The best of two worlds – how to succesfully navigate an ever-changing market

13 Jun, 2024

The article was originally published in our 2023 Annual Report

In today’s increasingly disruptive world, a customer-centric and service-oriented approach has proven highly resilient compared to the standardised, automated ‘in-a-box’ solutions often offered by the industry. Exploring SGL's unique approach to building tailor-made solutions around its customers, shows how it played a crucial role in successfully delivering a 90,000 freight tons project in Senegal.

The logistics industry is at a crossroads. In recent years, several large freight forwarders predicted that the future of logistics would entail standardised, predefined solutions. Leveraging blockchain technology, the attempt was to simplify the supply chain and make it as easy as booking an airline ticket. But, add disruptions like blockage of the Suez Canal, attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, port strikes, COVID or climate-related challenges, and no system can accommodate that. Taking the opposite stance, SGL strongly believes that no two customers nor supply chains are alike. Therefore, depending on each customer’s specific situation, requirements and challenges, the global freight forwarder offers its customers two options: standard or complex logistics solutions.

This approach has proven a winning formula. Unlike its industry peers, who have experienced a gross profit decrease in 2023 due to the volatile market, SGL has not. Its unique business model of standard and complex solutions has proved highly resilient and is responsible for the company’s success.

The best of two worlds

The current and future market environment is increasingly disrupted by political unrest and climate- and macroeconomic volatility, making it crucial for customers that providers are competent at navigating the everchanging circumstances. SGL’s dual approach provides the best of two worlds: premium technology and organisational structure coupled with fast decision-making.

Empowering people lies deep within the SGL DNA of applying a human-centric approach to everyone, everywhere. As market disruptions and challenges don’t discriminate between rank or language or consider time zones, uncomplicating the customers’ world often relies on fast, efficient, and competent action. Therefore, employees are empowered to make quick decisions on the spot. Local empowerment enables SGL to provide the necessary alternatives to keeping its customers’ supply chains running smoothly with minimal impact, regardless of industry, type of customer or challenges.


Building solutions around the customer

It is this unique modus operandi that sets SGL apart from competitors and has positioned them in a sweet spot in the market. Rather than a top-down, rigid approach demanding that customers fit into the same box, SGL insists on building tailored solutions around its complex logistics customers, ensuring them an optimum setup to support and grow their business. As a result, customers experience that they don’t have to wait for an answer but deal with a competent, close-knit team of cross-regional and cross-industry experts who are not afraid to course correct and are committed to solving their challenges. Nor do customers have to keep track of projects themselves as the team ensures honest and reliable communication filtered through their personally assigned contact.

This personal and service-driven approach ensures a close partnership with the customers and a detailed understanding of their business requirements, market conditions, and existing challenges. The bigger the challenges, the closer the ties, seem to be the philosophy behind SGL’s success with providing complex logistics solutions for their worldwide customers.

The power of 'supplier-centricity' 

Logistics suppliers play a crucial role in solving disruptions or market related challenges.
SGL acknowledges suppliers’ pivotal importance and has institutionalised the concept of ‘supplier-centricity’. Hence, investing time in building and nurturing close supplier relations has proven highly beneficial for SGL. The company has direct access to the CEOs of several major ocean and airfreight carriers. This has helped SGL secure VIP agreements, thanks to its Global Key Account status with the suppliers. When faced with challenges during the delivery of a complex industrial project to Senegal, the importance of local empowerment, expert knowledge and an agile, solution-driven and customer-centric organisation became evident.

Read on to get the full story in detail:

80% of the total cargo volume had to be delivered by the end of 2023. The first 656- ton critical shipment from China required special heavy lift expertise and significant infrastructure modifications, as four pedestrian bridges had to be removed for the eight 82-ton heavy kiln shells to pass safely en route to the building site.


A 90,000 freight tons success

In 2023, SGL was selected by Fives FCB, a renowned supplier of cement plants, to deliver all equipment for a new plant assembly in Senegal. The project was worth 90,000 freight tons, making it an extensive and high value project. To meet the tight deadline, efficient planning, tracking, an agile approach, and daily customer dialogue were necessary. Therefore, a Control Tower was set up in Dunkirk, France, to serve as the customer’s one point of contact and monitor and coordinate the shipments arriving from more than fourteen countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia to Dakar Port.

Constructing a plant is not a ready-made but a highly custom-made one. SGL’s deep industry knowledge of the customer’s equipment and understanding of its logistics needs, as well as awareness of how logistics impacts plant assembly, prove critical to the success of the project. Daily and honest communication and adapting to changes throughout the project’s lifetime become pivotal as the project may face various disruptions and challenges.


Agile thinking and flexible solutions

During the project, delays with the customer’s suppliers and manufacturers, the Red Sea crisis, and terminal congestion at Dakar Port posed significant challenges. To ensure the operations kept running smoothly, SGL leveraged its worldwide expert network and quickly assigned more resources to strengthen the operation team; adapted logistics plans for each shipment, prioritised direct service and shorter transit times, and implemented alternative routings calling another terminal in Dakar, including doubling the trailer fleet to ensure a constant number of container deliveries to the job site.

Fives FCB expands on choosing SGL as their logistics provider:


The parameters and scope of such a substantial project change daily. We chose SGL as they bring a flexible approach and can adjust quickly to changing plans and circumstances. Their worldwide network provides us with the necessary local expertise and cross-border coordination.


Using all tools in the toolbox 

Delivering more than 1,500 container loads and odd-size, heavy-weight plant components in a timely and orderly manner to avoid plant assembly delay is a complicated jigsaw puzzle. As plant components arrived from fourteen countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, SGL’s experts pulled on a broad range of transport modes to ensure a smooth project delivery. From multi-axel and container trailers to flat and low beds, using inland waterways, container carriers, RORO and breakbulk carriers to a few air shipments for specific cargo urgently needed on the job site, the diversity and types and sizes of components were safely delivered to the job site.

The industrial project experts have succesfully shipped 70,000 of the 90,000 tons of cargo, including 1,516 containers, to date. The project is due to be completed in 2024.


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Johann Taccoen

Industrial Project Director Management

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