Delivered. meets Michael Wiedemann

The new president of DHL’s Energy Sector is determined to keep supporting customers through challenging times by powering our world together.

Michael Wiedemann is no stranger to the challenges imposed by complex, large-scale projects in remote places. Now the President of DHL’s Energy Sector, Wiedemann began his career as a process engineer in the consumer goods industries. That was a job that took him all over the world, including 2 1/2 years building detergent factories in the wilds of Russia.

Wiedemann’s journey to the global logistics industry was a circuitous one, involving several years in the world of consulting before joining DHL in 2003. He worked first in the Express business before moving on to a variety of commercial roles in the company’s Customer Solutions and Innovation division.

The beginning of the 21st century turned out to be a dynamic and demanding period for the world’s supply chains – and a period of rapid evolution in the logistics sector, too. “When I look back over that time, I’m particularly proud to have been involved in our establishment of a sector approach, beginning in 2006,” says Wiedemann. “I think we were the first in the industry to recognize that large customers are very sector-specific. Each industry has very specific needs, and to serve those customers effectively, we needed to develop sector-specific capabilities. That’s something that only a multimodal and global organization can put in place.”

That strategic shift was hugely important, but DHL has faced plenty of tactical challenges, too – from the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, creating an ash cloud that grounded aircraft across Europe, to the bankruptcy of key suppliers in the global shipping industry. Each of these events, says Wiedemann, caused significant supply chain disruptions, requiring a rapid and carefully coordinated response. “The first thing we always have to do is create transparency on the challenges for our customers. Next we need to identify the viable options we still have available within our operations. Then we can start to connect the capabilities of our divisions with the needs of our customers. And the last part, obviously, is executing while keeping the customer informed of all developments.” That recipe, he adds, is being applied at scale once again during the current coronavirus crisis.

Mission critical

Now that Wiedemann has taken the helm of the Energy Sector, what is his impression of the industry’s challenges and opportunities? “Energy is one of the most diverse and fascinating sectors, and a really important one,” he says. “Our customers are delivering mission-critical infrastructure; a world without access to energy would truly be a poorer place. And many of those customers are involved in the biggest transformation in their history, as they strive to meet some aggressive carbon emission reduction goals. “The sector also has an extraordinarily broad range of supply chain demands,” he adds. “Our customers are involved in exploration and production activities in the most remote parts of the world; they run city-sized refinery operations and chemical plants, and many of them have large retail networks, too. Where else would a single company be involved in such a diverse range of activities?”

Creating visibility and transparency is critical if energy companies are to optimize the performance of their supply chains, says Wiedemann. He believes this is an area where DHL is well positioned to support its customers, offering digital capabilities that can integrate the needs of complex, multimodal logistics networks at a global scale.

“There is also a big opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with our customers,” he says. “Around the world, we see many examples of supply chain management best practice that could be scaled up and adopted more widely.” While the energy sector itself provides some of those examples, Wiedemann adds that the sector also has opportunities to pick up ideas from other industries, such as the automotive sector’s streamlined processes for the management of inbound logistics at its manufacturing facilities.

Collaborating through the crisis

The pressure for greater supply chain efficiency may have increased significantly this year, as the COVID-19 crisis has caused an unprecedented drop in demand for oil, gas and electricity. The impact of the crisis on both supply and demand could be long-lasting, forcing companies to recalibrate their short- and long-term business plans.

The crisis has also made doing business more complex – and for Wiedemann, the end of lockdowns and travel restrictions cannot come soon enough. “At the beginning of the year, I was in in regular face-to-face discussions with our customers,” he says. “Now we have to do everything by video.” Remote meetings may be part of the post-coronavirus new normal, but they make it harder to have the sort of open, multiparticipant discussions that are a key part of DHL’s regular energy industry conferences. “Meeting the world’s energy challenges will require intense collaboration between producers, customers and supply chain partners,” says Wiedemann. “Our new strapline is ‘Powering our world, together,’ and I’m determined to find ways to bring people from across the industry together to discuss issues and share experiences in this uniquely challenging time.” — Jonathan Ward

Published: October 2020

Images: DHL; dpa; Adobe Stock