“The French subsidiary was the first independent international presence set up by Katoen Natie that was not part of an existing customer’s premises,” says Site Director at KATOEN NATIE Logifare’s facility in Metz Emmanuel Ruffenach. “We are now one of six Katoen Natie sites in France, the others being located in Le Havre, Lyon, Marseilles, Rouen and Saint-Martin de Crau.”
The strategic expansion of the company’s operations in France has nevertheless followed the needs of its customers, as has the company’s ongoing international expansion.
The Metz site was set up to serve a customer in the petrochemical industry, a sector in which Katoen Natie is now the worldwide logistics leader. The development of sites in Le Havre and Lyon also came in response to strategic diversification, this time to cater to the needs of the automotive sector.
More recently, Katoen Natie has taken advantage of its presence in two of France’s major sea ports, Le Havre and Marseilles to develop a range of logistics services for the FMCG sector in the fields of fashion, DIY and leisure goods. The French operation is also a major player in port operations in France’s inland ports offering port handling activities at an inland terminal on the River Seine near the Port of Rouen.
“We now offer a diverse portfolio of services to an equally varied customer base,” says Mr. Ruffenach. “The key to satisfying their complex needs has been structuring the company into business units that focus on providing an optimum service to our customers within their particular industry sector. This ensures that we can add value at every stage of the logistics chain.”
Logistics has become a complex discipline that integrates many separate activities into one. Good logistics services seek to bundle processes to achieve economies of scale and efficiencies of effort. Logistics is no longer the simple act of storing items needed in the production chain and supplying them when and where they are required.
Logistics companies are more than an indispensable link in the supply chain. They are a key component in the production process. This is best demonstrated by Katoen Natie’s experience in designing and building industrial processing lines and logistics terminals.
As well as plastics producers in France, services such as product handling, dosing, mixing, storage and process control are offered to clients in the pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals industries, food processors and automobile assembly plants.
“Here in Metz we offer storage and processing for a major distributor of DVDs,” says Mr. Ruffenach. “We carry out the product picking, packaging, labelling and dispatch of millions of DVDs and video games in the French market.”
The scale of the operation is enormous and is monitored by highly sophisticated software coupled with state-of-the-art picking equipment to ensure that each customer order is dispatched correctly.
The depot in Metz is also a center for the storage and supply of starch and plastics of various types. These are stored in silos and delivered to customers in bulk trucks. “The starch is used to make crisps and other starchy snacks as well as pet food while the plastic is used to make PET bottles or nappies,” says Mr. Ruffenach. “We have 56 silos on site to ensure constant resupply for our clients’ production lines.”
The Metz depot is also home to a bulk truck cleaning facility for the company’s own vehicles but also for the contract cleaning of trucks for other transport companies. The facility in Farébsviller is one of four such facilities in Europe. The others are located in Antwerp in Belgium, Gelsenkirchen in Germany and Tarragona in Spain, thereby covering the major chemical manufacturing clusters in Europe.
“The average throughput time for a tanker truck is very limited, including documentation,” says Mr. Ruffenach. “Slots can be booked in advance or taken as available so that hauliers can plan cleaning operations alongside their delivery schedule.”
Katoen Natie also has its own tank repair and testing division and can carry out maintenance and repair services. “We are highly flexible and adapt to the needs of the customer,” adds Mr. Ruffenach. “We also have spare capacity to grow in the future. We have already landed a contract to distribute DVDs in the Benelux market and hope to continue our geographic expansion with existing customers in the first instance.”