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Flourishing in adversity in freight forwarding


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European Business: Mr. Ceccarelli, your father founded the company in 1979 with just one vehicle. What is the extent of the business today?

Luca Ceccarelli: My father has now been in the forwarding business for 60 years. He initially had his own small transporter and undertook local deliveries, and was later employed as a branch manager. When that firm closed down, he decided to set up his own business, beginning with just one lorry. Over the years, the company developed into a group, with logistics and software subsidiaries. Today, we operate 65 heavy goods vehicles and also cooperate with 120 small hauliers – ten in Milan, ten in Trieste, ten in Florence, 45 in Udine and 45 in Padova. In addition to our headquarters in Udine, we have branches in Trieste, Milan, Padova and Prato.

European Business: How would you describe your core business.

Luca Ceccarelli: We transport everything from simple letters to full loads for companies in a diverse range of industries. For the food sector, we don’t carry cooled or frozen products, but we do deliver dry goods. One area in which we are very experienced is the exportation of wine, where you need special documentation, namely DAA. Next year, we are planning to add beer transportation to our portfolio, which also requires special documentation.

European Business: You mentioned exports. What are your key international markets?

Luca Ceccarelli: Three years ago, we established an international division for heavy goods transport across Europe, including countries where customs regulations still apply. Currently, around 10% of our revenues are generated through exports; we have regular services to Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries, and we are developing routes to France, Portugal and Spain. Nevertheless, we can deliver goods to any country.

European Business: How has digitalization impacted your working methods?

Luca Ceccarelli: In the past it was enough just to transport and deliver goods. Now we have to hand over the delivery documents in real time, and every consignment has to be trackable. At the moment, our warehouses are not automated, but we are working on a number of software solutions for that. We are aiming to network all our electronic equipment. This is a challenge because the data – weights, volumes and damages, for example – comes from many different sources, including our clients, and has to be collated into one database. We have established an internal software house which develops tailor-made solutions both for ourselves and external customers.

European Business: Digitalization is not the only revolution to transform the transport business. You have been working for the family company for ten years; what other changes have you seen?

Luca Ceccarelli: Everything has become much faster and every delivery is extremely urgent. Ten years ago, you had more time to plan because more goods were stored in company warehouses. Today, warehouses are smaller and everything has to be delivered as soon as it is needed. In the Lazio region, for example, we deliver within 24 hours; many customers demand a late afternoon collection for delivery early the following morning. This is only possible because we have our own fleet of vehicles. Another difference is in the management of the business. I am responsible for the commercial aspects and for our branches, and today a lot more monitoring and analysis of every process is required in order to adapt and plan for the future.

European Business: In a highly competitive industry, what keeps your customers loyal?

Luca Ceccarelli: We listen very carefully to our customers’ demands and pay careful attention to market developments. Our aim is to partner with our customers to identify effective solutions. Ultimately, if our customers grow, then we grow too. The human aspect is very important; our young team is highly motivated and works very closely to produce optimum results.

European Business: Finally, how do you see the current market, and the potential for the future?

Luca Ceccarelli: In Italy, the sector has many problems. Many old-established forwarders and manufacturing companies have closed down due to rising costs and impossibly low margins caused by the intense competition. Italy is short of some 15,000 drivers; across Europe, this figure is 150,000. There is also a skills shortage in logistics. The sector is simply not attractive to young people. Nevertheless, our aim is to continue to grow. We want to be the go-to forwarder for north-eastern Italy. Becoming a real strength in logistics is just one of many goals. Internationally, our next step is to set up weekly routes to France, Spain and Portugal. For me, the prospect of creating growth in a challenging industry is hugely motivating. The first thing I say to new staff is that it is not enough just to enjoy working in forwarding; you really have to have a passion for it. I am lucky to have grown up with it and have had the opportunity to live and breathe this business.

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