After spending almost two decades in logistics operations, Martin is all too familiar with the limitations of the traditional transport model. He knew that the industry needed a digital freight business with the human touch, so in 2020 he founded DigiHaul. He tells us about where the business is now, what’s to come and what makes the business stand out from the crowd.

You worked at DHL for over 19 years so you know a thing or two about logistics! Tell us about your career experience so far.

I joined DHL as a graduate and over the next 19 years worked in a number of different sectors and different parts of the organisation and in 27 different countries! My roles have covered retail, consumer, automotive, aviation, technology and the public sector.

I came up through the operational route, from the shop floor, warehouse operations and various transport roles through to general management, operations director and managing director.

In 2014 you joined DHL Supply Chain Solutions, what new services did you develop to improve efficiencies for customers?

Supply Chain Solutions is a growth business unit for DHL’s UKI Supply Chain business. The strategy was to tap into emerging markets and areas where we could disrupt the industry through solving customer problems.

We took our tried-and-tested processes and toolkit from traditional sectors such as retail and consumer and applied them in a different environment.

One of our most successful sectors was aviation. A high proportion of cost in aviation is in logistics, as high as 70% for one of our airline catering customers, so we challenged and disrupted the existing competition with our tried and tested supply chain management processes.

We developed a number of products in that space to support the efficiency of aviation by taking a data-led approach. By capturing and reviewing the loading data of the bar trolleys we worked out that one bottle of Tia Maria had accumulated 4,500 air miles before it was consumed! By looking at the data and analytics, we removed 25% of waste for that particular customer, as well as reducing weight on the aircraft, leading to improved fuel costs.

We also brought in other products such as a Biomass Technologies which involved drying food waste from the aircraft at a high temperature and turning it into fuel to power the fridges and freezers.

In retail we grew our EnviroSolutions business which involved us collecting packaging waste (cardboard and plastic), brokering the return of that packaging and generating revenue for the retailer.

We also designed, managed and procured uniforms for many police forces across the UK. We standardised the uniform across the forces, leveraged our buying power and enhanced the offer to the customer.

What inspired you to set up DigiHaul?

Working at DHL, our mindset as a logistics company wanting to grow market share in different industries was to solve customers’ problems and to do that you have to innovate and disrupt processes that have been in place for many years. What frustrated me was that our sub-contraction transport business hadn’t changed much in many years. Our sub-contraction was managed from one day to the next and not strategically. We would work tactically with our sub-contractors to fix problems but we weren’t being proactive and making positive change for both us and our carriers.

I could see us spending a lot of time on back-office admin and there was a lack of visibility so I wanted to do something different. That’s how DigiHaul came about.

We could see that digital freight businesses were taking off in the US and we knew we needed it in the UK.

What makes DigiHaul different from digital freight platforms and other solutions?

Firstly people – we’re the digital freight business with the human touch, a lot of other businesses don’t have that. You can have great tech but you need people to execute the tech, complete the customer service follow-up, manage the shipment end-to-end, to really care for what customers want. You also need to listen to what carriers want, actively listen to them and develop a solution that’s good for the people who are using it.

We have secured excellent funding in our first round which is enabling us to scale very quickly.

Shippers can access a lot more capacity than they could by themselves, particularly with the driver shortage.

And lastly our technology – our end-to-end digital processes are very advanced, so we can remove the burden of back-office waste such as chasing up PODs, and can provide full visibility of  shipments as they are collected and delivered.

What expertise do you have in the team?

We needed a mixture of people from different backgrounds and industries who could challenge the status quo. There are a number of people like me, who have spent a long time in the industry with great transportation and supply chain experience. We’ve also worked hard to find new talent: in the Leadership Team we have our Head of Sales Matt Garland who has great industry experience and has worked in digital start-ups before; we have Wenjia Tang who is our Head of Data and has a PhD in Data Engineering; Chief Operating Officer Graeme MacLeod who was a digital innovator in the aviation sector; and a number of people in our Service Delivery team who are all external recruits and have customer centricity at the forefront of everything they do.

What can shippers and carriers expect to see from DigiHaul over the coming weeks and months?

Shippers will see our carrier headcount grow – we’re actively onboarding owner-operators as well as traditional carriers, so we’re tapping into extra resource that wasn’t there before. This greater capacity will help them during the driver shortage and support them going forward.

We’re also launching our Shipper Portal Reporting, improving the level of data customers can see relating to their shipments.

We’re re-launching our electronic POD process so the debrief and payment process will be much smoother for them. And we’ve just launched our new auto debrief function which means we will debrief jobs on their behalf, based on permission levels, saving bundles of admin time.

From the carriers’ perspective, we’re launching Carrier Web Reporting, which allows them to filter jobs by region and equipment type and highlight actions they need to take, like loads that still require a POD to be uploaded so we can release payment.

We’re also working on our Carrier Cooperative, where strategic carriers can access a suite of products such as 24-hour fast-track payment terms, visibility of surplus fleet that they can buy at a discounted rate, a fuel product, back-office support systems and much more.

For the first time ever in the UK we’re launching a Mega Tender, where we’re putting £70 million worth of lanes out to market and will be working with our carrier base to find the best fit for everyone.

You’re passionate about developing young talent in the industry, how important is recruiting and training younger people for the future of logistics?

It’s very important. The driver situation is a good example of where the core transport industry hasn’t moved with the times, there hasn’t been investment in young people and now we’re paying the price. All roles are an important part of making the supply chain work so investment is really important, not just financially with equipment and the tools to do the job, but also investing the time in people to understand what makes them tick and how we can shape their career path together.

I think it’s important to develop and nurture talent and create a pipeline for the future but it’s about people of all ages – there’s a lot of talent in the industry who have qualifications but haven’t been given the opportunity to do something different.

One of the people in our team who is in his forties used to be a warehouse picker but is about to join our Data Apprenticeship scheme. Another example is someone I know who was working in the food catering team within DHL, building airline tray sets; by developing his experience in more diverse logistics roles, he has fulfilled his potential and eight years later he has just become Managing Director for DHL’s E-commerce team in Canada.

What motivates you when you go to work?

I get a lot of satisfaction in people developing and growing their careers in the business. I also like solving problems, whether that’s our own internal problems or helping our customers.

Find out more about how DigiHaul can help your business grow.

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