Inside the integration of UTi + DSV in Germany

1 May DSV Air & Sea completed the merger with UTi Worldwide in Germany; going forward, all employees will be working together from joint offices using the same IT systems.

Michael Hollstein cutting office merger cake in Hamburg

After a period of waiting for the deal to close – and not knowing if it would go through – and then waiting for the physical integration to start – we are now finally coming together and working as one DSV. There’s a lot of positive synergy effects and energy coming from this.

– Michael Hollstein, Integration Director and newly appointed Industrial Director for DSV Air & Sea, Germany.

Michael (top photo, right) is 45 years old and has been with UTi – now DSV – for 24 years. With the acquisition, Michael transitioned from a role as VP, Nordics – DACH area, to a role as Integration Director and as of 1 May Industrial Director. In this new role, he will be responsible for the industrial clients team focusing on mass production. “There’s a lot of potential for growth, so I’m very eager and excited to get started,” he says.

All hands on deck DSV

Germany is one of the first countries to complete the merger with UTi Worldwide and also one of the biggest DSV countries with the largest integration task. Remembering that the deal was not closed until 22 January 2016, and that communication between DSV and UTi was not allowed till this date, 1 May is an impressive achievement.

Michael Hollstein, who has been heading up the integration efforts together with the German executive management, tells a story of German efficiency – a controlled, carefully planned and disciplined team effort where an open and honest dialogue with authorities, clients, business partners and employees has played a major part:

It really is due to a tremendous team effort. You can have a brilliant plan, but if people are not on-board, it’s useless. Right from the start, we have emphasized dialogue and keeping the information flowing to all parties. There’s been some expression of uncertainty and scepticism among employees, naturally so, but we have dealt with this in a professional manner, and we have managed to get all hands on deck.

DSV office staff in Kelsterbach DE Getting together at our Kelsterbach office 

Bonding through our clients

Before actually coming together physically, the glue that already united UTi and DSV was a strong client focus – and the vision of becoming an even better player in the market with a great value proposition. According to Michael, this ingrained culture was very evident from the beginning of the acquisition process. 

Before the integration could start (before closing), no interaction between teams was allowed, so sales efforts could not be coordinated. Instead, the industrious teams on both sides would talk openly, albeit separately, with clients about the possible merger, allowing the clients to get an idea of what the combined business would be able to offer. So without being aligned, the two teams became aligned with the clients.

For this reason, joining forces and sales teams after closing has been very smooth:

There has been a great willingness from both UTi and DSV to come together, to take things further and start playing in the Champion’s League – with a greater footprint, much larger network and wider range of services. And our clients have been immensely curious about our joint capabilities; all of a sudden they also start noticing a lot of DSV trucks on the road, and they wonder what’s in it for them. We have been very conscious about making sure that we got off to the best start, and we haven’t lost any clients.

The most important thing: Taking care of clients

While the integration of two great companies is about a lot of practical things – legal matters, office moves, bandwidth, system migration etc. – Michael, when pressed, maintains that keeping the clients happy and on-board is the most important thing during an integration process. A significant loss of clients, and the business plan would also be lost: However, he insists: "You have to do it all – and it’s not easy: If the employees start to leave or become very demotivated, or you miss a legal deadline, or your systems fail, you also have a big problem. Still, my integration advice is don’t get absorbed in internal things to the degree that you lose your reason for existing".

In many ways, integration is only just starting

Integrating the business is a milestone, but not the finish line. Having put people under the same roof, Michael says: "Now, we can really get to know each other, getting the teamwork up and running and truly working together to combine the best of both worlds. And I think it’s important that it’s a two-way exchange. You have to understand history to develop the future".

According to Michael, the best of both worlds is utilising UTi’s strong global sales organisation/approach, emphasis and expertise on industrial verticals combined with DSV’s strong financial and IT set-up and local empowerment. An already shared client focus as well as a direct, open and honest communication style and flat organisational structure will make a very strong platform to build the new organisation from.

DSV office staff in Rheinvorlandsstr. DE
No office merger without cake - in Mannheim, Rheinvorlandsstrasse 

A history and future of growth and great possibilities

As the new organisation builds, new business opportunities will become even clearer, and people will start to unite around and become motivated by real possibilities. A concrete example from Michael is the training of UTi staff in the DSV Air & Sea Transport Management System Cargowise:

It’s a more user-friendly and very transparent system allowing the individual freight forwarder to monitor the profit or loss of each shipment at the end of each day. That’s highly motivating. Being a part of a larger and stronger player while being able to keep track of own performance and knowing that the organisation favours internal recruitment for both mid and high level positions means that people see they can make a career in DSV.

And since both companies are known for fast growth and expansion, and the new DSV is the 4th largest 3PL in the world with a very strong footprint and network, Michael has a very positive outlook on the future: "We’re all playing in a different league now, and the possibilities for both clients and employees are far reaching".


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