Logistics and Beyond: In conversation with Ms. Sandra Dinklage02. May 2022
In this edition of Logistics and Beyond, we speak to Sandra Dinklage from Alexander Global Logistics. She has been heading the Projects Department for almost two years now.
She explains why project logistics is her favourite aspect of forwarding and highlights how every project is individual and comes with its own challenges. Sandra also talks about some of the most important issues that the global supply chain is currently facing with the war, lockdowns and rising costs.
In conversation with Sandra…
PL-Alliance: Sandra, you are heading the projects department at Alexander Global Logistics (AGL). Can you please tell us a bit about how you started off in logistics? And what brought you into the wonderful world of project cargo?
Sandra Dinklage: I started my career as a trainee working at the Swiss logistics provider Danzas in Bremen, which was one of the world's largest logistics companies. Deutsche Post AG acquired it in 1999, and this is now DHL Global Forwarding. I worked there for 24 years. Initially, I started with Full Container Load (FCL) exports to the US and continued building up my experience in that arena. After returning from my maternity leave, I started in the projects department of DHL Industrial Projects, being a part of the team. After some internal projects from 2014 to 2017, I left DHL in 2017 and started working in international project cargo forwarding. I joined AGL in 2021, and it has been one and half years already, although it feels like much more. This is how I came into projects, and in my opinion, it is the most exciting aspect of forwarding. It is only in projects where we combine all the departments like import/export, air freight, LCL, FCL, Rail, Trucking, etc.; if it is a huge project, you have to be open for all transport modes in all directions for all kinds of cargo.
PL-Alliance: Germany boasts a highly developed warehouse infrastructure that is ahead of most European countries in size and quality. Alexander Global Logistics has also recently procured a 90,000 m2 warehouse in Bremerhaven. Can you tell us a little bit more about warehousing capabilities?
Sandra Dinklage: With a total area of 90,000sqm (970,000sqf) and covered storage of 35,000 sqm (377,000sqf), the warehouse can hold up to 2000 containers. The warehouse is equipped with twelve forklifts, two reach stackers and numerous special equipment such as bale clamps and roll clamps to meet our customer's needs. Moreover, the rail connection we have allows us to deliver to the hinterland economically. Although the warehouse is currently full of pulp and paper products, we often use it for general and project cargo.
Another interesting point I want to add while speaking about the warehouse infrastructure, especially in Germany and the famous port cities of Hamburg and Bremerhaven, where cargo is stored prior to shipping, everything tends to be fully booked. It is challenging to find a warehouse with empty space because sometimes you need a warehouse where you can modify, erect, dismantle or mobilise the cargo. It is nearly impossible to find this space with current vessel delays, and nothing is really working as it should.
PL-Alliance: Project cargo is a significant strength of the Alexander Global Logistics team, from what we know. We have covered quite a few projects in our last news already. What do you think is your philosophy toward projects? Of course, the definition can be pretty broad, and everyone sees it differently, but what are the key factors you see as necessary for handling Project Cargo? What are your challenges in the current environment where many factors are unstable?
Sandra Dinklage: There are absolutely no guidelines or key factors to consider while working on a project. Every shipment that comes is different, unique and has its own set of challenges. We can set a guideline only if it is a regular business. You have varied situations and circumstances. In projects, you never have a master plan. You always have to find the best solution for the client. The news we share with the network are not the only projects for a forwarding company. Projects can also include fixing a tiny screw to ensure that the protection does not tear or fly away. Sometimes the project begins with steelwork and ends with a generator or arranging for 200 containers and shipping them in a really short time. The complexity of the commodity determines the key factors to be considered while working on a project. I have realised the most important thing is understanding what the client wants and needs. The client may require surveys, lashing concepts, crane handling, etc. We want to and, most importantly, have to make sure that it works out as planned.
In the current industry climate, the word challenging can be an understatement with multiple unstable factors in play. At the moment, each and every shipment, not only in the project department, is a challenge. You have so many changes. Terminals are refusing to take cargo because they are overbooked. We have truckers standing at the terminal to deliver cargo, and the terminal refuses to unload it since the vessel is probably arriving a day or two later. The carriers are getting a lot more rigid, and their customer's services are getting burnt out.
PL-Alliance: For the logistics industry, the challenges continue with further lockdowns in China's main ports, congestion in the US ports, and the ripple effect of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. How is Alexander Global Logistics preparing to tackle these challenges?
Sandra Dinklage: It is impossible to control all the factors with so many players involved. The most important thing we can do is take care of the client. We need to have open communication and make them aware of the challenges while working on an alternate solution. For Shanghai or Ningbo, there are thousands of vessels waiting to load or unload the cargo. Perhaps you have seen the image so widely shared on social media. We hope that activity goes back to full capacity by the middle of next month. Due to current restrictions, we don't have shipments to Ukraine or Russia.
The only way is to keep trying and look for alternate solutions in the hopes that, in the end, everything works out. Keeping clients updated at all stages is also very crucial.
PL-Alliance: The Breakbulk Rotterdam is finally taking place after two years; as a fellow exhibitor, we are excited to see you there. What are your expectations from the event?
Sandra Dinklage: I personally expect high-quality networking at the event, which is what Breakbulk is known for. You have carriers, truckers and all the partners with whom you have not had a chance to speak to in person for the last three years. Yes, you can have teams meetings, but then again, it is not the same. Apart from regular calls with the client, it was challenging to have regular calls with the other partners. We hope to see them all in Rotterdam. I do not expect to see as many of our customers though as this is still a special year and the pandemic is forever present. But of course, there will be others, and we look forward to meeting them.
PL-Alliance: Alexander Global Logistics has been growing massively with new offices, personnel, and partnerships in the last few years. What does the outlook for the rest of the year 2022 look like?
Sandra Dinklage: For 2022 and every month or day to come, our plan remains the same – Work Work Work (laughs). There is so much operational work to take care of for the projects we have on hand. We also have some projects in the pipeline. So yes! We are blessed with a lot of transfers and projects we need to complete.
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