Geodis-Wilson counting on project cargo business

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Maritime  Logistics  

Is the Geodis-Wilson ribbon cutting ceremony at Houston facility is a harbinger of North American expansion yet to come?By George Lauriat, AJOTThe Geodis Wilson warehouse/office logistics complex lies a couple of Texas sized football fields from the end of the tarmac at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The facility is about ten minutes away from the airport but eventually will be less than two minutes away with the expansion of George Bush Intercontinental Airport’s cargo zone.
In many ways that speaks volumes about Geodis Wilson’s approach to the market. The international freight forwarder is building for the future now and expansion in North America is key.
In his remarks at the Houston ribbon cutting ceremony, Jean-Louis Demeulenaere, CEO of the parent Geodis, noted the importance of the US market to the future growth, when he said, “US activities account for $530 million in revenue for Geodis, and Geodis employs over 470 people here [US], doing business with over 5,000 customers. We consider the US market to be a central part of our development strategy and for the deployment of our service offering around the world.”HISTORY – WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Although Geodis-Wilson is one of the world’s largest logistics providers, in some respects the group has slipped under the radar, particularly in North America. Part of the reason for the lack of brand recognition relates to what’s in a name? Many of the individual pieces are highly recognizable but an aggressive buying spree that started in 2008 has vaulted the group into the top three or four transportation/logistics conglomerates in Europe.
The freight management company is composed of a number of parts that were fitted together under the umbrella of the Geodis Group. Geodis Wilson is the result of the merger between Geodis Overseas, forwarding arm of the Geodis Group, and TNT Freight Management, formerly known as Wilson Logistics, a 164-year-old company with Scandinavian roots. In 2008, the Geodis Group also acquired Rohde & Liesenfeld (R&L), a German-based international forwarder and merged these operations into Geodis-Wilson. Earlier this year, Geodis-Wilson acquired “IBM Global Logistics” adding another 180 people to the US part of the company’s global network.
The Geodis portion of the name is part of the inheritance from the parent firm. Geodis, the parent company of Geodis-Wilson, was founded in 1995, and itself was a spin off of the non-rail freight transport division of the French national railway company SNCF. In 2008, SNCF bought the remaining stake (the rail company had retained 42%) for approximately $1.71 billion, creating the base for the current conglomerate.
Interestingly, the “Wilson” brand name, which had some traction in North America, was brought back with the TNT Freight acquisition. TNT had dropped the Wilson name after it acquired the Scandinavian forwarder. Phillippe Gilbert, Executive Vice President of Geodis–Wilson, described the process as “a merger of equals” from which was born the new Geodis-Wilson brand name.
Like many international logistics companies Geodis-Wilson is organized both geographically and by markets. Geodis-Wilson has a number of units or “vertical markets” such as Automotive, High Tech, Health/Pharmaceutical, Consumer and Industrial Projects. The ‘Industrial Projects’ unit is designated to handle over-sized movements such as the relocation of a factory, power generation, construction, mining projects and the oil and gas industry. Basically, the Industrial Projects division handles the company’s project cargo business.
Philippe Somers, the division’s Senior Vice-President, in an interview with the AJOT, explained the expansion in Houston was a logical choice for the Industrial Projects’ because of the “proximity to decision makers.”
Somers’ when asked about the project cargo business said that Geodis-Wilson has traditionally had a strong foothold in North and West Africa, the Middle

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American Journal of Transportation