Innovating comes easily to Whale Logistics and Freight Forwarding

They are young, passionate, and at the top of their game. With enough awards to buckle a couple of bookcases, Whale Logistics is recognised as the freight forwarding and logistics player to beat in the Asia-Pacific region. As Australia’s first digital freight forwarder, Whale is setting new standards for innovation, efficiency, and leadership in the space.

Managing Director Ryan Cummings stepped into the industry right out of high school, working for several high-profile freight forwarding firms. He founded Whale Logistics in 2006 to fill the gaps he saw in technology and customer service while making his bones in the industry. The years that followed brought steady growth and a reputation for doing precisely what he’d set out to do—build a technology-powered global company that delivers exceptional customer service at every level.

Being all about “the why” gives Whale an edge in understanding customer needs and providing a clear path to execution, which is critical in these uncertain days. “With our focus on continuous improvement, understanding deeply gives us the ability to review and show them the data behind what's going on, and then offer initiatives designed to reduce costs and improve margins.”

“Our focus on technology is very simple. It's got to provide value to our clients,” he recently told VENTURE. “Many of our small to medium-sized customers aren't necessarily tech-savvy or focused on technology, so we provide them with tools that can help them manage that can better manage their supply chains and achieve better value so they can grow and prosper. Our technology delivers value to the client through process efficiency and greater visibility. Our people, partners, and technology deliver our customers certainty, control, and service.”

The company’s technology brand, Vision Technologies, offers a state-of-the-art platform that enables clients to streamline orders and deliveries that guarantees costs reduction. They’ve also taken a strong lead in robotic process automation internally, automating their entire workflow from data entry through task management and completion.

Whale takes an asset-light approach to the business, orchestrating the movement of commerce as a service organisation. They specialize in sea and air freight, customs clearance, e-commerce solutions, distribution center services, and B2C parcel delivery. Their global reach covers APAC, EMEA, and AMER with a network of 100 offices, throughout Asia, the US, New Zealand, and Australia. A strong network of partners extends coverage to areas where they don’t yet have offices.

As the pandemic has altered the landscape of supply chain management, Whale is on the leading edge of providing solutions for the new normal. “We're seeing a greater push for visibility and transparency, and the need for customers to get better control around their supply chain. A lot of businesses have gone from not being able to get access to certain markets—in particular when China was closed for an extended period—to now facing challenges with getting the stock in and then turning it around at the same time that their warehouses are managing additional incoming stock. They're getting it in and pushing it right back out,” he explained.

“Our clients have definitely been through a lot of supply chain management process changes as our clients adapt to the pandemic. We've been able to be successful by staying close to our customers, identifying what changes they want, and, more importantly, why they need them.”

“We try to keep it simple and always focus on our why. For us, that’s helping businesses grow. All the products and value adds in the world are irrelevant if you don't know what your customer wants and why they want it,” he said. “It's about ensuring that our team stays close to our customers, that we understand what challenges they are facing, especially during COVID-19 so we can help them adapt their supply chains to meet the changing needs of what they're facing. Our clients each have different challenges and one solution doesn't fit all, so we ask questions and identify how we can work with them to achieve their goals.”


Pod people make the difference

This future-focused group keeps all eyes on trends, and one such trend Cummings spotted early on was the need to attract great people. “As a service provider we can have all the technology in the world and all the value-added services, but as a freight forwarder and logistics provider our people are essential to delivering our service. We are a service provider, and essentially, our people are our product. One of the things we started off in the business is how to attract talent that can deliver in the coming years,” he recalled.

Cheekily named after the social groups of whales that move together as individuals in support of the whole, the Whale Pod is special indeed. The pod is equipped for agility, and while their armory may seem simple it lends a powerful advantage in a traditionally paper-heavy industry. Simple solutions, including internet-enabled laptops and enhancing land lines with mobile phones, go a long way to keep everyone on the move and continually connected. “Something as simple as that is something that a lot of businesses don't provide,” Cummings said.

“We’re building a culture where people want to work, and as stated in our mission, learn from both success and from failure. We’ve done a lot of work over the years on motivating people, and I'm pleased to say that earlier this year we were certified by Great Places to Work. Our people have definitely been the core of our success. Our strong client retention is a direct correlation to the talent we've acquired and kept in the business,” he added.

Close customer collaboration is integral to meeting constantly shifting demands. To that end, Whale often helps their customers clarify their needs, and meets the ultimate needs of shippers: certainty.

As Cummings put it, “From day one to day 365 we mapped out exactly what we wanted to deliver to clients and when. We know what we need to learn from our clients, and we take that information and build better value-added solutions for them. We push that information back into our customer service and operations team so that they have an intimate knowledge of the challenges customers face, and so they understand why we’re offering a particular service and why the customer needs it, and we link the two.”

Dedicated account managers nurture client relationships and invest deeply into their success. On the transport operations side, the company’s customer pods team up each operations specialist with a customer service expert.

“That person is solely responsible for delivering containers off the boat or plane to the customer,” Cummings said. “You get a lot of continuity to partner our people to manage certain clients. It's also about understanding and managing challenges and customer driven demands. These customer pods are designed to make sure we have an intimate relationship with the client. If someone is away an equally talented person can fill that void and cause little disruption to our clients’ overall expectations.”

For Whale, there’s more to their existence than simply offering logistics services, and that’s just the way Cummings envisioned it. “We're here to help our customers grow. We're here to help our customers achieve their targets, goals, and KPIs. Everything we do is not just to perform a service, it's to provide a solution that helps our customers because if they grow, we get to grow in turn.”