Specialist forwarder Wilfried Wirtz on today's fruit logistics

"Growth of e-commerce has already been amazing"

At a time of driver and staff shortages and record-high fuel prices, logistics are clearly under pressure. The reduction in fuel prices that recently came into effect had eased the tense situation to some extent. Nevertheless, fresh produce logistics will continue to face several unavoidable challenges in the near future, according to Wilfried Wirtz, managing director of Bornheim-based specialist freight forwarder Franz Wirtz Ltd.

Overall, the fourth-generation family business has probably come through the past pandemic period well, says Wirtz, looking back. "Only when loading and unloading on site did our drivers have to take hygiene and protection rules into account, which in turn meant a certain amount of extra work. Thank goodness, on balance, we probably had hardly any Corona-infected people in our operation, which is why we got off lightly."

Managing Director Wilfried Wirtz

Fruit logistics: trend still upward
The focus of Wirtz in the first three generations was on fruit and vegetable trading. Under the lead management of Martina Zimmermann and Wilfried Wirtz, the transformation to a modern transport service provider took place in the 1980s. "The fruit and vegetable business is, of course, very seasonal. Currently, speaking in the middle of the season, the share of sales is about 50-60 percent of our total orders, while in winter we are talking about 20-30 percent. Otherwise, we deal with the transportation of dairy and meat products, electronics, and pharmaceuticals. The latter area, in particular, is up about 30 percent since the Corona outbreak."

At the beginning of the Corona pandemic, Wirtz also saw a drop in sales in the fruit and vegetable sector, he said. "Within a very short period of time, our sales in this division leveled off at about 70 percent of the previous year's level. In the following months, however, we recorded a significant increase in sales, so that overall we are talking about an increase of 15-20 percent in the past years."

Wirtz was dedicated to the trade in fruit and vegetables from the very beginning

Flexibility and know-how as decisive strengths
According to Wirtz, this growth in fruit logistics can be attributed to several factors. "My existing customers have been able to gain new customers, which in turn is related to the concentration of the market. In addition, numerous specialist forwarders have gone out of business over the years, which is why there are only a few left that can offer our expertise and the flexibility that comes with it."

Within the fruit industry, there have also been some beneficial developments, Wirtz continues. "E-commerce has received an obvious boost in part because of Corona. The growth of our orders in this area is already amazing, and we expect this division to continue to develop strongly in the coming years."

Lack of young talent
Nevertheless, he looks at the lack of young talent both among drivers and office staff with concern. "Trainees are hard to find, not in the least because we logistics service providers work around the clock. With my son Jan (r), my succession is assured, but we need a team around him," says Wirtz, who will be at the helm of the company for exactly 40 years next year. "Despite everything, however, we are in a good position, and it will remain our aim in the coming years to take our customers' problems in terms of logistics and solve them accordingly."

Images: Franz Wirtz GmbH 

For more information:
Wilfried Wirtz
Franz Wirtz GmbH
Johann-Philipp-Reis-Str. 22 
53332 Bornheim
Tel: 02222-9100 0

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