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Building bridges in the air

Interview with Paolo Maderna, Managing Director of Unitransports SpA

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European Business: Mr. Maderna, Unitransports is a relatively small player in this sector. How does it stay ahead of its bigger rivals?

Paolo Maderna: We are professional and efficient. We respond quickly to requests and guarantee a professional service for our clients. Many of them also work with other freight forwarders, but when they have a complex problem that needs solving, they always come to us. Air freight is seen as the elite end of the freight forwarding world and is only used for time-sensitive and perishable cargos. This requires a very specific fund of expertise that we have made our own.

European Business: Can you talk a little about the company history?

Paolo Maderna: Unitransports was founded in 1961 and specialized from the beginning in air and sea freight. My father originally worked for the company as an employee. He managed the office in Milan and oversaw its growth. When the owner decided to retire in 1987, my father took over. He closed the head office in Genoa and focused on Milan as a transport hub. I came on board six years later. We recognized early on that those making the decisions about freight forwarding questions were all located abroad. That is why we established a foreign partnership network. We have been IATA and FIATA agents since 1994.

European Business: What is it about the work that you like best?

Paolo Maderna: The first telephone call that I made when I joined Unitransport was to a client in Taiwan. I love the international nature of our work and the fact that we are dealing with something new every day. My father is now 88 years old and has been doing it since 1948. Once you start, it is hard to stop. After Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil and South Korea followed, and we soon overtook those competitors that had confined their activities to Italy. Today, we are among a relatively small number of Italian freight forwarders that belong to various international networks, and are therefore able to offer our clients 360° solutions in the global market.

European Business: What kind of goods does Unitransports handle?

Paolo Maderna: We transport anything, anywhere. We can handle temperature-controlled transports for pharmaceutical products and are certified to handle hazardous goods. We arrange transport for equipment for international events and concerts and have a wide range of industrial clients. Although the vast majority of transports are B2B, we also convey smaller, personal items on behalf of private customers. We transport around 1.2 million kg of air freight each year and 2,000 sea freight containers. We have warehouses in Liscate and Vignate where we can provide additional services.

European Business: What do you think the future holds for Unitransports?

Paolo Maderna: If you read the data, then the impression is that the air freight market is struggling. Our experience, however, is one of growth. We recently completed a process of restructuring that has helped us streamline our processes and make the best use of our in-house competences. I think that further improvements can be made to the software used in the sector to integrate our activities with those of our clients. I could imagine that somewhere down the line, I will be able to access the client’s warehousing data and pick up goods directly from there. Nevertheless, even with greater automation, personal relationships will continue to be paramount, both with clients and employees. I will follow the example of my father and carry on doing the job I love.

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