Source: eKapija | Wednesday, 27.11.2019.| 17:57
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Mirko Ilic, managing director of cargo-partner Serbia - Anniversary in the mark of modernization and expansion of business

Mirko Ilic
cargo-partner celebrated a significant anniversary this year - 15 years in Serbia.

- We started our activities in Serbia with five employees in 2004, when we opened our first office in Belgrade. Today, 15 years later, we are represented in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Subotica with a total of 100 employees. Based on our comprehensive range of air, sea, road transport and info-logistics services, we have achieved a steady growth and development over the past 15 years – Mirko Ilic, the Managing Director of cargo-artner in Serbia, says in his interview for eKapija.

eKapija: When looking back on projects that you have implemented in Serbia, which ones would you single out as the most important, which are you particularly proud of?

- A special highlight was the opening of our modern warehouse in Dobanovci in 2015. Here we offer 8,000 m2 of storage space, with 15,000 pallet spaces and 1,000 m2 of office space. Our logistics center in Dobanovci provides specialized storage options for a wide range of products, including a 2,200 m2 of customs bonded warehouse. In addition to storage solutions, we support our clients with a large selection of value-added services such as reloading, cross-docking, palletizing, packaging, repackaging, labeling and order picking. We have a HACCP certificate which enables us to handle food products and goods which require constant veterinary supervision.

We currently operate more than 40 warehouses with over 230,000 m2 of warehouse space in Europe, Asia and North America.

This year, in Serbia, cargo-partner also got an ISO 9001 certificate and the status of the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO), which confirms that we have met the highest standards of safety and quality and is the basic requirement for a favored status in providing customs representation services.

eKapija: How has business changed over the years? What changes have affected the transport and logistics sector, and how do you currently see the logistics area in Serbia?

- In recent years, there's been a noticeable increase in the amount of economic activities, which certainly has a direct impact on the sector of transport and logistics. When the apparent migration of people is added to this, the sector faces a lack of qualified workforce, primarily drivers and warehouse staff. Since its founding, cargo-partner has made efforts to stand apart from other employers. We have a special relationship with our employees with lots of mutual respect and we aim to be recognize in the market as an attractive employer. This is how we manage to prevent the current situation from affecting our operations too much.

We distinguish ourselves from the competition by staying at the forefront of digitalization with our state-of-the-art IT solutions, while also staying true to our motto "we take it personally". We realize that strong IT competence, high process quality and comprehensive supply chain management are decisive factors in today's logistics market, and we are always striving to be at the forefront of innovation in this regard. At the same time, we know that the human factor is becoming more important than ever before. We invest into the development of our employees and the creation of tailor-made solutions for our customers, and we strive for long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial and sustainable.

eKapija: Which services would you consider most popular when it comes to Serbia?

- Out of our full range of air, sea, road and rail transport services, it seems that our part load solutions in sea and road transport are gaining popularity at the most rapid pace. Our part load seafreight solutions (LCL) are in especially high demand for imports from China. In the road transport segment, we offer direct groupage lines from Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Austria, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Spain and Poland. That our storage capacities are filled out to the extent they are shows the remarkable quality of our logistics services. As for rail transport, our container (FCL and LCL) transport service between China and Europe, the so-called New Silk Road, is increasingly popular.

eKapija: Digital transformation has affected all areas of the industry, including the logistics sector. How does cargo-partner respond to the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

- We realized early on that digitalization would become a key factor in logistics, and we reacted by launching the supply chain management platform SPOT in the year 2000. Today, we follow a comprehensive digitalization strategy. We want to become a deeply integrated part of our clients' supply chains in order to offer end-to-end solutions, and we achieve this by means of innovative IT systems and strong IT competence within our company.

Customers can log into SPOT to place transport orders, track their shipments in real time or receive reports and statistics about their air, sea, road and rail transports. In addition, the platform offers dedicated modules for purchase order management, parcel shipments and online warehousing.

Using EDI or API connections, processes can be automated - e.g. a transport order can be generated directly from our customer's online shop. This helps to speed up processes, reduce manual effort and minimize errors

eKapija: You have been very active in the whole region, including the recent opening of the iLogistics Center in Slovenia not far from Ljubljana Airport. Tell us more about that project?

- With its favorable geostrategic position, Slovenia is a natural connection between Central and Southeast Europe. We wanted to make use of this important, strategic hub in the heart of Europe with a state-of-the-art logistics complex and to bring our headquarters as well as our other offices in Ljubljana together under one roof. With a total area of 25,000 m2, the iLogistics Center Ljubljana is one of the largest warehouse complexes in the country and contains over 20,000 pallet slots, a 6,000 m2 small parts store and handling area as well as 4,000 m2 of office space. The center enables storage under temperature-controlled conditions and meets the requirements for storing and handling the most demanding goods, such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices, automotive and high-tech goods.

