As with any company that handles background operations, JF Hillebrand is not a name known to the average consumer. Even so, any given person has probably tasted the fruits of the company’s labours as the world’s leading logistics service provider specialized in the wines, beers and spirit trade.
Back in 1844, Johann Friedrich Hillebrand gave his name to a new company in Mainz, Germany, which already moved alcohol on the Rhine River. Now, more than a century and a half later, JF Hillebrand’s lead in the logistics of wines, beers and spirits cannot be disputed. Though the corporate head offices are still located in Mainz, the company’s operations now span over 58 offices and 91 countries with a workforce of over 2,300. And the Hillebrand family name is still very much a part of the company as Chairman Christof Hillebrand is a fifth-generation member of the family.
JF Hillebrand Group’s speciality, as logistics service providers go, is that right from its creation they were and still are, dedicated to the transportation of wines, beers and spirits. Michael Frogbrook, the Managing Director and Country Manager of Australia, talked to us about the various innovations that his company has made in that field as JF Hillebrand Australia rose up the market’s ladder.
Key acquisitions to promote growth
The company has showcased a tremendous ability for growth by the acquisition of companies which enabled them to further specialize their services in the logistics of wines, beers and spirits. “There have been many highlights in my 24 years with the organisation however the most significant development was undoubtedly in 2007 when the Group acquired Trans Ocean Distribution, a company recognized as the leader in Bulk Liquid logistics using flexitanks”. Designed to fit inside a 20ft container, the flexitank converts the container into non-hazardous bulk liquid transportation unit. The acquisition gave them access to having to the factories. “We now have our own factories in Malaysia, China, and South Africa”, Michael explains. Having in-house manufacturing base for flexitanks (and other industry related products) thus placing JF Hillebrand Group in a unique position of being in full control of design, quality and performance of the flexitank.
And while ensuring the continuity of Trans Ocean’s services; JF Hillebrand above all applied the company’s know-how in the design and use of flexitanks to the logistics of wines.
Indeed more and more wine is now being transported in bulk, as opposed to finished products (e.g. bottled wine) especially from countries that are referred to as the New World Wines (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and California). “When JF Hillebrand acquired Trans Ocean in 2007, Bulk Wine represented 25% of Australian Exports. Now that figure is closer to 60% which has placed JF Hillebrand in a strong position in the market. The largest market for Bulk Wine from Australia is to the UK where over 85% of all exports are now shipped in Bulk for which JF Hillebrand are well positioned to meet customer demands whether it be shipping in Bulk or Cased wine, largely as a result of our investment in flexitanks”, reports Michael.
Constantly adapting and evolving
JF Hillebrand Group’s expertise also shows through the quality of the advice given to their customers. JF Hillebrand Australia has quite a few client case studies. In one instance, the company applied their Supply Chain Management program to take on the responsibility of dealing with orders from suppliers which allowed UK & European supermarket chains to reduce their stockholdings by up to 75% compared to the previous standard, from 12 months to 3 months’ worth of stock. The financial savings to the importer were substantial, confirming the deep level of customer-company interaction that JF Hillebrand aims for.
This continual need to adapt and evolve can be felt across all of the company’s projects and divisions. For example, new rules and regulations must be acted upon as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to avoid complications for both JF Hillebrand Group and their customers. The latest major regulation is called SOLAS, an acronym for Safety of Life At Sea. SOLAS aims at preventing accidents resulting from shipper’s non-declaration or mis-declarations of cargo weights. “Though the enforcement of this new regulation is complicated, we can rely on our local teams to keep our customers informed about specific local aspects.” The strength of JF Hillebrand Group’s network lies in the fact that with 58 offices and a presence in 91 countries, they are present in every significant importing or exporting country.
Taking care of the environment
Another area of interest is environmental practices. Climate change and other environmental issues are highly important for big companies as their work makes an important difference. Michael was enthusiastic about the environmental practices of JF Hillebrand Group which include reducing carbon emissions and large-scale recycling.
“At JF Hillebrand Group, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our operations, through initiatives in place across our global office network. In the major markets of the US, UK, and China, when the flexitanks are delivered to their final destination, we arrange a door-to-door service. Upon completion of the discharge, the empty flexitank is delivered to our depot, stripped out of the container, drained of any residue and because the Flexitank is 100% Polyethylene it is fully recyclable. The Metal Bulkheads that we use are also recovered and refurbished to minimise waste”
Career opportunities and investments in staff
The fast-paced and ever-growing environment of the company also requires a considerable talent pool. JF Hillebrand Group actively seeks out talented individuals and recognizes their efforts. As the company’s culture is the same on a global level, there are a lot of opportunities for people to gain more experience by working in different regional branches or even in any of their offices around the world. Indeed though the company is headquartered in Mainz, Germany; it is worth mentioning that the Group’s Executive Board members are located in different countries.
The future seems bright for JF. Hillebrand, their last acquisition Satellite Logistics Group, is a specialist in supply chain management for the beer and cider industry; its unique know-how is a great addition to the Group’s expertise and solutions for the wine, beer and spirits industry. Who knows what and when will be the next step in the Group’s development so stay tuned!s service provider specialized in the wines, beers and spirit trade.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: JF Hillebrand Group
WHAT: The world’s leading logistics services provider in the beers, wines, and spirit trade.
WHERE: Carl-Zeiss-Straße 6, 55129 Mainz-Hechtsheim