korea’s economy. At number eleven according to the 2016 ranking of the International Monetary Fund, it is significantly reliant on foreign trade via airfreight. After all, the country locatedon a peninsula does not have an accessible land border.
Some 400 forwarders in customer database.
However, specialists such as Woojung are in demand for other reasons too: their principals are forwarders, frequently small and medium-sized suppliers. And following the liberalisation of the corresponding licensing provisions in 1992, their number in South Korea has increased significantly. “Since then, the considerable influence of consolidators such as us has further increased,” says Andrew Yim, President and CEO of Woojung. His customer database now contains about 400 forwarders.
Long-standing co-operation: Woojung President Andrew Yim (centre) and Yunjin Shin (right) from Lufthansa Cargo have been working together since 2003. Left: Klaus Hagenkord, Lufthansa Cargo Head of Sales and Handling Korea
Although Andrew Yim and his 65-strong team do not maintain direct relations with the shippers, they are familiar with the air freight they deal with. Woojung’s largest tonnage shares are attributable to mobile radio and other electrical appliances, car parts, plastics, clothing and products from South Korea’s traditionally strong semiconductor industry. Most of the consignments are exports. Whatever the flight destination, Woojung has partner service providers in more than 190 countries worldwide that deconsolidate the consignments and on request reforward them.
In addition, the CEO emphasizes the now daily flights with the Boeing 777F from Incheon to Frankfurt – and the “Triple Seven” itself: “We benefit hugely from your abundant capacity.” This is all reflected in the increasing tonnage. “In the previous year we transported more than 1,600 tons for Woojung – almost 50 percent more than in 2015,” says Yunjin Shin, Senior Sales Representative at Lufthansa Cargo with responsibility held for the customer since 2003. In the first six months of 2017 it was more than1,000 tons, a further sharp increase.
Upward trend: in the first six months of 2017, Lufthansa Cargo transported 1,000 tons of freight for Woojung. It the previous year
Strong carriers such as Lufthansa Cargo therefore enable the service provider to grow further – and take care of that part of the operations so that it can pursue new projects. Woojung therefore now consolidates the shipments at Incheon Airport in its own warehouse where all customs formalities are also dealt with. To that end the company has information about the status of the licensed commercial operator facilitating the shipments to the European Union.
On request, Woojung transports goods via its own trucks from all over South Korea to the airfreight hub Incheon – and therefore takes on the additional work from the forwarders. “With that in mind we established a dedicated transport division in May 2017,” says Andrew Yim. And the South Koreans are also increasingly dealing with imports. In that respect they make use of their worldwide partner network – and their preferred carrier Lufthansa Cargo.
Lufthansa Cargo flies a satellite to California to cultivate tomatoes in the Earth’s orbit. The aims of the Eu:CROPIS project include at some stage feeding people on the Moon and on Mars.
It is the year 2045. In the barren, red landscape the evening meal is being served for members of the Mars station – under a sparkling canopy of stars where a trained eye can also see the scientists’ home planet. Earth. On the table is tomato salad – healthy food for space travelers. And tomatoes are a source of key vitamins and minerals. The vegetables – and that makes them so special – were not brought to Mars as you might think via a Lufthansa Cargo shuttle. They were grown there.
There is still a long way to go until a manned Mars mission can support itself with vegetables. However, basic research in that respect is now already under way. At the beginning of 2018, under the name Eu:CROPIS the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will send a satellite into space with a special load: tomato seeds, cell organisms, synthetic urine and a trickle filter.
Alexis von Hoensbroech, Board Member Product and Sales Lufthansa Cargo, who holds a doctoral degree in astrophysics, was in Bremen to gain first-hand knowledge of the satellite during the “planet” on-site visit.
High, hermetically sealed laboratory rooms that can only be viewed via galleries at a much higher level. The future is behind each glass pane: robot arms simulating landings on celestial bodies. Specially encased containers that test the performance of cryogenic fuel in tanks. Behind one of the square, security glass panes: the Eu:CROPIS project. Or to be more precise, Euglena and Combined Regenerative Organic-food Production in Space. The load is not yet on-site but the satellite, which is to house the tomato farm in space and which the space engineers are assembling here, is now almost compete.
