“We want to further improve the plannability of our logistics service”
Alexander Tonn became DACHSER’s new COO Road Logistics in January 2021. In this interview, he talks about his career, his priorities in his new position, and what is particularly important to him in the design of the processes.
Mr. Tonn, how did your career at DACHSER first start?
My official career at DACHSER started out as you might expect. Having applied to various companies, I ultimately accepted a position working in controlling for DACHSER in Memmingen. Within just a few years, I had worked my way up to become manager of the Controlling/Projects department.
I learned all about the world of contract logistics, Mikado, and even how to drive a forklift. From then on, I took on various responsibilities in contract logistics until I finally became Contract Logistics Manager European Logistics in 2003. Later I moved on to Operations Manager, and then, in 2006, Deputy Branch Manager in Memmingen. In 2014, I took over Contract Logistics in Kempten, succeeding Wolfgang Reinel.
After completing your compulsory military service, you enlisted in the German Armed Forces. Might that have been an alternative career path for you?
I did my military service in Füssen, Germany, with the mountain troops. After only a few months, I decided I wanted to stay two more years to train as a reserve officer, which is what I did. After that, I went on to study for my degree in business administration in Bamberg, with a focus on logistics and logistics information systems. In the breaks between semesters, I always went back to work in the army and led basic training courses, which were my first key steps toward leadership. I really enjoyed working with young people. But continuing on this route wasn’t an option as I wanted to have more of a say in my own career path.
What does it take to motivate people?
The most important thing is to always understand the people you’re trying to motivate. If you can empathize with and relate to them, you can explain things better and establish a rapport. Above all—and this applies to all situations in life—you have to respect other people and take them seriously. At DACHSER, we believe it’s extremely important that we keep talking to each other. It’s vital to have a feel for what’s going on in people’s lives at the branch. As the Executive Board, it’s our job to devote time to nurturing and maintaining this sense of community. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have any personal contact at the moment, but as soon as the situation allows it again, I’ll get back to traveling around a lot. I’d like to visit the majority of the branches in Europe at least once. I don’t know if I’ll ever manage that, but it’s certainly my intention.
Alexander Tonn is Chief Operations Officer (COO) at DACHSER.
You were able to gain management experience early on in your career, and have a profound understanding of how DACHSER operates. Nevertheless, did you do any special preparation for the COO position?
It’s a role that commands a huge amount of respect, no question. We are a large company. But my predecessor Michael Schilling and I made good use of the almost three years before the handover took place; we kept in close contact and discussed things in depth. That gave me the opportunity to understand every detail and gain deeper insight into certain mechanisms.
Now that you’re in the role, what’s top of your agenda? What are the priorities?
Another key topic for me is the continued development of contract logistics. I’d like to pick up the pace even more. We want to tap the great potential our European network offers.
And it’s clear that Interlocking, i.e. the interconnection of land transport with air and sea freight, is also hugely important for DACHSER. We now need to take the next steps, especially with regard to interconnecting our operating processes.
The third focus is on how we can support our customers’ omnichannel strategies. At the moment, their requirements are incredibly dynamic and changing all the time. For our part, that means we have to be ready to respond fast, both in the B2C and B2B sectors.
What do these changes look like and what do they mean for employees?
Our network is currently handling extremely high volumes, which, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions, means all our employees have an extraordinary workload. The lockdowns and store closures have caused a surge in e-commerce and, by extension, in B2C shipments in our network. These currently make up well over 10 percent of DACHSER’s volume in Europe, and that share is growing sharply. But B2C is a complex service with very specific requirements, especially when it comes to delivery.
To continue to maintain our high standard of quality, we must improve planning transparency for our logistics service. This starts with our customers giving us plenty of prior notice about shipments; another priority is improving the quality of our data. For example, we first need to know from the order data whether a shipment is for the B2B or B2C market, so we can carry out the delivery efficiently and in a manner that meets the expectations of both the customer and the recipient.
In 2020, we launched our “targo on-site” standardized product lines for B2C shipments across Europe. It’s a definite competitive advantage that we can offer our customers. We’ve laid the groundwork for greater planning transparency; now it’s up to us to be persistent in telling about these products and increasing take-up.
Thank you for speaking with us.