Moving (Almost) Mountains


Logistics and freight company Dachser South Africa may not exactly be moving mountains, but they are transporting items that are just as challenging, in the form of mega-machinery and highly specialised equipment. Moving these items across vast distances and multiple jurisdictions on a daily basis requires scrupulous planning, product expertise and forward momentum.

Perhaps the two most crucial elements of logistics are intelligent, integrated technical processes on the one hand, and on the other, talented individuals who are detail-oriented, determined and have the stamina to continually drive these logistics processes.

Marcel Kohn is the Route Development Manager at Dachser South Africa, responsible for the South Africa-Germany routing. He outlines what it takes to manage route development.

“I joined Dachser South Africa towards the end of 2016, although I have been part of the company’s global family for six years, working in Germany. Prior to this I had undertaken a formal 3-year apprenticeship to learn the basics and gain certification as a freight forwarder.

“Upon joining Dachser in 2010, I worked in national distribution within the sales team for Dachser ASL (Air & Sea Logistics) at the Langenau branch in the South of Germany. As part of my onsite training, I moved through the different departments including air freight export and import, and sea freight export and import. This helped me gain the necessary insight to be able to provide clients with the correct advice.”

As a whole

Marcel cannot over-estimate the benefit of the company’s onsite training. “I was exposed to a variety of topics from customs and sales training, to air freight security and training on trade lanes. This was to enable me to fully understand the trade requirements of different countries and their particular markets.

“All these courses are certified which means that the ultimate benefit is producing a pool of skilled logisticians who can contribute to the logistics industry as a whole.”

In 2012, Marcel began work as an external sales executive, with the core task of consulting to clients, advising them on the relevant solutions and services for their logistics requirements, and alerting them to any innovative developments that might benefit their needs. “This remains my focus today,” he says.

New business

As route development manager, Marcel says that a large part of what he does is to generate new business from key account customers who operate on the German-South Africa trade lane. “It may be surprising for the person on the street to realise just how many German companies have a large presence in the South African market, and that a great deal of products are continually imported from Germany to South Africa,” he adds.

“It is important for me to travel to Germany quite a few times annually to meet with the suppliers and ensure that we consider how all their requirements can be met via our logistics processes.”

Internally, Dachser South Africa has well-established products and processes, but given the fast-moving pace of the freight and logistics industry, the company must make sure that these products and processes remain relevant so as to provide the best service to their customers. To this end, Marcel as route development manager, must be cognisant of the different market situations in the trade lane.

“The South African and the German markets are very different in a lot of ways and as part of route development, I must be the connector to both sides. This means that I must make sure we understand – and can accommodate – the particular requirements in each market so that the client experiences a seamless process from one jurisdiction through to another.”


Marcel believes that to be successful in his position you have to have a passion for the business, and thrive on working with different people across different teams, “Logistics is a wide industry that covers many components, and often the different business lines such as Air and Sea Logistics, Food Logistics and European Logistics – who are all specialists in their areas – work closely together for one client. We refer to this as interlocking. It is imperative that our teams have the necessary skills to promote and manage this concept.”

Finally, a route development manager should have an active curiosity and interest in the client. “Given that the trade lane must accommodate a variety of different customers from different market verticals, it is crucial to keep abreast of any developments or changes to the clients’ industries, both globally and locally,” Marcel concludes.”

Dachser SA,