For the December issue of NavigátorVilágnak (NavigatorWorld) we spoke to Emese Bujtás-Kiss, Managing Director of J.S. Logistics Kft., about the development and history of the Hungarian site.
See the original version of the interview in Hungarian here. Read our translation of the interview below:
Emese Bujtás-Kiss, Managing Director of JS Logistics Ltd.
“Quality is the only effective instrument against the competition.”
JS Logistics Ltd. is one of the players on the Hungarian goods transport market that has succeeded in improving its performance despite the current coronavirus pandemic. Emese Bujtás-Kiss is understandably proud of the growth of more than 30 per cent and says that the most important thing that she has learnt from the pandemic is to expand industry sectors in which the company has previously not been represented. The CEO also spoke to NavigatorWorld about special ways of keeping drivers.
When and in what circumstances was the company established?
I lived in Germany at the time and the founding of JS Logistics Ltd. was my first big job at JS Logistik GmbH where I worked as dispatcher and is a really nice memory for me. I had just left the company Christmas party when the owner of the same name, Jérôme Schüssler, approached me and asked if I would be interested is setting up and managing a Hungarian company as this was how he wanted to start 2006. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and was like a Christmas present. Of course, you have to be in a situation to be able to make the most of such an opportunity, which wasn’t that easy, but I didn’t expect it to be easy. Although we signed the articles of the company in July 2006, the first HGVs weren’t able to start until end November as there were a few problems. Put mildly, it was an exciting start!
What services do you offer your customers and are some sector-specific?
It could, perhaps, be described as a speciality that we try to cover all our customers’ requirements irrespective of the type of transport or transport vehicle. However, the majority of our transport is still in the FTL sector. A further speciality of FTL is train transport which allows us to optimise the driving performance of the HGVs and reduce costs per kilometre. The drivers like train services which aim to ensure our customers get their deliveries at the same time each day – regularly like clockwork.
How has the fleet changed in the past one and a half decades?
Our fleet is flexible in order to respond to our customers’ requirements. In 2022 we want to expand the fleet in proportion to the number of orders.
How difficult is it to find and keep drivers?
The situation on the employment market has been difficult for years. Our priority is to value and keep the drivers we have. For this we have introduced bonuses which may be uncommon in other places e.g., a loyalty bonus, a one-off bonus for weddings and births as well as an endowment policy. We are also proud that our drivers have been with us for an average of 7 years.
Of course, we also experience fluctuation (for example we have to replace colleagues who are retiring) but these are fewer than with the competitors. At the moment we only have Hungarian employees but have also, for some time, been looking at recruiting drivers from other countries and are planning this for the near future.
How has your company dealt with the pandemic up until now and what have you learnt from the crisis?
Our drivers responded calmly to Covid-19. We fulfilled the safety measures requested by our customers or our drivers waited in long queues at the border. Fewer than 10 per cent of our employees were affected by illness. When the first wave occurred, we were sure that we would be able to keep all our colleagues. The drivers also all stayed with us although many were forced to take up to two months holiday. The most important thing we learnt from the pandemic was that we have to expand our customer base in branch sectors in which we were previously not represented.
Can you feel how the latest coronavirus wave is spreading throughout your sector? Here I mean the fluctuations in orders, discouragement amongst customers and increasing problems at border crossings.
At the moment, we are being hindered by the 3G principle in Germany (vaccinated, recovered and tested) which I think is somewhat negligent on the part of the German lawgiver. The vaccination is voluntary in Hungary which means that not all our employees are vaccinated and, even if they are, they may have had a vaccine which is not recognised in Germany. Ongoing PCR tests are also really time consuming. Unfortunately, only vaccinated drivers will be able to work in western Europe in the near future. Customer orders haven’t decreased, quite the opposite – they increased significantly in autumn. However, what is worrying is the increasing price of fuel despite the price cap of 480 Forint. In comparison to September 2021, we had to pay an average of 10 cent more for a litre of fuel in October which many major customers only want to accept with quarterly arrears which means we have to carry the market price increase for three months. Hauliers will never get this price difference back.
What effect does the EU mobility package and competition from the East have on your company’s competitive position?
The mobility package has had less of an impact on us as we moved from West European EU loads to round trips from Hungary and Slovakia years ago. This allows our employees to go home more often which is one of the most important aspects for our drivers at the moment. Our eastern competitors have been on our tail for a long time and the only way to survive against them is to offer quality on the transport market. Our experience shows that inland customers still prefer to work with Hungarian rather than eastern European hauliers.
Can the digitalisation of transport documents offer a competitive edge for hauliers?
The introduction of the electronic consignment note is a long-awaited development which I’m sure will significantly simplify our lives. On the one hand, it reduces work in the procurement and processing of consignment notes and, on the other hand, I think it will bring an improvement in our liquidity due to quicker billing.
With a turnover of almost 4 billion HUF, the company is in 46th place of Hungary’s top goods transport companies 2020. Have you achieved your goals for the year and what are your plans for 2022?
Our goal this year was to achieve the turnover and result of 2019 and, on the basis of current data, we have achieved this and also improved the result by more than 30 per cent. This is ca. 4 per cent above the average for the sector and something which we are very proud of. We also significantly increased the number of employees in our office and will continue to do so next year. By maintaining our current performance, we want to continue to increase turnover and are continuously expanding our fleet. We replaced 25 vehicles this year. The average age of our semi-trailers is one and a half years. In 2022 we want to expand our fleet and are planning the construction of our own premises and warehouse to replace our current rental properties.
Emese Bujtás-Kiss completed her studies at Debrecen University, Faculty of Economics, with a diploma in International Business in 2004. She speaks advanced level German and English at intermediate level. She is a results-driven manager with 15 years’ managerial experience in international road transport and logistics. In 15 years, she has led JS Logistics Ltd. from being a start-up to a company with a turnover of almost 4 billion Forint, 100 employees and profitability which is above the market level and which supplies some of Europe’s biggest production companies. Two years ago, she founded the Hungarian club of logistics directors with quarterly meetings at which members share experiences for improving the quality of Hungarian logistics services.
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