We put a lot of love into this project as we want to offer the best working conditions, be a great employer for our staff and the best partner for our customers! The new iLogistics Center is a big milestone for cargo-partner in Slovenia and we are certain it will boost our growth not only locally in Slovenia, but in the wider region as well.

eKapija: Last year, you also opened a unique facility in Vienna - the all-timber iLogistics Center. What was the purpose of building such a facility? What was the basic idea and what is its specificity?

- The Vienna Airport region has always been an important hub for us. With our iLogistics Center, we have created a showcase project that unites ecologically and economically sustainable architecture. The warehouse is completely made of wood, from the wall and roof construction to the façade. In total, 4,200 m3 of timber were used, resulting in a CO reduction of 8,400 t. The timber construction also allows for an energy-efficient temperature range of 15-25 °C and a constant humidity of under 70%. Even when the building has reached the end of its service life, it will be more cost-efficient to take down and dispose of than with other materials.

The iLogistics Center Vienna contains 12,250 m2 of total storage space, with 24,500 pallet slots, small parts bins and 2,000 m2 of handling area. We offer customers a complete service package for the requirements of spare parts logistics, retail and eCommerce, including a wide range of value added services.

With this new construction, we have more than doubled our existing storage capacities at our headquarters. Our main client here is ENGEL, an injection molding machine manufacturer. Over a span of three months, cargo-partner transferred 27,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) from ENGEL's production facilities to the new iLogistics Center. With this move, we have centralized and thus streamlined our client's worldwide spare parts supply. We continue to cooperate closely with ENGEL to provide tailor-made services for their daily logistics and distribution needs.

eKapija: Do you plan to build a similar facility in Serbia or another country?

- After making several significant investments into our logistics network in the past few years, we are currently not planning on any further investments in the near future. However, we are continuing to grow our network by opening new offices. Last year, we added four new countries to our network: Ireland, Turkey, Italy and Cambodia. This year, Australia and the United Arab Emirates joined the cargo-partner family. In addition, we also strengthened our existing presence in Austria and Malaysia.

We are also continuously expanding our IT solutions. Last year, the SPOT Platform was extended with a Parcel module that can be integrated with multiple courier providers to enable easy price comparison, order placement, label printing and shipment tracking as well as automated dispatch from any warehouse. This year, we added another new module: The Time Slot Management module supports carriers and warehouse operators in scheduling time slots for loading and unloading activities at warehouse locations.

eKapija: You have also been active on a global level. What were the most significant milestones in 2019?

- This year, we are celebrating several important anniversaries: In addition to the 15th anniversary of cargo-partner in Serbia, 2019 also marks the 15th anniversary of our first step into Asia – in 2004, we opened our first offices in China and Taiwan. And finally, our colleagues in Hungary are already celebrating their 25th anniversary this year.

We have introduced a range of new transport solutions, making use of more than just the conventional air, sea and road transport options. For example, by utilizing the "land-sea corridor" in China, we can offer a fast and cost-efficient solution for pre-carriage from the Chinese hinterland, where many important production sites are located. The rail connection from Chongqing to Qinzhou Port provides a new alternative that is up to twice as fast as barge transport at around 30% of the cost of road transport.

Most of our rail transport business, however, comes from transports between China and Europe across the New Silk Road. In the full container segment, we currently offer 40 weekly rail services between Europe and Asia. In the part load segment, we ship 15 containers per week (FCL, LCL) from Shenzhen, Shanghai and Tianjin to Warsaw (PL) and Dunajska Streda (SK) by rail. Since rail transport is up to 50% faster than seafreight and up to 60% more cost-efficient than airfreight, it is not surprising that an increasing number of our customers is benefiting from this alternative. The low CO2 footprint is a welcome side-effect.

eKapija: The introduction of a new Slovenia-Croatia-Serbia route is also planned. When exactly is it starting and what are the benefits of introducing this line?

- We have had a regular Slovenia-Croatia-Serbia line for many years now. What's new is that we've added another departure and have formed regional clusters with colleagues, especially now after the new investment in Slovenia.

eKapija: What are the other plans of the cargo-partner company for Serbia?

- We always try to keep up with modern business solutions so as to be able to provide our clients with everything they need to become more competitive in the market themselves.
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