Lifetime of Achievement: Dr Markus Voss
Dr Markus Voss is Chief Information Officer and Chief Operations Officer with DHL Supply Chain, the world’s largest contract logistics provider.
Its activities include running warehouses and transportation and providing value-added services such as packaging – and generally taking care of the entire supply chain from end to end. It is one of five divisions of the DHL Group, which has 600,000 employees across 220 countries and territories.
“We have had a hand in most of the items that you use daily, or the clothes you wear,” says Voss, in an interview with one of his old employers, Accenture. “At some point in their cycle, from the raw materials to where they are produced, to the end-point consumption, I would guarantee they have been in the hands of one of our employees.”
Having gained a PhD in physical chemistry Voss began his career as a consultant for Accenture, before joining DHL in 2003 to work in strategic IT solutions performance management.
“I have been able to use my passion for incubating and developing innovative IT customer solutions to create value and growth opportunities for our customers,” he says.
Voss holds a dual role at DHL Supply Chain, being both CIO and COO. This means he is responsible not only for its systems but also for the way it runs its operations, processes, and “how we drive standardisation, digitalisation and utilise the right data and analytical insights”.
He adds: “Digitalisation doesn’t work without IT, and nor does it work if the IT is not adopted by operations. We have 2,000 warehouses and transportation services around the globe, and my job over the past couple of years has been to ensure they all work strongly hand-in-hand, and in the same way.”
Voss says the needs of DHL Supply Chain customers vary not just by sector, but also size.
For smaller customers, he says the company is able to leverage its infrastructure to help them grow faster and get into new markets more quickly.
He explains: “If they operate in one part of a single country and want to expand into another country, it’s always a burden to have to get to know the market, build relationships, set up warehouses and stock them with inventory.
“By fast-tracking this process and setting up these facilities we can take out the risk—it’s all ready-made, digital, reliable and proven, because we do this 400 to 500 times a year for our customers.”
For multinational customers, Voss says digitalisation is especially important “because it gives them the resilience and the supply chain orchestration they’re interested in”.
He adds: “They don’t just look at one warehouse or a single process; end-to-end supply chain management is where we can have a material impact on their business.”
On the subject of digitalisation Voss says he is “proud” that the company has around 5,500 assisted picking robots across its sites.
“It’s almost no longer an innovation for us,” he says, “because wherever we do piece-picking we look to introduce robotic solutions.”
He adds that the company also has more than 8,000 digital-solution deployments, including wearable digital solutions.
“Now we’re examining all the other elements of the supply chain to see where robotics can
help us. There is a lot more that we can do, especially when it comes to ensuring our different solutions work well hand-in-hand, and support the people who are working on those sites.”
ESG is another core area of DHL Supply Chain’s DNA, says Voss.
“This has been a priority of ours for the past 15 years, when we first launched our GoGreen program,” he explains. “Long before everyone started talking about the impact of global warming, our commitment to the planet was a key element of our strategy.”
This is why, he says, the company is “putting a lot of money where our mouth is”, by pledging to invest €7bn on decarbonising its supply chains by 2030.
“But it’s not simple,” he says. “Sometimes the solutions are just not ready. We’ve been
looking hard at electrifying aircraft, but the technology isn’t there yet. So right now, sustainable fuel is the only option to decarbonise aviation.”