In 1930, during the dark days of the Great Depression, Thomas Dachser started a freight-hauling company in the southern German city of Kempten, with one truck and one employee: himself.
Dachser subsequently was able to build a modest freight transportation business despite the country’s economic turmoil, but during World War II, the Nazi regime requisitioned his vehicles and drafted most of his employees.
After the war, Dachser rebuilt his company by trucking locally made Bavarian Emmentaler cheese to larger German cities, later transporting food products and other freight throughout Germany and other parts of Europe.
“We are really brilliant survivors,” said Bernhard Simon, CEO of Kempten-based DACHSER SE, a logistics company that today has about 25,000 employees, operates in 40 countries and this year is celebrating its 85th anniversary.
Through all the world’s economic ups and downs, “we have built the best-running network in Europe, and now the emphasis is on expanding outside Europe,” said Simon, the founder’s grandson, during a recent visit to Miami.
DACHSER last year handled 35.4 million tons of freight internationally and had revenues of 5.3 billion euros, up 5.2 percent over the previous year.
Family-owned DACHSER opened its first office in the United States in New York City in the early 1970s and has a subsidiary, DACHSER Transport of America, in Atlanta. The transport unit opened a Miami branch in 2006 and offers a full range of logistics services, including warehousing, distribution, door-to-door transportation, customs clearance and consulting on export/import compliance.
The company’s air and sea logistics division opened its Americas headquarters in Miami in 2014. It covers the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Miami offices have 17 employees, out of 220 in the U.S.
In recent years, DACHSER has expanded its reach well beyond Germany by acquiring a series of logistics and transportation companies in Spain, Great Britain, northern and eastern Europe, and other parts of the world while also setting up new offices and providing service in parts of Asia and North Africa.
Its 2013 acquisitions in Spain — Azkar logistics and air, sea and freight company Transunión S.A. — “provided a big piece in the European puzzle and gave us greater access to Latin America,” said Simon, who studied business administration at the Friedrich Alexander University in Nuremberg and graduated from the senior executive program at Harvard University.
Simon’s visit to Miami was meant to underscore the company’s commitment to expanding its business in Latin America, making Miami the point that connects the region to the rest of its international network.
Miami is the company’s gateway to Latin America, and the German firm recently started a new air freight consolidation service here. Its Miami operations can bring in cargo from Europe, Asia and other parts of the U.S., consolidate the cargo here and ship it to Latin America. “We can put together customized logistics plans for our customers,” said the DACHSER executive, who started out at the company as a qualified freight forwarder.
While DACHSER works in a highly competitive field that includes mid-sized companies like itself, it does not compete directly with the largest logistics and express companies, such as DHL, FedEx and UPS, the CEO said.
“We serve a broad mix of companies, and we are looking for mid-sized multinational companies who want sophisticated logistics services. Our business is not to transfer large volumes of commodities at a very low price.”
DACHSER has a diversified international portfolio made up of thousands of customers, none of which represent a large share of overall business.
The company’s air and sea shipments from Miami to Latin America include machinery, spare parts, raw materials and consumer goods. Its largest single market in the region is Brazil, followed by Chile, Peru and Argentina. Mexico and Colombia are also important.
DACHSER, which is actively searching for new business opportunities in Latin America, has innovated throughout its history.
The company’s founder, Thomas Dachser, made an early move from land to air cargo, opening an air freight office at the Munich airport in 1951.
He introduced delivery “with guaranteed deadlines” for shipments in 1967.
The company was an industry trend-setter in the 1970s, converting its entire truck fleet to standard freight containers that could be moved by truck or rail. And it began implementing modern communications technologies for its system in the 1980s.
DACHSER started its food logistics services in the early 1980s, offering refrigerated cargo service for temperature-sensitive foods. It also instituted the use of standard bar codes in the logistics industry, making it easier to identify, store and ship merchandise.
The German company’s expanded operations in Miami reflect its view that Latin America offers new opportunities for its air and sea logistics business.
“Miami is the natural place for staging and shipping to Latin America,” Simon said.
“Our business is to put intelligence in logistics.”
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Business: DACHSER is a German-based logistics firm that operates in 40 countries and handled 35.4 million tons of cargo in 2014. Celebrating its 85th anniversary this year, the company already has an international presence and is expanding its business in several regions, including the United States and Latin America. The company provides customers with transport logistics, warehousing, advice and information on foreign trade and customs as well as other trade-related services. It has two major divisions: DACHSER Air & Sea Logistics and DACHSER Road Logistics, which includes European logistics (industrial goods) and food logistics. The U.S. subsidiary, DACHSER Transport of America Inc., is based in Atlanta and the headquarters for DACHSER Air & Sea Logistics Americas is in Miami.
World headquarters: Kempten, Germany
Offices in Miami: Regional head office for the Americas, DACHSER Air & Sea Logistics Corp., 1000 NW 57th Ct., Miami; Miami office, DACHSER Transport of America, 8861 NW 18th Terr., Doral.
Corporate CEO: Bernhard Simon
Regional leadership: Guido Gries, managing director, air and sea logistics for the Americas.
Founder: Thomas Dachser
Employees: 17 in the Miami area, out of 220 in the U.S. and about 25,000 worldwide.
Ownership: Family-owned company.
Revenues: 5.3 billion euros in 2014 (about $7 billion, according to the company).