Mr. Alexander Hellmers
Alexander tell us about your background in freight forwarding & shipping and how did you end up in working for Project Logistics Alliance? Who are the owners of the network and what is your vision in the company?
The Project logistics Alliance (PLA) was initiated by a group of forwarders who are also founding members of PLA. Mr. Juergen Weyhausen who is working at Alexander Global Logistics took a leading role in setting up the network. He has over 44 years of industry knowledge and consults PLA.
My personal background is in supply chain management and finance. The PLA ownership structure is split between my father Carsten Hellmers and myself. In addition, a minority share is held by the Kutzner Process optimization, a company whose main business is software development and process optimization.
Our long term strategic direction, apart from being the first highly specilised project network is as follows:
- We strive to create a platform where members can offer projects to other members, particularly for cross-trades. This platform has now been launched and is gaining traction
- Further, a platform to collaboratively buy freight rates to get better discounts is planned
- Workshops targeted at special countries and areas
- Networking sessions for emerging markets and for countries with special demands i.e. customs requirements in Brazil/India, permit procedures in China/Nigeria, etc.
We understand that PLA is a new network – tell us in layman’s terms what a freight forwarding network actually is doing?
We created the network to form an alliance of truly skilled project cargo experts. The founding members who are also members of other networks felt that these networks are collecting members without properly controlling the quality of the members. PLA is certainly not a “Pay to Join” network.
We started on the 20th of December 2016 and have now 54 individual members, covering more than 86 countries.
PLA membership is limited to two members per country; to ensure sufficient coverage, larger markets such as (USA, China, and India) may need more representation.
The strategic vision of the network is to go further than “just” an annual meeting per year.
We provide a distinct business environment through the quality of our members:
- Potential members have to undergo a strict admission process and meet certain requirements to qualify (please see below)
- This ensures a high quality business network made by professionals for professionals with 100% project cargo – no common forwarders
PLA thereby strives to unite the best companies in the industry in one network.
I hear that the market is saturated with networks and that forwarders are inundated with emails asking them to join this or that network. What is your comment to this?
I think this statement is true and it is exactly why we decided to start a network which aspires to much higher standards. Most networks are run by people who are experts at marketing or event management. The majority of the networks are not run by industry experts. This certainly does not mean that other networks are not beneficial for their members. However, we thrive to be more focused and niche.
In our opinion the most important thing is to create value for the member, not for the network as such. We aim to keep the cost for our members to a minimum. At our events, we focus on connecting the right people in the right location.
Since the start we received an incredible amount of positive feedback and support, and we are working hard on improving the network continuously. On a weekly basis we get approached by people who have heard about PLA and would like to have more information.
That is a great feeling and confirms that there is demand for such a highly specialised network.
What makes you different from the others?
We have created a community of true project cargo professionals. Unlike other networks our members have to demonstrate a track record of projects they have handled. In our opinion, a 40’flat rack with 45 tons weight does not count as a project. This would not be enough to qualify as a PLA member. Since we started we turned down the applications of 24 companies. Our application process is strict and every applicant has to provide:
- 2 reference projects or case studies
- 2 customer references
- A company presentation containing: financial information, number of employees, geographical coverage, and annual number of projects
Tell us about the value that you believe you provide members with.
- Continuously securing the strictly professional quality of our members is key.
- That level of quality and business skills together with the membership limit (regular limit is 2 members per country) ensures a certain exclusiveness.
- Our project platform for enhanced communication among our members
- Elevated exposure within the market – publishing of company news
Do you have regular meetings where members meet up and are you also present at the various expos around the world?
Yes, we have an annual conference every year. Each member can schedule appointments upfront to meet with other members. In addition to the meeting there are presentations on topics of interest.
We held our first annual meeting in April 2017 in Antwerp and 45 people attended, which was a great success for us. Our next meeting is going to be in Vietnam in September 2018.
In Addition to that we will host a dinner event and one day of one to one meetings in May 2018 in Bremen prior to the Breakbulk conference.
There would certainly be interested parties among our readers, how to approach you if anyone would like to become a member?
Yes certainly anybody interested in PLA is more than welcome to contact me at the details below.