Austria certainly remains an excellent business location: a triple-A credit rating, high level of productivity, social balance, generally high quality of living – all in all, life in this beautiful country works very well. Key economic factors include an affinity to Eastern and especially South Eastern Europe and the image Austria enjoys in these countries; a taxation policy that allows losses from associated companies abroad to be offset; the role the country plays as an intermediary, primarily in the Balkans; and much more.
Banks, insurance companies, countless production and trading companies and above all the Austrian transport sector have made excellent use of this climate. The transport sector has established market shares accordingly: both in transport from West to East and vice versa, and locally within the countries themselves. From the point of view of the transport sector, Austria is and always has been a transit country for traffic from Northern and Western Europe to Central and South Eastern Europe. The Austrian transport sector, especially haulage companies, have understood the significance of establishing operations in Central and South Eastern Europe and establishing networks. These are now fully integrated into their European and even global networks, allowing high-quality transport services to be provided and handled. This high-quality service includes guaranteed delivery times, data communication systems for exchanging information relevant for shipments, bar code and scanning systems which provide up-to-date information on the shipment at all times, and much more. Of course, the necessary infrastructure – primarily terminals and offices – has now been established, which required appropriate investment funding. However, there is still much to be done in this regard in countries in Central and South Eastern Europe, where the differences between the capital cities, major cities and rural areas are still considerable.
As a „hub“, Austria is losing market share in traditional collection and partial load transport due to the increasing number of direct connections, although some creative and innovative haulage companies have been able to at least partially offset these losses by introducing innovative services. For example, DB Schenker has developed a sophisticated traffic system for the distribution of high-tech products in Eastern and South Eastern Europe, which ensures a high degree of security and makes it possible to deliver these products, which generally come from the Far East by air freight, safely to the end customer. The same applies to the distribution in Western and Northern Europe of high-tech equipment manufactured in Eastern Europe.
Another speciality in this area is block trains, which DB Schenker and its partners organise at the Austrian-Hungarian border and the Austrian-Slovakian border for transport to South Eastern Europe and Turkey, and vice versa. At specific locations, such as Sopron on the Austrian-Hungarian border, individual wagons or groups of wagons from Western or Northern Europe are collected and then sent on to their destinations in South Eastern Europe, Greece and Turkey in combined block trains. The number of railway authorities involved and the interfaces and other barriers involved mean this is not an easy undertaking, but – as the more than 2,000 trains running every year prove – it is achieved very successfully.
Other solution approaches can be attributed to real supply chain management, for example, when automobile components from Japan are routed via Vienna, stored temporarily there and then delivered to production plants (OEMs) in Slovakia just in time.
In Austria, and even more so in Eastern and South Eastern Europe, new challenges are to be found in „green logistics“. Innovations are particularly needed here in order to meet the ever more important environmental objectives and boost the image of the entire transport and traffic sectors. Along with a shift from road transport to railways, there is considerable need for action regarding better use of the river Danube. However, a considerable number of measures for optimising traffic flows and saving fuel, as well as a number of other environmentally friendly objectives, have already been implemented.
Austria and the Austrian transport sector thus still have the resources they need for the optimum control of freight and traffic flows via Austria, or originating from Austria, in the interest of their customers. This is all made possible by the excellently trained and highly motivated skilled workers. The two-tier education system, universities of applied science specialising in logistics, and the Institute for Transport and Logistics Management of the Vienna University of Economics and Business provide the foundation for this. In addition, large companies invest considerable amounts in internal training and continuing education.
The author (born in 1948) is chairman of the executive board of Schenker & Co AG and is regional director in the global corporation responsible for the Southern Europe region. The freight forwarding specialist studied at Vienna University of Economics and Business, obtaining a masters degree in social and economic sciences. Elmar Wieland has worked at Schenker & Co AG since 1974.