Specialists in international shipments
Business View Caribbean profiles DHL Jamaica , a subsidiary of the worldwide shipping company Located in Kingston, Jamaica.
Like many big companies, DHL Express, the worldwide shipping company, began with one person who had a very good idea. When Larry Hillblom was a young law student at the University of California, he earned some extra money by running courier trips between San Francisco and Los Angeles, picking up packages for the last flight of the day, and returning on the first flight the next morning.
In 1969, Hillblom expanded his courier business when the Matson Navigation Company, a cargo company with container ships traversing the Pacific between the west coast and Hawaii, needed a way to transport its bills of lading faster than could be accomplished by the U.S. Postal Service. Hillblom’s plan was to purchase airline tickets for passengers who could take these shipping documents along with their luggage, and get them to Matson’s customers in Hawaii in time to receive their freight when the ships arrived.
When other companies in Hawaii heard about this novel way to deliver time-sensitive documents, Hillblom was off and running. With two friends, Adrian Dalsey and Robert Lynn, whose initials formed the company name, DHL, he soon transformed his firm into an international delivery company and the first to offer overnight service to its global customers. Today, DHL has a presence in over 220 countries and territories, making it the most international company in the world.
The Jamaica office of DHL was started in 1988 with two employees. Its current General Manager, Donovan James, says that since Jamaica is one of the biggest countries in the Caribbean region, it made sense for DHL to make it a main location for its air and freight services. DHL Jamaica is a fully-owned subsidiary of the parent company, which in turn is owned by the German company, Deutsche Post. DHL Jamaica now has 92 employees and a fleet of 20 vehicles. Along with some of its retail partners, such as Western Union, who are licensed agents, DHL has about 58 points on the island at which its customers can pick up and drop off their shipments.
“We service all industries,” says James; “manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, small and medium enterprises, almost anybody who wants to ship internationally. It’s mainly a business-to-business model. However, in recent times, we’ve actually seen a lot of B2C, business-to-customer, on the residential side; we’re seeing an explosion in that, especially with ecommerce, primarily driving that.” Principally an international company, Donovan adds that in some specific instances, it will transport domestic freight, like it does for the U.S. government, when handling its visa deliveries throughout the island.
James says that the Jamaican landscape is competitive; there’s FedEx and UPS, as well as the commercial airlines and other freight transporters. Even so, DHL Jamaica has captured about 51 percent of the local market. “People are finding more and more cost-effective ways to send shipments internationally,” James explains. “So you’ll find that these other carriers – the airlines, the freight forwarders, the small companies, will take a smaller part of the market share.”
James believes that the key factor that differentiates DHL in Jamaica, and is largely responsible for the company’s success, is its fully-accredited CIS (Certified International Specialist) training program it provides for its employees. “This is a program that equips all our staff with the knowledge and skill set on how to do business in different countries, deal with customs – basically, how we do everything. So, you can talk to anybody in the company and they can tell you what to do. It really sets us apart from the competition.”
Another competitive advantage, according to James, is DHL Jamaica’s local customer service. “We don’t have an 800 number that Jamaican customers will call and get somebody in Texas or India,” he says. “When you call, you’re getting somebody in Jamaica; you’ll be handled by a live person who understands the Jamaican marketplace, your concerns and your issues, and can respond to anything. And for our bigger customers, we have active bodies on the ground engaging them all the time. Our customers don’t see this from other competitors; they don’t see this kind of consistent interaction. This really sets us apart – our very strong employee engagement.”
While DHL Jamaica benefits from the worldwide investments made by its parent company, it is also empowered by it to make those decisions that best ensure its own local success. “DHL is always expanding and, in fact, globally, we continue to make hundreds of millions of dollars investments in our different hubs around the world which link back to the service that we provide here in Jamaica,” James explains. “For example, our Cincinnati hub is one of the major connection points – anything coming from Jamaica through to the rest of the world, must flow through the Cincinnati and Miami hubs. And massive upgrades have been done in those facilities to make them more efficient. We’ve also added new aircraft around the world. So, DHL is always looking for ways to make what we call the ‘Big Yellow Machine’ move much more efficiently.”
“And what’s good about DHL is that we ‘think global, act local,’” he adds. “So, what the global organization is doing, we mirror in our medium and long-term strategies. Specifically, in Jamaica, we have followed our parent company’s go-green initiative. In fact, we’re the only building in New Kingston (the city’s fast-growing commercial district) right now with the entire roof, solar. We’ve been able to cut 60-65 percent of our utility bill, by adding solar technology. And our entire building at our main office uses LED lights. What’s planned is for us to expand this throughout the rest of our locations – at the airports, in Montego Bay – and actually to start selling some of this clean energy to the JPS (the Jamaica Public Service Company) via net billing. With all of that in place, we actually expect that we should start to see much more cost savings.”
James says that the company is also intent on growing its market share with more innovative services, such as its recently-launched “Express Easy.” “It’s a retail product which makes shipping internationally much easier and much more cost-effective than any of our competitors, and even better than what DHL, itself, was doing before,” says James. “We have different size boxes with one fixed price and that’s it. So, as a result of the deployment of this product in February, we’re already seeing about a 25 percent increase in our revenue and an eight percent increase in our shipment volume, compared against last year. So, we know it’s working and making it easier for the small/medium enterprise business to operate much more cost-effectively. And they are the drivers of the economy. So, we’re very proud about the launch of this product.”
Another source of company pride, according to Joni-Gaye Cawley, Human Resources Manager at DHL Jamaica, is the Top Employer Certification it has recently received from the Top Employer Institute, the Amsterdam-based organization that globally certifies excellence in the conditions that employers create for their workforce. “This award is for a select number of companies that have global operations,” she says. “We have to excel in certain areas such as workforce planning, on-boarding, on-time strategy, learning and development, performance management, career and profession management, compensation and benefits, and culture. We received it last year in 2015 and again in 2016. So, we’re really proud of that.”
“This is a big deal,” adds James, “because only seven other companies in the Americas have gotten this award. And what differentiates DHL from the other seven is that it has 44 office subsidiaries around the world that have been certified as Top Employer. The other companies can’t boast that. And we’re especially proud that little Jamaica is one of the 44.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: DHL Jamaica
WHAT: A subsidiary of the worldwide shipping company
WHERE: Kingston, Jamaica
GCG Ground Services – GCG Ground Services is a full-service provider of ground handling in the Caribbean with operations in Montego Bay and Kingston Jamaica (under the name of Jamaica Dispatch Services Ltd.) and St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. The company provides ramp handling and passenger service as well as special services such as wheelchair service. The company represents several airlines and its philosophy is to provide a safe and efficient service. – gcggroundservices.com