A Network for the Network

Benelux is a key region for global logistics. A dense transport network with connections to the rest of the world provides the ideal basis for integrated supply chains.

Gateway to the world: Rotterdam
Gateway to the world: Rotterdam

It’s a network with a historical dimension: Benelux. For over 75 years now, the western-European neighbors Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg have been cultivating a close partnership and network known as Benelux. Back in 1944, even before the Second World War had ended, they formed a customs union. In 1958, this was expanded to create an economic union. By that point, after all, these three monarchies had plenty of experience in working together. Ever since the early Middle Ages, their territories have shared a whole host of different economic and cultural ties.

Today, the term “Benelux” is mainly used to refer to the cultural and political grouping of these three small countries. Around 30 million people live in the region, which covers close to 75,000 square kilometers. What makes this appealing market even more attractive is the fact that over half of the European Union’s purchasing power lies within a radius of 500 kilometers.

Attractive gateway to the world

Home to the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, Ghent, and Zeebrugge, plus Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, Maastricht Airport, and Brussels Zaventem Airport, the network formed by the Benelux countries is an attractive gateway to international markets.

Highways, railways, and waterways closely connect these international hubs with regional and neighboring centers of production and consumers, which is why logistics and trade in Benelux plays such a big role.

International companies see the multimodal accessibility of Belgium and the Netherlands as a particular boon to their business. They tend to concentrate their Belgian operations in the areas around the Brussels-Antwerp-Ghent triangle; in the Netherlands, they set their sights on the Randstad region—the area nestled between Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and the Hague.

DACHSER began operations in Belgium and the Netherlands back in 1975 and since then, all signs point to growth. Aat van der Meer, Managing Director DACHSER Benelux, reflects on the company’s development in the region: “DACHSER has marked one milestone after the next in the Benelux countries, including when we opened our new branch in Waddinxveen near Rotterdam in 2007 and when we added a new location in Luxembourg in 2011. Then, in 2012, we expanded the handling terminal at our first branch in the Netherlands, in Zevenaar, to cover an area of 10,000 square meters.” Since then, lots has happened in the region. “On the back of such solid growth, we expanded our Waddinxveen site substantially, and it’s now the headquarters of our Benelux organization. And at the end of 2019, we broke ground on a new warehouse measuring 17,000 square meters.”

DACHSER has also expanded its capacities in neighboring Belgium on a large scale, Van der Meer says. Relocating to a new building at the Willebroek site near Antwerp in 2014 created more than 7,000 square meters of advanced terminal handling space, he explains. Further work to enlarge the facility is planned for 2021. Following its 2015 expansion, the site in Mouscron, about 100 kilometers west of Brussels, now offers 8,400 square meters of terminal handling space, plus 5,000 square meters of storage space. In Luxembourg, operations in the town of Grevenmacher have also been on a clear growth trajectory: in the 2018 financial year, revenue rose by 11.3 percent, tonnage by 6.4 percent, and the number of shipments by 6.1 percent. The headcount of DACHSER employees in Benelux has also risen remarkably and now stands at around 800 people.

Sea freight connects different worlds
Sea freight connects different worlds

Integrated network

As far as Van der Meer is concerned, these figures also show that DACHSER’s long-term investment policy is heading in the right direction. Besides the money DACHSER has injected into the expansion of buildings, he explains, the company has also invested in information technology, technical equipment, and personnel. Interlocking—the seamless connection of DACHSER’s global Air & Sea network with its comprehensive overland transport network in Europe—is a particularly important part of DACHSER’s operations in the Benelux countries. A major advantage in this respect is the proximity of the Waddinxveen and Willebroek branches to the important ports of Rotterdam (where 14.5 million TEUs were handled in 2018) and Antwerp (around 11 million TEUs).

Interlocking offers DACHSER customers seamless and transparent access to all relevant markets around the globe and is an intelligent and reliable solution for networking procurement, production, and distribution at all times. “Given that the Benelux countries are an important nexus for world trade, we’ve steadily expanded our presence in the region and further consolidated our European network,” Van der Meer explains. “Integration of our Road Logistics and Air & Sea Logistics business fields is something we’ll continue to drive forward across the board, from IT to sales. This way, we can offer worldwide supply chains from a single source. With the best we have to offer in terms of European overland transport and global air and sea freight,” he adds.

It’s when circumstances change that a network’s strength really shines through. Brexit is a case in point. When the UK does leave the EU, Van der Meer expects further growth in the Benelux countries. “Lots of companies have already announced their plans to relocate storage of their goods to mainland Europe,” he says.

DACHSER’s new contract logistics warehouse in Waddinxveen near Rotterdam will be a key link in the chain, providing the services required to best meet customer requirements. According to Van der Meer, DACHSER Benelux is well positioned for the future, thanks in no small measure to its highly skilled workforce. “We’re seamlessly integrated into the DACHSER network and can offer our customers 350 daily departures within Europe and to other countries. It’s our reliable and dedicated employees, who come from all over the world, that make all of this possible. They can respond quickly and they understand what our customers operating on an international level need,” he says proudly.

He explains that one of the ways DACHSER ensures such high levels of quality is by working with various schools to develop young talent. The company has also established in-house training for students completing dual-study programs in logistics professions. For Van der Meer, this all ties in with a clear goal: “Networks are made by people for people. By inspiring young people to get involved, we’re shaping the future—both for DACHSER and for our customers.” 

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