Following a significant expansion of its global network across Africa and Asia in 2019, emergency logistics provider time:matters has had to pivot due to the coronavirus crisis. 

With 26 projects announced, the company ranked as the second most active greenfield investor in the logistics, distribution and transportation business activity in 2019, according to fDi Markets, an FT data service that tracks job- and facility-creating cross-border investments. 

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Founded in 2002 as a spin-off from German flag carrier airline Lufthansa Cargo, the transport solutions provider facilitates the air, rail and road transportation of urgently needed cargo. 

As production facilities have closed, the company’s core business of transporting spare parts, medical samples and other time-critical commodities has shifted to mainly “relief goods”, says Alexander Kohnen, time:matters’ chief executive. “The requests we receive are very diverse,” he adds, and says its global network of more than 500 partners meant time:matters could continue to create transport solutions despite Covid-19.

Global footprint

Adding to its global workforce of 370 and terminals in Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna, time:matters internationalised last year in line with the core markets of its globally operating customers, says Mr Kohnen.

“The expansion, for instance, into the Chinese market and the foundation of a local subsidiary in Shanghai are logical elements of this strategy,” he adds.

Time:matters set up a logistics station in seven Chinese locations last year, including Chengdu, Beijing and Guangzhou, alongside three additional Asian hubs in Singapore, Japan and Thailand. 

Mr Kohnen says this Asian expansion was to offer its customers ways to avoid or mitigate potential expensive supply chain disruptions between dispersed facilities, a “decisive factor” for companies to use its services. 

Switching demand

As the coronavirus spread from its outbreak in China to the rest of the world, demands for time:matters’ services have had to follow suit.

“Just a few weeks ago, breathing masks and protective suits had to be transported to Asia as quickly as possible. Now conditions have changed completely the other way around,” says Mr Kohnen, referring to the increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) in Europe, the US and the rest of the world.

As the pandemic has grounded passenger flights and forced compulsory quarantine measures, the company has enabled its cargo pilots to assume the role of couriers in delivering urgently needed stem cells to blood cancer patients worldwide.

“In these demanding days like these we need to be even more flexible and creative in order to develop transport solutions for our customers,” says Mr Kohnen.

Africa advancement

Following its expansion in Asia, time:matters also set up an additional European distribution centre in Brussels to serve 16 new African locations. Mr Kohnen hopes this network extension will interest customers in the oil, shipbuilding, mining and food industries, as it enables them to avoid “high production downtime costs and contractual penalties”.

In the short term, he expects an increased demand for medical supplies in Africa due to coronavirus, but admits the kind of economic impact on the continent “cannot be accurately predicted at this stage”.

With the coronavirus pandemic imposing immense challenges to global logistics and supply chains in 2020, it appears that the expansion of time:matters’ global footprint in 2019 was particularly well timed. 

This article first appeared in the June-July edition of fDi Magazine. The full digital version of the magazine is available here.