Connecting the dots with Agility Global Integrated Logistics
Staying connected has never been more crucial, particularly when it comes to keeping the pace of global commerce. Agility Global Integrated Logistics works with companies in 100 countries to ensure the efficient and timely movement, management, and distribution of goods required to keep their industries on track with consumer demand. Their global network provides air, ocean, and road freight forwarding, warehousing, distribution, and specialised services in project logistics, fairs and events, and chemical transport.
As a world leader in International Freight Forwarding and Contract Logistics, Agility leverages powerful technology and deep industry expertise to straddle the complex needs of both established and emerging markets. With revenues of USD $5.2 billion, operations in 100 countries, and employing 26,000 people, the publicly-traded enterprise is an industry power player that grew from humble roots in Kuwait to become one of the largest integrated logistics providers in the world.
We recently spoke with Michael Potenza, Agility’s Chief Commercial Officer, to get a close-up look at the enterprise’s presence in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. Potenza oversees 21 sites and 400 employees in the region. His role covers a broad range of areas, including new business development, account management, air & sea products, procurement, and marketing. “It's very broad brush,” he admitted. “We get involved in a lot of things in order to build a model that helps customers want to do business with us.”
It’s no secret that the pandemic is impacting global supply chains, laying bare previously unseen gaps and forcing companies to rethink their operational strategies on the fly. Agility, true to the name, is a critical ally as a tech-forward logistics innovator. “There are many gaps in the supply chain that some customers normally wouldn’t know about until receiving a paper notice or an email,” Potenza said.
“Technology helps customers get visibility right through the supply chain; it enables them to manage their internal expectations and their end customer fulfilment requirements; in turn this enables better cash flow management, sales order planning, and final mile delivery. In the past, plugging those gaps was very much hand to mouth, so to speak.” Getting answers in real time has been a game-changer for small and medium enterprises. “We offer people and systems. The people build the relationship and technology creates value.”
Agility’s industry leading customer portal—Agility Connects—is a big drawcard. “It helps the world’s largest businesses optimise complex supply chains and gives small and medium enterprises access to technology that helps them grow. It also enables our customer service and account management teams proactively manage customer orders whilst in transit, but also understand their volume and spend trends via our tailored reporting tools,” he explained.
Australasian SMEs benefit particularly from Agility’s proprietary platform-as-a-service offering, ShipAFreight, which enables customers to get quotes instantly, book, track, and pay online, and to manage documentation more efficiently.
“ShipAFreight's seamless online freight booking platform provides a 100% digital end-to-end experience, making the task of freight shipping easier than ever. Agility's global presence combined with our digital capabilities is unmatched in the freight forwarding ecosystem,” Potenza noted.
“The logistics industry has been a little behind the 8-ball with regards to digitisation and applying it to global trade. Historically it's been very paper-intensive, labor-intensive, and the mindset hasn't been very open to change.” In some corners of the logistics realm, and especially in SMEs whose shipments may not be as large as their bigger counterparts, booking shipments is perceived as being a manual process.
“The ShipAFreight system helps SMEs work their way through online shipping, particularly where they are only moving a container here or parcel there. It was built for SME customers around the globe to make it a bit easier for them to get a quote quickly, book their shipment, track the shipment, and pay for it and then track it through the final mile.
“We do all our technology in house, which is a benefit because we are agile in that space. Agility works with Agile methodology mindset throughout the business. We sometimes make technology investments to support and accelerate some of our technological aspirations.”
Agility Ventures, the company’s VC arm and startup incubator, supports technological development across the entirety of the business. “It enables us to build our solutions around our customers,” Potenza added. “The way we define innovation helps us develop and apply technology to make logistics more efficient, no matter the size of the customer.”
Technology + People = The Ultimate Logistics Partner
Agility’s mastery of this complex and rapidly changing logistics landscape rests on their ability to form lasting strategic partnerships where mutual collaboration is key. Potenza put it this way: “Everything we do ultimately starts with having a relationship with the customer. In different markets, partnership means different things. In my part of the world relationships are key. Either customers like you or they don't. Price isn’t necessarily an indicator of who gets the work.”
Collaboration begins with asking the right questions. “We ask, ‘Where do you want to take your supply chain program? Where are the gaps and what are your challenges?’ Then we support them in the where and how. We work on our solution, whether it's operational, technological, or a combination of both, and from there we grow our partnership. At that point, we begin to become a part of our customers’ business.
“That's how the collaboration begins. We become the eyes and ears of people on the ground, increasing control and visibility,” he said.
“The collaboration piece is a value generator for us because we dive in with the customer. Not every customer wants to do that, but a lot are getting more and more in that space of wanting a partnership approach. What does that mean? For them sometimes it means value creation in terms of cost savings. For others it's process improvement, and for others it means planning. It means a lot of different things to different people.
“Our GL25 global accounts program cascades through the business and is the impetus for many of the solutions and partnership models that we create. Our customers really are a key part of our service offerings.”
One of the newest areas of focus in Agility’s Australasian crown is the Onslow Marine Supply Base, situated in the Beadon Creek tidal inlet on the Pilbara coast of Western Australia. A linchpin of the company’s project logistics work in the region, the base serves as logistical support for customers in the Oil & Gas, energy and infrastructure sectors. In operation since 2017, the base is the logistics hub for vessels and oil rigs working in the area, from handling supplies and personnel to offering parts and service through ground-based logistics solutions
Every move the company makes is couched in its relentless safety focus. “Our safety program ‘Be Safe, Stay Safe’ is embedded in the culture of our business and is a critical priority for us. Safety is not only about taking precautions, it’s also about taking responsibility,” he stressed. “At Agility, we take our responsibility to act with integrity, and give back, seriously. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s good for our business. A culture of acting responsibly benefits the communities where we work, contributes toward a cleaner planet, adds to the sense of pride and collective spirit among our employees and strengthens our relationship with customers and shareholders.”