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Press article IFPTA

Three sided article about Fr. Meyer’s Sohn in the IFPTA (International Forest Products Transport Association) Journal

Your paper - In the hands of specialists

Paper may be called one of the world's most durable mediums, and it has certainly stood the test of time. However, there are few other products in the world that require such specialized skill and proficiency in its handling. Paper itself is extremely sensitive. A small tear or cut can damage an entire paper roll requiring repair and reconditioning before it can be processed.

"We like to say that your paper is the hands of our specialists," said Marc Meier, CEO of Fr. Meyer's Sohn (FMS). "And we are proud to have an outstanding level of knowledge in the industry."

With over a century of experience, FMS has developed unrivaled expertise in the shipping and logistics of paper, pulp, wood and other forest products. Handling up to 14 million tons of per year, FMS prides itself on being one of the world's largest specialized forwarder and Europe's largest independent logistics specialist for paper and pulp.

"We are Europe's largest shipping company specializing in forest products, and yet we want every customer to feel like they are our only client," said Meier.

At the heart of this German family-owned business is the know-how of its 675 employees in 35 locations around the world. The company's headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, near Elbbrücken and Freeport, manages a global marketplace. With over 40% of its total business, Central Europe is still FMS's main market, although other markets in EMEA, North and South America, and Asia are growing extensively.

A wide range of forest products currently comprise 70% of the company's business. Paper and paper products, including recovered paper, make up three-fourths of FMS's cargo. Pulp, wood and wood products, including laminate, wood pellets, and fresh wood round out the remaining 25%. As a whole, FMS handles more than double the volume of its nearest competitor. "Globally considered, we are positioned far ahead in terms of volumes, our worldwide locations, and the breadth of our product portfolio," said Meier.

FMS has developed a comprehensively tailored logistics suite of services for its customers. For handling paper, pulp and wood, options can include breakbulk (partial or complete charter) or containers (LCL or FCL import/export), overland by truck and rail, or by air freight. FMS also partners with Interrijn to provide barge transport, with approximately 50 vessels currently under contract.

FMS can provide highly customized services as well, such as prior and subsequent handling, load control, transport escort, storage, consulting for optimal load securement, import and export clearance, customs clearance, marine insurance, and inventory management. Marcus Pyroth, CEO for FMS Central Europe, emphasized the importance of avoiding damage during paper transport as a part of meeting customer expectations. "These kinds of minor damages can occur very quickly and have a major impact," said Pyroth. As a service to its customers, FMS dedicates a technical department for loss prevention and cargo securing. When damage is claimed by a customer, FMS technicians check the cargo's securing for anomalies to help improve the company's standards and procedures. "For example, we employ punch testers to help analyze and evaluate," said Pyroth. "And we will also use moisture measurements and drying agents as part of our repertoire for continuous improvement."

Because of the company's decades of experience in paper logistics, FMS has become a well-respected specialized handler for the recycling industry. "We provide reprocessing plants at home and abroad with waster paper, cardboard, and cartons, which is also part of our environmental mission" said Meier.

It is self-evident, explains Meier, that the environment and our natural resources must be protected. Whenever possible, FMS will explore the potential for more environmentally efficient transportation with the customer, such as using inland waterways or rails instead of overland roads. When trucking is the best option, FMS's vehicles are as environmentally friendly as possible. "Our fleet is one of the most modern fleets available, using the latest state of the art technology," said Meier, "and our drivers received regular training on how to get themselves and their cargo safely to its destination."

As one of the largest independent cargo agents in the world, FMS started from a rather smaller vision. On September 15, 1897, Friedrich Hugo Ernst Meyer founded Fr. Meyer's Sohn (FMS) as a shipping company. Meyer established the young company's first headquarters in a 35-square-meter office space in Brandstwiete, a small alley in Hamburg's old town.

Fourteen years later, the company was growing quickly with 11 employees and successfully handling its first forest products cargoes. By 1919, FMS was expanding, starting a specialized paper department and opening a branch office in Lübeck.

By the end of the 1930s, FMS employed 100 people and had 55 trucks under contract. Taking advantage of the increasing exports from the Saxony and Thuringia paper mills, FMS trucks would transport imported good from the port of Hamburg to Saxony and return loaded with paper.

After the end of World War II, the company gradually built itself up again with a new focus for the now West German company. With the cancellation of contracts from East German paper mills, FMS focused its pulp mill division on the Austrian paper industry. This pioneering step would soon lead to opening markets in England and overseas, beginning FMS's transformation into a global company.

When standardized containers began appearing in the transport section during the 1970s, FMS saw its early potential and the company's paper business expanded again, particularly in the Scandinavian markets. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, FMS reunited with East Germany and began making its first contacts with the collective papermaking combines in Russia and other Eastern European countries.

The leap to a truly global company would follow the opening of an office in Antwerp, followed by overseas partnerships and investment, and the opening of representative offices in China. Looking ahead to secure the future, FMS is planning to open several new offices in Asia, Columbia and Chile within the next two years.

"We have evolved over the past 30 years from sea freight forwarders to international logistics providers," said Meier. "We are proud that one of our particular strengths lies in the analysis of customer-specific supply chains, identifying and implementing the most optimal logistics solution for our customers' specific needs."

Digital technology and the importance of electronic data payments (EDP) are other areas where FMS is assuming a leadership role. The customer's perception of their benefits from using a certain logistics company is highly dependent on the performance of the entire process, explained Olaf Rathgeb, CTO and Member of the Executive Board, no matter where it might lie within the logistics of purchasing and distribution.

"Nowadays, it is no longer sufficient for a successful logistics provider to focus on their own performance," said Rathgeb. "Rather, the logistics process must be realized by taking care of the customer's point of view and finding a global optimum of logistics services to meet their demands."

FMS takes this responsibility seriously, exploring innovative approaches for digital process technologies and finding methods to implement those solutions. The company also continues to invest heavily in products and solutions to help its customers uncover answers amidst the increasing digitalization of the economy. Recently, a large investment was made in FMS's technology and infrastructure systems to improve customer loyalty, visibility, and collaboration.

"We want to give our customers a competitive advantage," said Rathgeb, "providing them ways to lower costs for their entire supply chain as well as helping them find innovative solutions they can pass on to their own customers."

FMS continues to build on the legacy began years ago, working hard to find the right combination of experience and innovation in forest products logistics, especially as a dedicated partner to the paper industry. "Treating every customer as our most important priority is a substantial part of FMS's past, present and future success," said Meier. "The company will continue to grow and we look forward to tomorrow."

Nadine Kinscher-Masur

Corporate Head of Marketing de Fr. Meyer's Sohn


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