Managing Director Thomas Raff takes stock after one year of the takeover by the Zeitfracht Group.
By Frank Karmeyer
Erfurt. Today, August 1, marks exactly one year since the Zeitfracht Group took over the insolvent book wholesaler KNV. Since then, there has been no standstill at the logistics center in Erfurt-Mittelhausen, as Thomas Raff, managing director of the company now operating as KNV-Zeitfracht, says. Not even due to Corona.
On the contrary: processes were optimized, investments were made in software, and improvements were made in many places to the construction sites that had been found during the takeover of “Germany’s largest book shelf.” About a quarter of the German book market runs through the site in Erfurt, and about 1,000 people are employed here.
Company apparently able to win back market share
Booksellers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland continue to be supplied from Erfurt with books and other items relevant to the book trade, mostly overnight, but this is now also done in time freight trucks. Larger delivery capacities, lower costs – these are the synergies that have already resulted since the takeover. Market share lost during the KNV crisis has been regained, says Raff, as has customer confidence.
“Our figures are good, we can state after the twelve months: We are a healthy company,” says Thomas Raff, speaking of an important message in the direction of shareholders and employees, customers and suppliers.
The move and technical problems at the start at the new location were only two of the various aspects that had brought the predecessor company to its knees financially. The Zeitfracht Group is different: “We can invest, we want to invest, and we therefore have good conditions for further expanding the site,” says Raff.
Books are to remain the core business. But “non-book” items are also to be shipped from the Erfurt site. The first one is already on board: from August 17, goods from a large online retailer for children’s fashion will be delivered from Erfurt for the first time, the name is still secret. “We were able to convince our customer that we can do more than just book,” says Raff. The goal, he says, is to broaden the company’s overall footprint, better utilize the site and move away from a dependence on books alone. “We are very pleased that we have succeeded in doing this within such a short time,” says Managing Director Thomas Raff, who plans to woo more partners.
After all, the logistics provider’s shelves don’t care whether they hold books, textiles or anything else: All assortments that fit into one of the transport tubs rolling over the conveyor belts could be served. However, the company headquarters also offers space for special formats – from Bobby-Cars to wine. White goods alone, such as washing machines or foodstuffs requiring refrigeration, are excluded.
No short-time working at the Erfurt site so far
When booksellers had to close because of Corona, KNV-Zeitfracht had found ways to nevertheless do without short-time work at the Erfurt location. If the ordered book is normally delivered to one of the more than 1,000 partner booksellers in Germany, where the customer picks it up himself or the retailer then brings it to the house, KNV-Zeitfracht has also taken over the part of the customer delivery during the lockdown phase. We were able to save many bookstores in this way,” says Thomas Raff. There was therefore no loss of sales.
While the catering area had to remain closed for corona reasons, employees and trainees in this sector were employed by KNV-Zeitfracht. With the help of the city of Erfurt, this was possible. Cooks and restaurant specialists thus had an income and bridged the crisis. Employees from neighboring EU countries, who make up part of the workforce, have remained loyal to the company: “There have hardly been any departures.”
Raff also attributes this to the company’s internal pandemic plans and the precautions it has taken: Already in May, the annual budget for cleaning agents and disinfectants had been completely used up. Strict precautionary measures and a portion of luck meant that there was not a single case of Corona in the building.
Connection to local transport is to be improved
Those who continued to come to work had received a Corona supplement and should continue to do so, until the end of the year. In addition to the house tariff above minimum wage, balanced with the works council in the company. Large as the company name, it nevertheless says “Employees wanted” at the company headquarters. The demand is great, despite the rather unusual permanent employment contracts and discounts on the 500,000 products in the assortment. More staff are urgently needed to grow, expand and build up further logistics bases. In order to achieve this, the connection to local transport is to be improved or the company’s own shuttle service is to be set up.
The article from the Thüringer Allgemeine of August 1, 2020