In the satellite 16 cameras will monitor how the plants grow in two greenhouses from seeds to produce ripe tomatoes. Why tomatoes actually? “Very simple. Tomatoes can be easily recognized in the pictures,” explains Hartmut Müller. The experienced project manager at Eu:CROPIS was previously a member of the Columbus Project, Europe’s contribution to the International Space Station ISS, a multi-purpose laboratory for multi-disciplinary research in zero gravity. At Eu:CROPIS, crucial helpers are on board: microorganisms in a DLR trickle filter convert the synthetic urine into fertilizer and water.
Manufacturing the satellite in Bremen: DLR aerospace engineer Sebastian Kottmeier explains the tasks of the various modules of the satellite, which is about one cubic meter in size, to Alexis von Hoensbroech in the clean room.
From space to the world: A cubic meter of future.
From space to the world: A cubic meter of future.
Cell organisms – so-called Euglena – from the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg protect the system against ammonia and simultaneously provide it with oxygen. LED lights simulate day and night. On Earth, the system is already up and running. Now the researchers want to find out how the tomatoes grow amid different gravitations. To that end, the Earth’s gravitational force needs to be neutralized. To bring that about the DLR experts will install the mini-greenhouses in a satellite that will orbit far above the Earth and its force of gravity at a height of 600 kilometers. For six months the satellite will rotate around its own axis at 18 revolutions per minute. This enables the scientists to replicate the Moon’s gravity (0.16 G). In the following six months, the revolutions will be increased to 30 per minute and create 0.33 G, the gravity of Mars. “We are the first to conduct such investigations,” says Müller.
We therefore want to reduce external influencing factors to a minimum. Only specially trained colleagues work directly on the satellite.” The system also needs to be sealed throughout the transport operation to the Vandenberg Spaceport in California. The satellite will be loaded in full while still in the clean room. Meeting the safety requirements is also a challenge: the DLR is not certified as a “Safe Sender”. Michael Aschmies, Sales Employee at Lufthansa Cargo in Bremen supports the transport operation in conjunction with forwarder ILS and has agreed on a special process with the German Federal Civil Aviation Authority (LBA) in light of the particular requirements. A certified colleague comes from Frankfurt with a mobile mass spectrometer, a so-called sniffer, and examines the consignment for hazardous goods before it is sealed. In an air suspension thermo truck the consignment is then taken from Bremen to Frankfurt. There the Eu:CROPIS satellite is carefully loaded into the freighter to Los Angeles and flown to California.
The seals are only removed once the satellite is in the integration room in Vandenberg and has been unpacked. It is scheduled to be sent into space with a Falcon 9 rocket as early as the start of 2018. “We expect to receive the initial results while the mission is still in progress,” says Müller. The scientists are not only interested in survival in space. The results may also be of interest for mining and underwater stations, habitats in the Arctic, radiation-protected disaster areas or simply for farming and the preparation of drinking water. Alexis von Hoensbroech demonstrates his interest and asks “Why are you testing the system for both Mars and the Moon?” Müller: “The Moon is also extremely exciting. Many people believe that we know a great deal about that planet because we have been there.” Six manned American Apollo missions did indeed land on the Earth’s satellite planet in the 1960s and 1970s.
“That is comparable with the statement that I landed on the Earth six times and am familiar with the entire planet.” If a mission were to be started on the Moon today, numerous scientists would be interested: geologists, space scientists, geophysicists and radio astronomers. “The Moon is a geological archive that goes back to the creation of the solar system. What remains out of our reach here on Earth is on the surface there,” says Müller. The Moon presents an opportunity for radio astronomers too: “There are plans to set up a telescope with a diameter of 15 kilometers to 20 kilometers on the rear side that can search to just before the Big Bang. The rear side of theMoon is the only place where that is possible because the telescope would be completely protected from the Earth’s radio waves.
Thanks to the Helium 3 reserves on the Moon, the topic of energy production captures just as much interest as space travel tourism. In addition, the Moon could indeed serve as a base station for expeditions to Mars. Müller believes that expeditions could land on Mars in the 30s and 40s of this century. “However, we would previously set up a greenhouse and make sure nutrition is available.” Upon concluding his customer visit, Alexis von Hoensbroech posed the following question: “And where do you see airfreight in that period?” “Intercontinental provisions on an hourly basis,” says Müller, which makes the Lufthansa Cargo Board Member smile.