“To be a Leader Everywhere We Are" is the motto Raben Group follows in its business activity. The vision is ambitious, but definitely feasible for a company that is already present in 15 countries in Europe, focuses on further expansion, and at the same time cares about the development of its own groupage network in existing markets. The operator has been expanding the system of international connections for several years, and the special project prepared for this purpose has been gradually covering more regions and countries.
15 countries, about 160 depots and 1.4 million m2 of warehouse capacity, more than 10,000 employees and a fleet of over 9,000 vehicles - these numbers are impressive. With such facilities and the present scale, Raben Group is able to cover practically the whole Europe with its groupage network. However, the plans are much more far-reaching.
We pursue a business strategy whereby each country has daily groupage connections not only with others within the Group, but also with all members of the European Union, plus Switzerland, Norway and the United Kingdom. It is safe to say that there is no corner of the world where we would not be able to deliver groupage shipments. Where we do not have our own network, we work with reliable partners who provide pick-up and delivery services” - says Łukasz Lubański, Trade Lane Development Director.
The European web
However, Europe remain the main interest of the company and the essence of business is to reach the customer with the shipments as quickly as possible using classic trucks (road transport accounts for as much as 65% of the Group's turnover) and its own network of groupage connections throughout Europe (currently more than 550 international lines). This is being expanded in many ways: through the acquisition of logistics companies in new markets, the acquisition of additional companies in existing markets and the continuation of their activities, as well as investments and the opening of completely new connections between depots. When a new country appears on the Raben map, the local distribution network is almost immediately connected with other countries of the Group through direct international lines. Last year, Greece joined the Raben family and at the beginning of this year the same happened to Austria, which are the fourteenth and fifteenth market in the Group respectively. A Greek logistics provider Intertrans offers strong support with its infrastructure and activity in its home market as well as its European transport network. Austria's Bexity is a proven partner - a valuable member of the Group due to its previous cooperation with Raben and similar “green” approach to logistics: many of its terminals offer direct rail connections.
In 2021 the Group also acquired 100% of the shares of Luible Logistik GmbH, a family-owned company in Upper Swabia. Thus it expanded its groupage network on the German market and strengthened its position in combined rail and road transport. In the same year, the acquisition of the BAS Group allowed Raben Group to develop its network in South-Western Europe and strengthen its position in contract logistics and intermodal transport services. Thanks to the cooperation of Raben Trans European Germany GmbH with its Portuguese partner Torrestir, daily connections between these countries have become a reality and trade opportunities have been strengthened.
Tidying in the West, expansion to the East and South
Such an ambitious and wide-ranging undertaking as the development of international connections within several countries of the Old Continent required special coordination. With this in mind, a team of experienced international connection development managers has been established in Raben Group, whose main task is to optimally combine the expectations of customers, operational possibilities and diversity of all companies. The first focus was the German market, which for years has enjoyed the status of the most important trading partner of many European countries. Since 2018 Raben Group has been paying special attention to this market, which results in more than 120 daily connections between Germany and Poland (68 in export and 52 in import). In 2021 alone, more than 430,000 groupage shipments (or more than 1.2 million pallets and 450 million kilograms) were transported, increasing the scale of operations by almost 20% year-on-year. Over the past four years, investments in this destination has resulted in an increase in shipments of more than 70%. For comparison - according to official data from the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden, in the same period trade between Poland and Germany increased “only” by 34%. As a result of the very good experience with this direction, Raben Group plans a similar development of the network between Germany and Czechia.
After the reorganization of the connections between Poland and Germany, time has come for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to gain in importance. In early 2021, nine countries were included in the project: Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and since then more groupage lines have been dynamically developed. Last year, nearly 40 new international routes were launched within these markets. The trade between Poland and Czechia ranks second behind Germany with 26 daily lines (16 export and 10 import), reflecting the nearly 30% increase in volume that has been recorded in just one year. More and more potential is presented by Bulgaria and Romania, double-digit growth of volumes both from Poland and Czechia can be observed in these directions. The distribution centre in Dunaharaszti, which is currently being expanded, is of key importance for the entire region and especially for Hungary.
We aim to double the current statistics by the end of 2024, i.e. to reach 1.2 million shipments per year in Central and Eastern Europe and establish a network of nearly 300 daily and direct connections between our cross-dock terminals in the area. We aim high, but only this approach will ensure that we are ready for the changes in the wider European supply chain. We are investing in infrastructure, including expanding our hub in Dunaharaszti, Hungary. However, we are not only connecting large industrial centres, but we are also considering smaller cross-dock terminals. The aim is to reduce transport time as much as possible while being as cost-effective as possible and minimizing the number of transloading operations” - explains Robert Wolny, CEE Market Development Manager.
One axle ahead of the competition
Such a policy offers a real competitive advantage in the form of shorter lead times and better quality, and lower costs due to shorter distribution distances. Thanks to the proper location of warehouses and the appropriate network of groupage connections, which are organized with the highest quality expected by our customers, the goods can be delivered within 24-48 hours from picking them up at the customer's location. The quality is monitored each day as part of the Service Excellence program, and the margin of error is mainly caused by various types of random events on roads which are not the responsibility of Raben (accidents, roadworks, traffic jams).
Modern IT solutions that support the company customers and employees in process improvement also contribute to such outstanding results. These include our own shipment management system and the MyRaben platform provided to customers, which supports information exchange in many areas. Order processing, invoicing, statistics, full track & trace with SAP certified “delivered” status, and finally ETA, i.e. a parameter showing estimated time of delivery to the final recipient in a 2-hour window with full GPS update in case of any changes - all that makes cooperation with Raben clear and simple, which cannot be overestimated in the current market situation and with the lack of human resources.
Finally, it is worth emphasizing that Raben Group organizes international connections to meet the needs of various customers, but at the same time with the deep knowledge of market mechanisms, taking into account the phenomena and trends of the whole TFL sector. Based on macroeconomic data, growing trade is expected to generate increasing demand for transport. In turn, the lessons learned from the pandemic may cause Europe to scramble to secure its production capacity and shorten supply chains in every possible industry. The driver shortage must result in a move away from the old, however still existing in many companies, model of distributing goods called the milkrun. Finally, the last but not least important factor, i.e. care for the environment, manifested, among others, by more effective use of loading space (without “empty miles”) or the application of intermodal transport. In these conditions, the implementation of plans for the development of the international groupage network for the coming years seems to be a great challenge, however achieving the goals set in this area will be all the more rewarding. All this is consistent with Raben Group's values and the overriding message - that the world around is constantly transforming, but the company is open to these changes, ready to break the routine and works on improvements every day.
Klaudyna Polanowska - Skrzypek