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Chemical logistics service provider Bertschi offers cautious 2020 outlook

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Bertschi Group, a global logistics service provider for the chemical industry specialising in liquids and dry bulk transportation, has reported financial gains for 2019, despite a ‘difficult market environment’.

The company’s rate of growth slowed considerably due to the challenging market environment, however sales rose to CHF 985 million (€917 million) for the 2019 financial year, with Bertschi’s earnings position remaining almost stable.

Global activities were the primary growth drivers in 2019, while Bertschi’s European business became weaker as the year progressed. Adjusted for negative currency effects, the company reported revenue gains of 3.6% in local currency terms.

The company successfully implemented complex supply chain solutions in 2019, and now offers comprehensive concepts encompassing order management, transport, storage, product handling and goods distribution.

During 2019, Bertschi made a number of significant investments, including the expansion of its container fleet by 7% to 36,800 units, substantial facility expansion at its locations in Duisburg and Schwarzheide in Germany, which boosted local capacity for the shift from road to rail and for product storage concepts, respectively.

Last year also saw the company complete an expansion of its headquarters in Dürrenäsch, Switzerland and the start of operation at the new facility.

Digital transformations

During 2019, the company focused on digital transformation efforts, including the roll-out of the Bertschi TruckTracer app. “Our drivers and all company partners receive their order data through the app and then record every step of the transport chain on it,” explained Michael Baechler, COO of the Bertschi Group. “This data flows into the Group’s transport planning system and from there on to customers through various interfaces. This real-time data is used to optimise internal transport planning, while customers benefit from visibility and more planning security in their delivery chains.”

The company added that it had implemented this transparency tool in 95% of all European transports by the end of 2019.

2020 outlook

In offering a view of operations in 2020, CEO Jan Arnet said: “Last year we saw a notable and steady cooling-off of the economy, and in Europe in particular important industry sectors have slid into recession. We expect this trend to continue in 2020, with corresponding effects on transport demand. I expect that our global orientation will allow us to offset regional sales declines to some extent. But we will continue to have a strong focus on cost developments in 2020 as well.”

Bertschi will continue progressing with its digitalisation strategy to enable efficiency gains while generating added value for customers. The company’s SmartTainer project, which is expected to enter initial implementation phase in 2020 following pilot testing last year, is a key part of this strategy.

The project will see GPS and sensor technology installed in about 1,600 tank containers, which will enable parameters such as the position of the container and the temperature of the loaded product to be recorded and monitored in real-time. This will help Bertschi to set new standards in terms of customer service, safety and efficiency, particularly in intermodal transport chains.

In terms of sustainability, Bertschi will continue to conduct 90% of all overland transport by intermodal rail, which results in carbon dioxide emissions reduction of over 60% compared with road transport. The company is looking to implement sustainable concepts in other areas in 2020, including the development of 100% recyclable transport aids for loose plastics (GreenLiner) and a campaign to replace non-recyclable flexibags and barrels with tank containers in the transport of liquid chemical products.