As FIDI Focus publishes its third State of the Industry Report, we hear the views of four FIDI 39 Club Board members on the prevalent forces that will affect the future global moving and relocation sector
FIDI Focus has launched its State of the Industry Report 2023. Discussing developments in areas from the impact of COVID and ongoing supply chain challenges to digitalisation and the sustainability agenda, the third edition of this annual publication features opinions from a cross-section of the global mobility industry – including the next generation of leaders, whose perspectives will be instrumental in shaping the business in the future.
We spoke to four members of FIDI’s 39 Club to get their thoughts, some of which feature in the report.
On global supply chain crises:
Jackie Stouffer, FIDI 39 Club Vice President, of JK Moving Services, says the upheaval caused by recent supply chain challenges has driven change in the business that will benefit it in the long term – although competition is becoming stiffer than ever.
‘The supply chain crises have caused disruption in our industry in various and unique ways,’ she says. ‘The obvious conclusion that many people jump to is that these issues have had an overall negative impact – but I disagree.
‘While the costs of a physical move – fuel, freight, material and labour – are certainly higher, this has played out in various ways relating to overall impact on business.
‘Private individuals are uprooting their lives, paying the cost of an international move to relocate to other countries, where they can now work remotely full-time; while corporate accounts that offer the option of a lump-sum payment or a move are experiencing a growing number of people opting for the company-paid move, to protect themselves from uncertainty.
‘Most importantly, the crises have caused disruption in our industry in the form of innovation.
Companies have had to adapt or be left behind in terms of digitalisation to service their customers, sustainability to decrease energy costs, and new and creative ways of recruiting and retaining their workforce in an era when remote work is increasingly feasible.
‘The pressure is on for our industry to adapt and keep up with this changing environment – and I only believe this pressure will increase in the year ahead.’
On recruitment challenges:
Staff recruitment and retention is among the most difficult of the challenges thrown up by the past year, says Andrew Chng, FIDI 39 Club Board Member, of Vanpac Group Asia, Singapore. He expects this to be an ongoing issue, too.
‘Most moving companies are realising that retaining talent in the current environment is one of the toughest problems to tackle – even happy employees leave,’ he says. ‘Coupled with a tough
recruiting market, 2022 was a year of catch-up for many companies, where demand is outstripping supply in the labour market.
‘This gap is also felt in move coordination teams, where the ever rising freight rates and constant delays have made even seasoned coordinators throw in the towel because of the constant demands and stress brought about by the situation and dealing with irate clients.
‘2023 ought to see many moving companies being more prepared and ready for global mobility to truly restart. With this readiness, supply and demand gaps should be less, compared with 2022.
‘That said, moving companies have to continue to be creative in retaining and hiring talent. Gone are the days when employees stay with only one company for life – and besides taking care of your employees, it is also important for job roles to be redesigned, and processes redrawn, so replacements can be trained more quickly for roles, while still maintaining high levels of quality.
‘With all this comes higher overhead costs, and – coupled with the rising cost of living, higher fuel, and related outgoings – will mean the price of moves will steadily increase. Moving companies that are unable to charge a premium on their services, or unable to raise their prices, may find it tough to remain.’
Juan Guillermo Diaz, FIDI 39 Club Board member and President of Intramar Shipping SAS, Colombia, says the early progress moving and relocation firms have made in adopting digital technology will be part of the ‘next industrial revolution’, with significant developments on the way that can give notable competitive advantage.
‘Our industry has evolved in this area, but there is a long way to go,’ he says. ‘Nowadays, there are fully automatised warehouses that are part of the new era of technology in the logistics industry; or transport management systems that are connected with AI[artificial intelligence], capable of sending a status report to clients across the world in seconds.
‘Investment in digitalisation is crucial for companies in our industry, and will define the next big players.’
On the sustainability agenda:
Jessica Deutschmann, outgoing FIDI 39 Club President, of Gosselin Group, Belgium, says FIDI’s younger movers put sustainability on their agenda for reasons of responsibility – but also, vitally, to safeguard movers’ future relevance.
‘The FIDI 39 Club has believed for quite some time that environmental sustainability should be on the agenda of every company within our industry, not only for the obvious reasons of playing a part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but because it’s also about staying relevant,’ she says.
‘What exactly does this mean? If we, as an industry, or the companies we work for don’t have a sustainability agenda yet, it will become more and more difficult to retain and hire the right talent and attract the new generations entering the market.
‘Furthermore, our clients are looking to us for projects and initiatives that have an impact on parts of their Scope 3 [emissions]. Therefore, sustainability will only become a bigger part in driving our industry and, in the long run, it will not only have an impact on the reduction of CO2, but also on costs.
The role of younger movers:
Clearly, the opinions of younger movers will have an impact across the industry. However, Stouffer believes they will have the greatest influence in digital transformation. ‘We have essentially grown up with a phone in our hand, and are eager to readily adapt new systems and processes that increase work efficiency,’ she says. ‘I believe young talent can heavily contribute to their company’s increased digitalisation.’
Chng says that younger perspectives will also make a significant impact on the implementation of sustainability and improving customer experience.
‘We live in a world vastly different from the last generation, and who better to understand and connect than young people and their peers,’ he says.
‘I feel that sustainability tends to be the topic that gets left behind in companies, but it is hugely important – we movers get through a lot of materials, and the least we can do is promote materials that are sustainable and can be recycled.’
Deutschmann says: ‘Sustainability is a topic everyone should be concerned about by now.
Nevertheless, the younger generation’s awareness on the matter is definitely broader – and it is worth listening and involving them in the conversation.’
Diaz believes digitalisation, sustainability, recruitment, and logistics difficulties are among the challenges that younger movers will rise to, and that employers should make jobs as palatable as possible to this group. ‘Young professionals must be more involved in how to improve process through innovation and no longer in repetitive tasks. In this sense, the productivity levels will be higher and the balance between professional and personal life better.’