Simon Joseph: How 20 Years’ Experience Led to Total Logistics Management

Clock  9 minutes to read

After 20 years in logistics operations at HFS, Simon Joseph has seen pretty much everything – from how the freight industry has developed in general to the finest details of transporting cargo by sea, land and air. That’s why he’s just been promoted to Total Logistics Manager and heads up our department delivering an overarching service for clients across the globe.

We caught up with him just as he’d finished moving his team into their new office at our Ipswich HQ.

How would you describe your role at HFS?

I’m heading up the new department here to focus on our Total Logistics Management service for customers. It’s something we’ve actually been doing for years under another name for our biggest client, but we know it’s a service that more and more companies could benefit from. We basically work as an in-house forwarder for the customer – we are their logistics team, so they don’t have to deal with any of that side in their own building.

We do everything for them. We do all their commercial documentation, we liaise with all their suppliers, their customers and consignees, and we take away all the hassle for them. It’s a varied job – looking after everything from road, ocean, air, warehousing, customs questions, letters of credit, and more. Literally anything & everything involved within international trade, we do it here.

What does Total Logistics Management mean for customers?

On a basic level, Total Logistics Management means customers will not have to deal with lots of different people when transporting freight by rail, road, sea and air. We’ll handle it all for them, globally.

Logistics is a challenging and ever-changing environment, where keeping on top of regional regulations, having a huge network of global partners and the know-how to effectively move products around the world is vital. We bring all of this to customers under one roof using our 130-strong team of logistics experts, warehousing and transport infrastructure, and global network to deliver effective logistics solutions. And all with the added benefit of one point of contact within Hemisphere, where our team’s overarching view brings everything together in a completely coordinated way.

Our Total Logistics Management service allows clients to be able to trust Hemisphere with their logistics so that they can focus on other areas of their business. Whether that be on product development, exploring new markets, sales, marketing, IT, etc. This service is easily scalable to clients’ requirements and growth.

What makes Hemisphere Freight Services unique?

We don’t portray ourselves as the cheapest option, because the service we provide goes beyond most forwarders. It’s a problem when most pitch themselves as cheap and cheerful, and then people choose the cheap option but lose all the service. We’ve had instances where customers have gone elsewhere due to cheaper rates, but have come back to us pretty much instantly.

The strength of our company infrastructure, coupled with our independent global partner network and team of experienced logistics experts enables us to tailor our services specifically around our customers’ products and individual requirements. Our service definitely means value-added in terms of what we do for customers – the depth of knowledge within our team of the rules, regulations and bureaucracy that come with the supply chain business can potentially save clients a great deal of money, and ensure they avoid some painful situations.

For example, freight costs for one client were reduced by £15,000 on a single consignment thanks to our familiarity with routes and schedules which allowed us to utilise different modes of transport to ensure enough product arrived to the assembly line on time whilst using more cost-effective modes to save on the overall cost to our clients business.

Our awareness of the differences between DAP and DDP saved another around US$150,000 on a large consignment. Meanwhile, another firm who sadly didn’t heed our advice on getting everything signed off locally on a DDP contract lost out to the tune of US$65,000 and had their cargo stuck in customs for a few months!

What brought you to HFS 20 years ago?

Before HFS, I was doing IT support, but the company I was working for went into administration. They used to supply Hemisphere with office furniture and were friends with Andy Perrin, the managing director here. They were sympathetic to the staff’s loss of employment and introduced me to Andy on the same day they let me go.

This was the day after Boxing Day, so it was a hell of a time to be told I’d lost my job. I was made redundant at 9.00am, came for an interview at Hemisphere at 12.00 and was offered a new job within about four hours of losing the old one! The whole thing was a whirlwind – I hadn’t known I’d be looking for a job, and didn’t even have a CV.

I had to be honest with Andy as it was a total change in direction, and quite different to what I’d been used to, but he really sold it to me! I loved the idea of being involved with getting freight and goods to the places they needed to be, so people can do business, live their lives and make things happen. I started as a junior logistics administrator, mainly working on the European side at that point.

How has the job changed since then?

The industry was totally different then to what it is now. There weren’t many hurdles to jump to get a shipment out of the country, all your customs entries were post-shipment, and with European shipments you didn’t even have customs to worry about. It was so easy back in 2001. There was hardly the level of rules and regulations that we’re currently dealing with.

When I started here at Hemisphere it was like a small family business, based at The Hythe in Colchester. We probably only had around ten or fifteen staff members here and a small office in Heathrow where there were about five or six people. The industry was so different then, everyone knew each other and it was a different atmosphere – a lot more relaxed and laid back.

Now, the industry is far more professional, we’re more focused – and a whole lot busier! There are so many more rules, regulations and different things you need to do now. Back in the day, we had a fax machine and that was it. You’d type out the booking on Word, print it off and fax it. Now, because everyone’s got their own booking system, you’re going online first via one system, and then via another, and so on.

This is where our Total Logistics Management, Compass tracking system and warehouse management process make things so much easier for clients. There’s all the organisation and visibility without the hassle.

“At Hemisphere, our service definitely means value-added in terms of what we do for customers. You get what you pay for. We go above and beyond for our clients and it is great when they trust us with their big picture requirements. This allows us to create significant efficiencies across their business, which is where we make real impact in terms of time and cost.”

What’s been your biggest highlight?

I think the highest point really was being handed Hemisphere’s biggest account to look after, as it showed they had a lot of faith in what I’d done. They are a very important client to us and it was an honour to be given that responsibility. Total Logistics Management has generally evolved out of our experience with this client, as they use all modes of shipment to and from locations all over the world, as well as all kinds of warehousing requirements.

We do a lot of cross-trade, which means shipping from one location outside of the UK to another elsewhere around the world, so it doesn’t always come into the country. That’s part of what Total Logistics Management is about – managing customers’ supply chain for them and taking away unwanted administration work.

It is always such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work so closely with clients – as if I am actually one of their team – and to have the ability to make a positive impact, not only for Hemisphere but our clients’ businesses also.

 

What’s been your biggest challenge?

To be honest, it’s always evolving and every year seems to throw something new our way. But realistically, in the 20 years I’ve been working here, the single biggest challenge has been Brexit, by a long shot. And I think most people would tell you the same.

Covid was tough, but I’d probably say Brexit trumped it. It’s still an ongoing issue – whether it’s a lack of trailers to basic customs knowledge or customers knowing what is needed to complete a trade within Europe. I’m sure it’ll all fall into place, but it’s been one hell of a learning curve for those who were under-prepared.

 

What are you most excited about for the future?

Developing this Total Logistics Management team, to be honest. We’ve been a team of three now for quite a number of years, and it’s going to be nice to have new challenges and to bring on board new customers. I’m looking forward to branching out and learning new things, even though I’m 20 years in, now. It’s great to take on new responsibilities and learn more about our industry, because rules and regulations in different countries are ever-evolving, and we have to keep on top of everything!

Want to talk about your freight?

For more information on our integrated logistics offering, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today.