In the overseas transport business, the sharp rise in shipping prices during the COVID-19 phase has normalised. With supply chains regaining smooth operations in 2023, some overcapacities have become apparent. These factors are putting pressure on margins, accentuated by a stronger Swiss franc, said Bertschi Group.
As a result, sales fell significantly by 15% to CHF 960 million (€1 million).
“Following a record year in 2022, we faced a more challenging economic environment last year. Nevertheless, we are satisfied that we were able to achieve a positive business result despite these economic headwinds,” said Hans-Jörg Bertschi, executive chairman of Bertschi Group.
First green supply chains realised across Europe – target of CO2 neutrality by 2050
With innovative customer pilot projects, several nearly CO2-neutral door-to-door supply chains across Europe could be realised in 2023 by linking intermodal rail transport with trucks powered by biofuels. Bertschi already handles 90% of all European land transports via intermodal rail transport, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by 230,000 tonnes annually.
The focus of these projects was on optimising the first and last mile of the supply chain, which are handled by road. Hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) is used as a fuel to power both the terminal vehicles and the trucks. This allows CO2 emissions to be reduced by up to 90% compared to conventional road transport.
Following these successful implementations, the concept is to be extended to other supply chains. These are important steps for Bertschi Group to achieve CO2-neutral production by 2050.
Opening of chemical logistics centre in China as largest single investment
After several years of planning, approval and construction, Bertschi officially opened its new chemical logistics centre in Zhangjiagang (China) in mid-2023 with a ceremony attended by customers, political representatives and employees. The storage and filling centre has a capacity of 25,000 tonnes of liquid products stored in tankcontainers and 25,000 tonnes of packaged goods as well as automatic filling systems.
It is strategically located in the Yangtze River Delta, in close proximity to Shanghai.
“The new hub enables us to support our customers locally with their expansion plans in China and further develop the import market for liquid speciality chemicals. It also ideally complements Bertschi’s global logistics network and enables worldwide door-to-door supply chain solutions,” said Jan Arnet, CEO of Bertschi Group.
In addition to this largest single investment in the company’s history, Bertschi also pushed ahead with various logistics infrastructure projects in Europe and continued to invest in the expansion of its container fleet. The fleet grew by 7% to 44,000 units in 2023.
Major progress was also made in the company’s digital transformation. This has enabled Bertschi to consolidate its leading market position in terms of visibility and connectivity in chemical logistics transport chains.
In European transport, for example, customers are informed of deviations from planned data in real time via the automated transmission of scheduled arrival dates and therefore have full transparency regarding the delivery status of their products. Another milestone is about to be reached with the planned replacement of the previous systems for global transport planning and processing with a fully integrated, innovative in-house development in 2024.
The global economic situation is likely to remain challenging in 2024, influenced by geopolitical uncertainties. Bertschi’s global business in particular is therefore proving to be increasingly volatile and challenging in the new year. In contrast, the decline in transport volumes caused by the recession in European industry is expected to have bottomed out in the second half of 2023.
Demand in Bertschi’s European business is likely to stabilise at relatively low levels in 2024.
“The renewed increase in global supply chain disruptions at the start of 2024, the major geopolitical uncertainties, and the volatility in the markets make it difficult for us and our customers to provide an outlook. One positive effect should be that customers are increasingly setting up containerised safety stocks with us so that they can access their products flexibly and promptly,” commented Jan Arnet.