Good combination: Logistics across Europe

Reading time: approx. 5 minutes
Text: Dilsad Budak, Seda Türkyilmaz
Photos: Ekol Group

For years, Ekol has been one of the fastest growing logistics companies in Europe – mainly thanks to an innovative company policy that is both customer- and future-oriented.

The Turkish company’s goal sounds ambitious: ‘We want to be one of the largest intermodal logistics service providers in Europe,‘ says Arzu Akyol Ekiz, Turkey Country Manager at Ekol Logistics. And this is by no means arrogant, because the international company also has a lot to show for itself: Ekol, as an external service provider offering transport, warehouse management, storage, customs clearance and green logistics, is now present not only on Turkish roads but throughout Europe. The intensive work in Ekol’s own research and development (R&D) department offers a major competitive advantage. More than 120 employees there are busy developing and implementing many innovative ideas with their own know-how.

»Our goal is to be one of the largest intermodal logistics service providers in Europe.«

Arzu Akyol Ekiz, Turkey Country Manager at Ekol Logistics

Ahmet Musul, the current chairman and majority owner, founded Ekol 30 years ago. Having previously been employed in the logistics industry, he went into business for himself in 1990 with a handful of employees to implement his own ideas. First he built up a large fleet of trucks, then he expanded the business to include air and sea freight. In 1996, Musul founded its first foreign location with a German branch. Today Ekol has subsidiaries in 13 countries – and continues to grow.

Strong growth despite crisis

Ekol’s rapid success in Europe was not only due to its transport routes, but also to its quality standards. The company maintains two main corridors between Istanbul and Europe. The two routes are mainly operated intermodally outside Turkey. The southern route crosses the Mediterranean Sea from the Port of Sete near Montpellier to Izmir. The second route runs from Istanbul to Trieste in northern Italy. From there there are three block train lines: to Cologne, Ludwigshafen and Ostrava on the Czech-Polish border.

Thanks to an innovative company policy, Ekol recently achieved a turnover of almost 600 million euros. However, since the crisis in the summer of 2018, the Turkish currency has lost around 30 percent of its value, which is having a severe impact on business. Ekol spokeswoman Akyol Ekiz is nevertheless confident: ‘Due to the economic fluctuations, we had to take some measures and switch to more efficient and faster business methods. For example, we are working to increase the turnover of our foreign offices and partner organisations for import transports‘.

Nordic growth

In order tomeet the needs of its customers better in the Scandinavian region as well, Ekol opened a branch in Sweden at the beginning of 2018. Under the name Ekol Nordics, the transports are handled directly from the Gothenburg service centre – as partial loads, full loads and groupage shipments. The Swedish office organises in particular the transport for the automotive, electronics, paper and wood sectors.

Thanks to the Swedish subsidiary, Northern Europe is now more closely linked with Turkey and the other Ekol countries. By the end of 2020, a turnover of 30 million euros is planned in Sweden.

Modern warehouses

When it comes to customer needs, Ekol spares no expense for large investments. In spring 2018, the youngest and most innovative logistics hall in the Sekerpinar region to date went into operation. With an area of more than 220,000 square meters, ‘Lotus‘ is the largest warehouse in Turkey. But this title alone is not enough for Ekol. With the ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and LEED certifications, ‘Lotus‘ was awarded the prestigious FSR certificate of the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) for high safety standards in 2019. It is one of the largest warehouses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa labelled with this award.

Managing director Arzu Akyol Ekiz is enthusiastic about the giant: ‘Our warehouse is as big as 30 football fields. More than 1,300 employees handle warehousing, transport, customs clearance and national distribution services there‘. In total, the three-storey warehouse is 40 metres high and has a total of 247 ramps and four entrances. The environmentally friendly warehouse was built according to the American fire protection standard of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

But that is not all. ‘We are currently preparing for a new environmentally friendly energy investment in Lotus: Solar plants, distributed over an area of 35,000 square meters, are to cover half of our electricity needs,‘ Akyol Ekiz proudly announces.

Ekol owns more than 6,000 environmental friendly vehicles, including tow trucks, trailers and containers.

Strong partner

Ekol now manages more than 6,000 means of transport on the road. However, the company is particularly active in intermodal transport. Every week it organises 52 block trains – i.e. freight trains that travel from the start to the destination station as a unit (identical wagon categories, same consignor and consignee) – between the Port of Trieste and Western and Central Europe, with only its own megatrailers on the way. These trains are fed by RoRo ships, i.e. transport ships for rolling cargo, which have been able to dock in the port of Yalova since the end of 2017.

Alexander Wolter has been Key Account Manager at BPW Bergische Achsen since the end of 2018 and is responsible for major customers of the commercial vehicle supplier from Wiehl. He greatly appreciates the partnership with the Turkish service provider: ‘Ekol naturally has the highest requirements on our solutions and together with our colleagues we make sure that we meet them. Openness and an interest in innovation are at the heart of our cooperation. For example, we are currently testing lighting components from the Ermax range, a brand of the BPW Group, and are looking forward to the results‘. The close partnership is also supported by the contact with the three Ekol branches in Cologne, Mannheim and Munich.

‘Ekol is one of our most important partners,‘ emphasises Hüseyin Akbas, Managing Director of the Turkish BPW subsidiary BPW Otomotiv, based in Istanbul. ‘The company is in a constant state of growth. The quality of its service providers as well as their innovativeness and reliability are therefore particularly important‘. If a vehicle nevertheless has a problem, help has to be available fast. To guarantee the mobility of the Ekol fleet, trained workshops and the right spare parts must always be available. ‘Our worldwide service network with over 3,200 partners and original spare parts supply for high availability and fast maintenance was convincing,‘ explains Akbas.

Sustainable and green

The company implements a sustainable strategy in all areas. One example are the block trains that run three times a day on the route from Trieste to Ludwigshafen. Through the intermodal solutions, i.e. the combination of truck, train and ship, Ekol saves five million kilograms of CO2 and four million litres of fuel every month. Since the new port in Yalova came into operation, RoRo ships no longer dock in the heart of the metropolis, and the number of trucks polluting the chronically congested roads has fallen by hundreds of thousands. The effort pays off: Ekol has already received several awards for sustainability, including the title of ‘Sustainable Logistics Company‘ from Bureau Veritas, the Eco Performance Award and the distinction of ‘Green Office‘ from the Turkish organization of the WWF.

Ekol Group

The Ekol Group, founded in 1990 by Ahmet Musul, employs over 8,000 people. On a storage area of more than one million square meters, the multinational company offers flexible and efficient logistics solutions. With branches in Turkey, Germany, Italy, Greece, France, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Sweden, Ekol is represented at a total of 85 locations throughout Europe.

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