DENIS RENARD

Spain 2021 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Denis Renard, GEFCO General Manager for the Spain and Morocco Cluster, about the effect of the pandemic, cybersecurity, and expectations for the future.

GEFCO, founded in 1949, has become a leading logistics company specialized in industry. What has been the evolution and mission of the company since its establishment in Spain in 1985?

Since its beginnings 70 years ago in 1949 as a provider of finished-vehicle transport for Groupe PSA, GEFCO has become a world-class industrial logistics provider, serving customers in 150 countries on 5 continents. Drawing on its expertise as a global automotive logistics expert, GEFCO has successfully expanded its range of skills to other supply chains over the past decade. GEFCO Spain was one of GEFCO's first subsidiaries created after France. Historically, our mandate was to serve the automotive industry, which is extremely demanding in terms of its supply chain. Previously, design and production were all done at the plant; however, over the years, a great deal has been externalized, including the design of parts, meaning our logistics service has changed accordingly. In this context, we aim to design a transport plan that best suits automotive manufacturing. Due to cash requirements, there are no more stocks at plants but in our trucks and warehouses everywhere. In 2018, we have taken another step forward in our development with the acquisition of GLT, a transport specialist on the corridor to Morocco. This was a major event because it was a way for us to become a significant operator in that market, although we are based in Morocco since 2002. Now, we operate on the corridor where we can propose and serve customers with the best service available. We also decided to create a joint venture with BERGÉ in 2018, a partnership that makes our finished-vehicle logistics the biggest operator in Spain. We have our own fleet of trucks, car carriers, compounds, and presence in different ports. It was a major move for us to bring our finished-vehicle business to a different scale.

How did the pandemic affect GEFCO Spain and its revenue?

We have been impacted on two levels. First, when the pandemic started in China, we were supplying industries with components coming from Europe and China. In the beginning, we had to find solutions that would not disrupt the supply from China. Second, we participated in transporting masks and PPE equipment.
In Spain, lockdown rules were rolled out from March-May 2020, and we saw a massive drop in volumes. Plants were closing, and we had to rapidly organize logistics. For a few months, we also had to adjust our efforts in transport and people to minimize costs. We started to return gradually to more or less sustainable volumes from July 2020.
In addition to the pandemic, we suffered from a cyberattack at the end of September. It was extremely difficult and challenging, but the talent, spirit, and engagement of our staff was amazing.

What changed for the company after the cyberattack?

These attacks are becoming more and more common, but at GEFCO we were prepared for this situation. We were already in the process of transforming our IT solutions and this was the necessary impulse to advance our projects. We have already started rebuilding our infrastructure and IT systems to be more secure and fully digital, continuing the trend we have initiated a few years ago to prepare to the evolution of the market where digital platforms are key and communication tools decisive to facilitate our communication with our customers. We notably launched a new platform for finished vehicles called Moveecar, a digital platform designed to offer car logistics services throughout a vehicle lifecycle for automotive and mobility players, without any paperwork. From first registration to the end of vehicle life, for B2C & B2B, from single car to many, for commercial & passenger vehicles, Moveecar is changing today our customer's experience. We are engaged in this, which has led to plenty of ongoing projects to help us move to more digital solutions.

In Spain, in which other sectors are you involved?

Our core history is the automotive industry, which remains a large part of our business; however, we also extend our services to other industries. Our core business is industry, namely cars, aerospace, textile, construction, FMCGs, and health and beauty. We are targeting many different industries in order to diversify our portfolio of clients. However, our know-how is absolutely in managing supply chains with all the processes, engineering, and integrated services that can be easily duplicated in other countries. This is what we aim to do. For example, the car industry may be different from textiles, but the needs are the same. There is no stock, you have to move quickly, and you have to deliver solutions rapidly to supply the fabrication chain.

What is your main objective for the year ahead?

There are a few goals that are global and local. Locally, we are creating a region clusters here, a process that we have initiated in many countries within the company. This new cluster now covers Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, which has a big economic link and relationship. This regional approach encourages us to be more efficient, leaner and to serve our customers better. We will also continue to work on the optimization of our solutions, again to be more efficient, lean, and carbon-impactful. In terms of business, we will accelerate our development outside the automotive industry and propose our know-how to other industries. We will also go more digital, which is vital at the global level. In terms of human resources, it is important because our industry is based on our information systems and the expertise of our people. Like everywhere, Spain had to adjust its resources according to activity. This was not easy for some of our employees, but we took this time to train more and started GEFCO University, an online training program open to every employee. This is part of the digitalization that we are using to continue to have more skilled people. In this context, we will implement the home office concept that came about more after the pandemic. We were pushed to use more digital tools like TEAMS and that will continue as well. We will likely not travel as much as before for many reasons. With the new digital tools, we can reduce the amount of travel we had to do before. For safety reasons and environmental impact, there are new reasons not to travel, and we are becoming leaner in that aspect. As another great example of optimizing our solutions, in our warehousing services in Spain, we provide complex solutions Just in Time, Just in Sequence, storage, and delivery. We are moving toward a digital system using simple applications to be more digital. We increasingly used AGVs in the service we provide, and this is a permanent trend. This is the focus for us in 2021.