Upstream Focus is Sourcing Journal’s series of conversations with suppliers, associations and sourcing professionals to get their insights on the state of sourcing, innovations in manufacturing and how to improve operations. In this Q&A, Torsten Katzor, global vice president fashion logistics at Hellman Worldwide Logistics, discusses the importance of cross-channel selling and how the current challenges have shaped his company’s collaboration with clients.
Name: Torsten Katzor
Title: Global vice president fashion logistics
Company: Hellmann Worldwide Logistics
What’s the number one question you get from your apparel clients now that was never really a consideration before?
Undoubtedly, how long the current crises will continue to affect supply chains in procurement and when global logistics will stabilize again. This shows the level of uncertainty—also on the part of our customers. No one can foresee how the situation will develop.
What is the main thing brands and retailers could do (or stop doing) right now that would immediately improve logistics?
More flexibility in the timelines would definitely help, especially in terms of the processes from production to delivery to the customer. But also a clear prioritization of items would improve supply chains. In other words, a clear analysis of which products are actually really needed where and when.
Given the roller coaster of demand and shipment volumes during the pandemic, how are you adapting your operations to better prepare for and react to uncertainty?
The decisive factor is surely a close cooperation with our customers—this is more true today than ever before. Nowadays, it is particularly important for us to obtain reliable data from our clients at an early stage so that we can optimally plan and implement transport chains and processes.
Which piece of technology or innovation have you found most useful during this time?
Real-time tracking of goods throughout the entire supply chain is indispensable nowadays. With our online Smart Visibility tools, we offer our customers exactly that—across all means of transport. We are continuously developing these products. For our customers, and also for us as a service provider, this is a real benefit.
Resiliency has become a buzzword since the disruption caused by the pandemic. What could brands and retailers do right now to immediately start preparing for the next unforeseen event?
It is important that all players involved understand logistics as an integral part of the overall business model. We have to see change as an opportunity, draw the necessary consequences, and adapt our business models in the direction of faster and more flexible supply chains. This also includes moving away from the traditional central warehouse and using more flexible hubs.
What should be brands’ and retailers’ top lesson from Covid? How can they address this in their operations?
Covid has taught us that there is no such thing as “the one sales channel.” Only those who operate all sales channels—including social platforms—with the appropriate care and seriousness will be well equipped for the future.
What keeps you up at night?
Currently, we are all very concerned about the war in Ukraine. It is a humanitarian catastrophe and an attack against peace in Europe. But global warming is also an issue that is very concerning. We all have to face up to it. This also applies to the economy, including the fashion and logistics industries.
What makes you most optimistic?
Besides all the challenges we are currently facing, there are also many positive developments. Looking at the professional environment, I am really happy to see how cooperatively, closely and trustingly we have worked with our customers and partners over the past two years. The crisis has certainly brought us closer together, and I find it very reassuring to know that we have overcome many hurdles together. At the same time, it gives me hope to see how many people are engaged—on a large and small scale—in sustainability and peaceful coexistence. And last but not least, it is my private environment that makes me optimistic. Because besides all the work, that’s what counts.