DPD Ireland invests in technology and people following record growth

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In October, DPD Ireland announced it would be creating 700 jobs this year after it saw its parcel volumes increase by over 50% during the Covid-19 pandemic. Des Travers, chief executive of DPD Ireland, talks about how the company is attracting talent and its plans to invest millions of euros in new facilities following this record growth.

How has DPD Ireland’s volumes grown in recent months?
There are quite a number of different factors driving the volume. The first thing is the closing down of the country as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown in March obviously dragged everyone online and there was a complete transformation of B2B and B2C – we saw a complete drop off of the B2B and a shooting up of the B2C.

In certain areas of the country, we’re up 150% on parcel volumes compared with last year and as a whole we’ve seen a 51% increase in total deliveries in 2020 compared to 2019 – we’ve delivered 27,865,906 parcels this year compared to 18,415,415 parcels last year. In fact, on November 4 we handled 147,000 parcels at our hub in Athlone alone – just Republic of Ireland deliveries – and we expect that to increase to 200,000 in the run up to Christmas. We struggled during the height of Covid, with too many parcels, not enough floor space, not enough drivers, and it got us thinking that we had to accelerate – we had three year’s revenue in six weeks! We have increased floorspace in the depots and we’ve spent the last 4-5 months creating growth, and that is what has created these 700 jobs.

What technology have you invested in at Athlone?
The €1m (US$1.18m) investment has purely been on technology – the personnel investment has been three or four times that – but the hub expansion included additional chutes, and technology improvements such as better scanning and route planning and other handheld technology for the 2,000 drivers that are out there. We’re also investing in electric vehicles for our fleet as we move more toward the green investment and that is something we’ll be investing in even more in 2021.

The thing that will be a game changer for us is the development of optimization technology for our drivers – we’ll be the first parcel carrier company to produce that, but it won’t be ready until 2021. We’ll bring the most optimized and efficient delivery volume data to any depot on any given day based on the technology that we’re developing. We’re developing it in house and working with some external software providers for the handheld and routing technology.

We’ll also be investing another €4m (US$4.7m) in the Athlone hub because we’re now full. I’m planning to build a new hub in 2022 but to get ourselves through 2021 we’ll need to spend the €4m (US4.7m) on the current site to allow us the handle the volumes we’re forecasting.

What investments have you made in your other facilities?
We almost doubled the size of our Cork depot from 40,000ft2 to 70,000ft2 and we’ve increased our vehicles at that site from 65 to 105. We’ll add another 20 routes to that depot by the end of the year. It’s all about size and scale for us – if you double the size of your business and you’re already efficient, you need twice the floor space, twice the number of vehicles and twice the number of drivers and that’s where we’re at.

How are you attracting new talent?
We launched a campaign across our online platforms – that’s always where we start – and then we were fortunate that we made the announcement with Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and our site became inundated with applications for the 700 roles. We received nearly 3,000 applicants in one day! We’ve now got people who were pilots and chefs driving vans for us – people from the hospitality sector who aren’t sure when their old roles will come back are now working for us. It’s great to be able to provide jobs for people during such a difficult time – all of us parcel carrier companies are very fortunate as we’re one of very few industries that haven’t had to furlough or lay anyone off, our business has been a key driver in the marketplace to get parcels to customers.

What training do you provide?
We have a five-day training program that people go on when they come into the business – we’re fast tracking that at the moment because we’ve got so many people coming into the business – so they have a number of days in the classroom and then a number of days in the van. We give them 50 parcels for their first week on their own, and then when they’ve finished the first week if they’ve ticked all the boxes, we increase the load incrementally until they’re at the normal daily capacity of about 120 parcels per day. The training on the scanner and the equipment isn’t difficult, it’s teaching them the routes and the specific area that they’re going to and the intricacies of that route. We help them build up that knowledge and we leave them on the same route so that they become fully comfortable with that delivery area.

Do you think the growth you’ve seen in 2020 will continue?
I don’t think there’s one quick answer to that. We’ve got Brexit looming – it’s the elephant in the room and we don’t know what that is going to bring us in terms of more or less parcels. We thought Covid was going to be the end of us and it turned out to be the complete opposite. Brexit is coming in January and it will have an effect, particularly as 30% of our parcels come from the UK, but we don’t know if it will be good or bad. We’re ready for Brexit as a business.

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With over a decade of experience as a business and technology journalist working in B2B publishing, Hazel first joined UKi in 2011. After taking 18 months off to bring up her daughter and try her hand at marketing copywriting, she returned in January 2018 to do what she loves best – magazine editing! She is now the editor of UKi's Passenger Terminal World and Parcel and Postal Technology International magazines.

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