VITOR FIGUEIREDO CEO of Zolve/Logifrio
Zolve/Logifrio is a leading operator in controlled temperature logistics services in Portugal and Spain. The company - at the time named Greenyard Logistics Portugal - was carved out of Belgian Greenyard Group in 2020. Since then, in less than three years, Zolve has expanded and consolidated its presence in the iberian market with the acquisition of Logifrio, Friologic and TDF Cantabria. We recently spoke with Vitor Figueiredo, CEO of Zolve/Logifrio, the man behind this impressive corporate journey. Over the last 17 years Vitor Figueiredo amassed a wealth of experience in the logistics sector in Portugal and abroad. Further to being the CEO of Zolve/Logifrio, Vitor Figueiredo is also President of the Board of Directors of APOL, the Portuguese Association of Logistics Operators. We are thrilled to have Vitor on this first “#5missingdots” and discuss the role of AI and data analytics in the logistics business.
Wiimer: Comparing to other industries and businesses, the logistics business is truly a data-intensive one. In your opinion, companies in the logistics sector are already harnessing the potential of data? Has the covid pandemic and subsequently the energy crisis – both with a significant impact in supply chains - accelerated the implementation of AI and advanced analytics?
Vitor Figueiredo: In recent years, the logistics sector has probably been one of the sectors that has incorporated the most technology into its processes. Indeed, this is a sector where data is of paramount importance to optimize processes and anticipate trends. Most of the main logistics players are already using the advantages of data driven decisions systems. In the specific example of Logistics service providers is quite common that the logistics provider knows more about a specific flow than its customer who is the owner of the product.
It is in difficult times that effective change happens. The pandemic, the energy crisis, the labor scarcity, and the disruptions of some structural supply chains as the microchips, for example created unheard challenges for the logistics sector. All these pressures resulted in an extra incentive to work with data.
Nevertheless, I do believe that these progresses are just at its beginning as most of the companies are just starting to understand how important an organized data structure is important to incorporate AI tools. As many other sectors, logistics can take huge advantages of AI tools. The difficulties to find labor and the need to be competitive will definitely accelerate the AI incorporation.
Wiimer: With the surge of AI tools, managers are constantly under pressure to be ahead of competition and implement the latest technology and develop the most innovative project. From inventory management, route optimization, predictive maintenance, capacity planning, warehouse management, workforce scheduling, service quality, sustainability… opportunities are endless. In a business that never stops, amid so much pressure and information, how do you set priorities?
Vitor Figueiredo: Indeed, the opportunities are endless. Everyone has the clarity to see that they need to move fast nevertheless there are still a lot of companies that have important processes based on old systems that create challenges to promote a data driven basis for AI incorporation. Setting priorities is not an easy process. In our case we set a matrix where we try to relate impact and pressure. In other words, sometimes we must give priority to a process that might not be the most impactful one but is the one under more outside pressure and if not solved might jeopardize other process. These type of decisions are easier to discuss than to take.
Wiimer: Which are the main challenges of implementation of AI and data analytics tools in a fast-growing company like Zolve/Logifrio which is frequently acquiring new companies in a different geography?
Vitor Figueiredo: Well, incorporating AI and data driven analytics in a stable environment is already a difficult task. In a fast-growing company like ours where the growth is coming a lot from acquisitions is a very though process. The main difficulty is to conciliate an AI incorporation strategy with the process of unifying systems within the group. Making sure that the data structure is prepared to accommodate not only the data available today but also the data that we know will be available tomorrow is the biggest challenge.
Wiimer: Which are the main headwinds and tailwinds impacting the logistics industry, particularly supply chain logistics, and how can AI and data analytics help mitigate the former and take advantage of the latter?
Vitor Figueiredo: The logistics sector is currently in a phase of strong transformation. I'm talking about significant changes in the consumption profile, whether due to omnichannel, the average order size and delivery lead time, or the size and location of points of sale, which are increasingly focused on proximity and convenience. Furthermore, the population is increasingly concentrated in urban centers that have been transforming, but whose reconversion insists on forgetting the logistical dimension. The accelerated technological evolution has not only brought about a need for constant investment to increase transparency and interactivity of processes, but also added new players that operate within different legal frameworks that sometimes end up distorting the good competition standards. Everything is not only changing but changing fast. I dare to say that the supply chain was one of the most affected by recent events. This is a process that is far from over. Therefore, the AI and data analytics are vital to create agile decision environment. I would say that delaying a decision in our days might be more harmful than a bad decision. Data in vital to anticipate changes and to react to those changes. Therefore the fast change is the highest incentive to move forward with AI and data driven analytics.
As difficulties I would point the lack of IT professionals. Since the pandemic that finding good people is becoming more and more difficult. In the case of IT professionals this task in even more difficult as those professionals can now work to any market from anywhere and our markets are in disadvantage comparing with other markets.
Wiimer: Where would you like to see Zolve/Logifrio in five year’s time?
Vitor Figueiredo: In such a fast-changing context and under so many outside pressures it is very difficult to say. We have strong ambitions and we do believe we have perfect conditions to meet those expectations. Although we are already a big company, I do believe we have conditions to double our size in five years’ time.
The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewees and do not reflect or represent the views or positions of Wiimer.