© Khunaspix Dreamstime.

Geodis Wilson is to market a new strategy to customers in September, chief executive Marie-Christine Lombard told The Loadstar at the Transport Logistics event in Munich.

Since joining SNCF Geodis in October last year, Ms Lombard has set about reorganising internal structures. “We reformed the team, by changing and replacing  internally,” she said. “And we have created a new pillar – supply chain solutions – which includes contract logistics and supply chain optimisation. It’s a refreshing change for the company and  I hope it will signal that Geodis is promoting supply chain solutions.”

The plan is to focus on 50 global key accounts, provide supply chain advisory services, and apply those in different countries, to different customers. “It’s a key role. Our customers have global needs, so as suppliers we need to follow them into the relevant markets, to help set up the best supply chain for their needs, and add value for the right cost.”

As other logistics service providers are doing, the plan then is to sell freight forwarding, groupage and other transport products.

“But it’s not just transport,” added Ms Lombard. “You are advising on the gateway, getting fast customs clearance, and last mile delivery – which actually can mean country-wide delivery. If you can’t do it, you organise RFQs for those flows. You need to dive into distribution. That’s what Geodis aims to do. It is a clear strategy.”

She added that where Geodis couldn’t provide the right solution, or the customer wanted to use a different supplier for a particular service, the company’s experience would enable it to monitor other products. “To manage the RFQs, you need to be able to monitor the market and you need the intelligence. That’s why we are keeping  groupage, LTL and so on, it’s a trade lane and volume business. You need a deep knowledge of contract logistics and the supply chain, using the forwarder network, to make sustainable supply chain flows.”

Ms Lombard was brought in by SNCF Geodis to help the company “find a momentum in a difficult economic environment”, according to chairman Pierre Blayau. “It will strengthen the teams and ready Geodis for a new phase of profitable growth.”

Geodis is not alone in finding the market challenging. As the sluggish economy continues to bite, many logistics service providers are reassessing their strategies. Geodis, a division of French state-owned rail company SNCF, doesn’t break down its revenues, and Ms Lombard said: “It’s difficult to say which  is the most profitable part of our business – we need the whole to make a profit.”

In April, the company reported a 2.1% decline in revenues for the first quarter, at €2.28bn. The only business to report growth was freight forwarding, which saw sales increase 6.8%, due to higher freight prices, said the company at the time.

Some smaller forwarding companies have accused larger ones of buying business to get global accounts, but Ms Lombard said her focus was on profitability. “It’s a difficult balance to manage – global accounts are critical, but I don’t want to buy them. I want customers to come to us because we have the best solutions that they need to be profitable. I don’t believe in ‘loss-leaders’,” she said.

Geodis sticks to 50 global accounts, she added. “This industry is very competitive and you need to be extremely focused on what you do. Geodis isn’t going to be everything to everyone. We want to customise and design supply chains, and cascade them to others. We are not going to be a global leader on every part of the business – such as parcel delivery. But in supply chain solutions the target is to be focused on vertical markets.”

Ms Lombard – perhaps controversially – left her role as CEO of TNT Express to join Geodis while the express company was still in the throes of its merger attempt with UPS. TNT took legal action, claiming she had broken her non-competition clause, and tried to prevent her employment at the French transport and logistics group.

“I chose to leave,” she said. “I wanted a long-term shareholder. If you don’t have that, it’s very difficult to invest in growth. Supply chain operators need to invest in their futures, and you need to be able to do that. I need a shareholder that understands, and SNCF is a long-term shareholder, with a background of engineering.”

She denied that the lack of transparency in state-owned businesses meant there was something to hide. “I could never have explained all this if it had been a quoted company,” she said. “I can now talk much more about the business and what we want to do.”

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.