DHL Global Forwarding has defended its “late” launch of an online quote and booking system for air freight.

The forwarder argues that its system, launched last week,  goes beyond those of some competitors, is open to non-customers and its functionality took time to develop.

“Several competitors have only put enquiry forms online and do not enable real-time quotation and booking,” Tobias Meyer, chief operating officer of DHL Global Forwarding (DHL GF) told The Loadstar.

“Or, the online functionality is limited to few tradelanes and Incoterms. We chose a different path and only wanted to promote a service that covers a broad range of what our customers require.”

He explained: “The service has different components, which had different development lead times. The rate repository, which enables us to provide instantaneous quotes for more than 98% of air freight traffic, took us several years to establish. The front end and booking engine has been developed and tested in the last 12 months.”

The service is accessible to shippers not currently DHL GF customers or registered users. DHL Interactive, the online portal for registered customers, which provides e-booking, reporting and tracing, has been live for several years, he added.

The new portal has almost 50 origin and destination countries and covers 98% of the routes DHL GF offers. The forwarder decides on shipment routing after the order is placed, leveraging the company’s portfolio of carriers and allocations.

But, added Mr Meyer, it also takes into account flight schedules and sailing dates in order to provide the time estimate – but does not link into carrier websites.

As with other forwarders which have set up this tool, DHL GF hopes to attract more SME business.

“We see an increasing demand for an online service, particularly from smaller and mid-sized business. This is the segment we are targeting,” he said.

“With larger customers, we expect communication and booking via electronic data interchange (EDI) will continue to be a much larger share. And some customers will continue to prefer sending us an email.

“So we are offering an additional channel and expect it to grow, but we do not expect it to represent a large share of our business over the coming years.”

Mr Meyer said that non-DHL customers would be able to “quickly scan the market”, while existing customers could easily generate an “immediate spot rate quote”.

But, he noted that existing customers would likely prefer to use DHL Interactive, which had more functionality.

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