Raben Group has branches in 13 European countries, employs a total of 10,000 employees, and dispatches over 8,500 trucks on the road each day. However, it all started really inconspicuously, with a small Dutch family business. Today, the values characteristic of family-owned organisations are still important for the company, a fact that fosters employee engagement and customer loyalty to the brand. It also facilitates expansion into foreign markets.
“A family-owned company has an advantage over other businesses because it treats customers and employees as family members. That is why we offer logistics ‘with a human face’. Partnership and loyalty fit this style of cooperation. We have many long-term customers. Their business has been changing over the years and we adapt to them. We are partners and together we respond to the challenges which emerge. We also grow together. This constant development is inscribed in the DNA of our company,” says Ewald Raben, CEO Raben Group. – “We aim to standardise our warehouses across Europe. They should have the same set-up, the same processes and IT systems. For us and for our customers, standardisation means optimisation and the highest quality of provided services.”
Birth of the global brand
In 1931, in the small town of Winterswijk in the Netherlands, Jan W. Raben, grandfather of the current CEO, began transporting local farmers’ products to market. He started a company that is a global brand today. The next milestone in the history of Raben Group was when the founder’s son, Theo Raben, took over the helm of the company in 1960 and started to develop the transport of textiles to and from Poland. But the first step abroad was taken by the grandson, Ewald. He knew the company inside out; already, at the age of 10, he washed trucks on Saturdays, and later he worked as a truck driver while at college. After the transformation of 1989, he spotted the opportunity to develop the Polish market and travelled to Poland with the aim of setting up a branch of Raben. It was then that he bought a map of Poland and marked twelve locations in different parts of the country, which were later to become company branches.
It started with 12 employees and one rented warehouse. Today, Raben has over 150 branches in 13 European countries, employs over ten thousand people and has about 1,200 million square metres of its own warehouse capacity. The last 29 years have been a history of continuous development of the company and dynamic expansion into foreign markets, and one of the secrets of the success is the skilful combination of the best of a family business with models taken from corporate management.
Expansion into Europe
Raben Group developed as it accompanied its customers on their road to business success. In 2002, Fresh Logistics Polska appeared on the market, specialising in servicing fresh products that require a controlled temperature from +2 do +6 and from 0 do +2C (UltraFresh) throughout the whole logistics chain.
The period from 2003 to 2010 brought expansion to new markets. In 2003, the first branch was opened in Ukraine, and a year later the operations of Raben Group in Europe covered Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In 2008, the company entered the Czech and Slovak markets and, after two years, was also present in Hungary. In 2016, the company began to do business in Romania. The next year, the group acquired a 20% stake in the Italian company SITTAM, and has owned 51% of the company since 2019. The decision to intensify the group’s presence in Italy stemmed from the fact that the country is the sixth export destination in terms of turnover.
The German market is very important for Raben Group. The company is building up its position there organically and through acquisitions. In 2005, Birkart Systemverkehre was taken over. In 2011, the network of German terminals was expanded through the purchase of Wincanton. In the following years, more companies joined. Currently, Raben has its own independent transport network in Germany, with 34 own branches.
Bulgaria joined the Raben family in 2019, when the company opened its first branch in Sofia.
The Group made the decision to launch Raben East in 2017, complementing the Raben portfolio with international road transport services, including regular groupage connections to Eastern countries, as well as customs agency and advisory services with regard to organising transport to Eastern markets. The company services countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Road to success
As one of the fastest-growing European companies in the freight transport and logistics industry, Raben Group takes full advantage of the market opportunities which emerged with the opening of European markets and the free flow of goods. Raben Group offers comprehensive logistics services: contract logistics, road network (domestic, international and East), transport of fresh products with the Fresh Logistics brand, full truckloads (FTL) and intermodal transport, sea and air freight. The main industries served by the company in 2019 were food (27%), consumer technologies (21%), automotive (20%), retail (12%) chemicals (11%), non-food fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) (9%). Road transport, which is responsible for 66% of the Group’s turnover, offers great opportunities, but it also poses challenges that Raben reacts to every day by adapting its network of groupage connections in response to the expectations of customers from all over Europe.
The activities aimed at creating a network of international connections perfectly fit into the mission and vision of the company. Moreover, since trucks with the Raben logo can be seen on many transport routes, there is no doubt that, each day, the Group strives to be “one axle ahead” of its competitors.
Development through innovation
Development is written into the DNA of Raben Group. Hence, the company constantly invests in the transport network and optimises processes and IT systems, which translate into fast and on-time deliveries. For many years now, the Group has been focusing on automation and robotisation of processes and services on different levels: physical processes, IT processes, and also robotic processes automation (RPA).
“When it comes to automation, we opt for advanced IT solutions, such as platforms automatically transmitting information to our customers, platforms presenting ETA (estimated time of arrival), etc. With respect to automation and warehouse robotisation, we are implementing devices measuring shipments, autonomous or semi-automatic forklifts, as well as ‘co-botic’ arms, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and many other solutions increasing the effectiveness of warehousing and transport processes. With respect to RPA (robotic process automation), these are implementations of software robots supporting or replacing users’ work in particular applications (WMS/TMS/FK) or at the interface of various IT systems” – says Zbigniew Kępiński, Genius Lab (R&D) Manager, Raben Group
Socially responsible business
People are the greatest asset of Raben Group: an experienced and engaged team focused on exchanging experience and achieving goals together. These “people with drive” build the right atmosphere at work and oversee the standard of transport services, as a result of which Raben stands out against rival transport companies.
Trust also means a responsible business. Raben Group is aware that it does not operate in a separate social space. Development, growth and innovation translate into quality of life in the environment. The foundation of sustainable operations is dialogue with the society. That is the reason that Raben has organised dialogue sessions with stakeholders. Based on their outcome, the company has developed a strategy of social engagement which is determined by areas of support that are important for local communities, namely education, safety and ecology. In accordance with its corporate social responsibility (CSR) vision, the company wants to set sustainable trends in the sector which bring added value to the environment.
“As a socially responsible company, we care about ethics in the entire value chain while building an organizational culture based on honesty, transparency and mutual respect. In business, one of the elements that guides us is the fair play approach. Fair play is a universal principle which works not only in sports. We believe that relations based on mutual honesty build a better tomorrow. We want every kilometre covered by our trucks to bring us closer to a better future and social welfare. Therefore, every year we invest in more efficient and environmentally friendly transport solutions, we plant trees neutralizing tons of CO2, and we also transport thousands of pallets for Food Bank free of charge. We believe that it will help us actively support the implementation of the UN sustainable development goals: responsible production and consumption, economic growth and climate action. Responsible transport is necessary.” – explains Ewald Raben.