The global pandemic, as well as the strained relations between Lithuania and its Eastern neighbours, and the changes dictated by the Mobility Package are just some of the many challenges that companies operating in the transport and logistics sector are now facing. Integre Trans, which was established during the 2008 financial crisis, is no exception. However, unlike many companies in the sector, this logistics company is not afraid of tackling crises and sees each one as a new opportunity.
The company was founded more than a decade ago at the height of the financial crisis, and the CEO explained that the transport and logistics business is very dynamic. Therefore, it has to quickly adapt to the market and political situation, as well as to new regulations and other changes. As a result, one can never escape the challenges in this field.
“US President John F. Kennedy noted that the word ‘crisis’ in Chinese is made up of two symbols – one meaning danger and the other meaning an opportunity. In my opinion, this is an accurate description of a crisis, yet the second part of this concept is often overlooked. Our company strives to emphasise that second part and to see the opportunity in every crisis. Of course, risks are also an integral part of every crisis, but a business cannot operate without them. I believe that the courage to make complex or adventurous decisions is essential for success in today’s business environment,” Ž. Kel said.
She believes companies that only see threats and obstacles, instead of seeing the opportunities, have lost their sense of excitement, lack the ability to motivate their teams and the determination to move forward. In those cases, any crisis will prevent the company from growing and achieving good results.
The pandemic and the uncertainty it has caused remains one of the biggest challenges facing freight carriers, according to Ž. Kel. However, even during the pandemic, Integre Trans has managed to maintain stable growth and continued to expand in the Western European markets. Compared to 2019, the company’s revenue last year increased by 14%, and the number of employees grew by 51%. Furthermore, last year, the logistics services company opened a new 6,500 sq. m warehouse in France, as the basis for the further development of the company in that country. The Lithuanian logistics company currently has branches operating in Lithuania, Germany, France, and Poland.
“When it comes to any company’s development, a significant challenge we are facing today is staff shortages. The current political situation has made it even more difficult to recruit employees from Belarus. However, we are aware that we cannot change that situation, so we are adapting and looking for alternative truck drivers from other countries,” Ž. Kel said.
According to Ž. Kel, the company is paying special attention not only to attracting and retaining employees but also to preparing and training them. However, she explained that investing in employees also comes with certain risks, because no matter how hard employers try, no one is immune to employee turnover.
“We have examples where we have spent a lot of money and time preparing and training employees, and then they have left the company for one reason or another. For example, when we developed a new service area last year, we decided to set up a Dangerous Goods Department. We appointed the head of this unit and invested in his training so he could obtain the related certificates, but in the end, due to certain personal circumstances, he had to leave the company. However, we do not consider this a failure. No matter how it turned out, we still took on a new field, delved into it, learned a lot of new things, and acquired new competencies,” Ž. Kel said.
Ž. Kel noted that in addition to staff shortages, freight companies are currently faced with a shortage of trucks. As a result of the pandemic, the demand for transport vehicles has increased and the supply of new trucks has fallen sharply, as manufacturers are faced with heavy supply chain pressures.
“We are looking for alternatives in this area, while also expanding our circle of partners and strengthening our cooperation with the existing ones. At the same time, we are aiming to invest in more modern and environmentally friendly vehicles, in response to the global challenges. This year, we are planning to purchase a total of 200 new trucks, 20 of which will be powered by liquefied gas engines with lower CO2 emissions. More and more of our clients in Western Europe want to transport their goods in more environmentally friendly vehicles, so investing in liquefied gas trucks with up to 85% lower CO2 emissions and up to 95% lower particulate emissions compared to conventional diesel trucks will increase the company’s competitiveness,” said Ž. Kel.
The company’s investment is not limited to this purchase. According to Ž. Kel, Integre Trans is also investing in a variety of technologies and tools that are helping analyse the company’s performance, to operate more efficiently and make the right decisions quickly. For example, advanced analytics tools can show when a line is unprofitable, so the company can make a quick decision to abandon that line.
Finally, the freight sector has been widely discussing the challenges posed by the Mobility Package and the more difficult access to bank financing. However, Ž. Kel suggests these should be viewed as opportunities as well. According to the CEO of Integre Trans, the Mobility Package should be seen as an invitation for Eastern European carriers to develop in Western Europe, not an attempt to push them out. Ž. Kel revealed that the company has been preparing for the Mobility Package’s entry into force: in 2016, a branch was established in Germany, which acquired the status of a company in 2017; then in 2018, Integre Trans opened a new company in France, followed by a company in Poland in 2019 and a branch in Kaunas in 2020.
“We are ready for the changes dictated by the Mobility Package. In terms of funding opportunities, we cannot over-emphasise the reduced willingness of banks to finance companies in the logistics sector. However, we are seeing more and more opportunities to obtain the necessary funding from other sources: funds, private investors, or representatives of truck manufacturers, who are increasingly willing to negotiate without mediation from the banks. With a clear goal, one will always find the means to achieve it,” Ž. Kel stated.
Integre Trans currently has around 2,000 clients across Western Europe. The company’s main markets are Germany and France, which account for approximately 70% of the company’s total orders. It is also developing its activities in Italy, Great Britain, Benelux and other countries.