Albert Davidson, the Country Manager at Linfox Indonesia and Malaysia, has traversed the Asia-Pacific region throughout his career in logistics.
Recently settling in Indonesia, he’s eager to expand Linfox to assist those struggling with the efficiency of their supply chains.
Hi, Albert! Where are you from and what’s the reason behind your move to Indonesia?
I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia but have lived in many places. For the past 20 years, I’ve worked across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region where I’ve been posted in several countries including Malaysia, India, Australia, and Singapore.
From a work perspective, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work in Indonesia as I think Indonesia has great potential in terms of growth and being one of the most dynamic markets in the region. Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed traveling and exploring this great country and I’m very keen to learn more about the culture.
Funny story… in early 2020, when I was approached to re-join Linfox as Country Manager Indonesia, I was still residing in Singapore and happened to be on holiday in Malaysia with my family. At this stage, the global pandemic was just starting to unfold and it was a challenging process to finalize my recruitment and I ended up being stuck in Malaysia during the MCO lockdown period. Long story short, my long weekend trip to Malaysia has ended up being 18 months and I’ve still not been able to return to Singapore since the onset of the pandemic. It’s been quite liberating leaving behind all my possessions in Singapore and making a fresh start here in Indonesia.
You’re now the Country Manager of Linfox Indonesia and Malaysia, can you tell us more about the company?
Linfox is a logistics company. The basic core business is warehousing, transportation, and supply chain management. Our business spans 12 site locations across Indonesia and we operate the largest single-client facility in the southern hemisphere, which is our Unilever operations, with over 1 million cases handled per day.
It’s our job to keep the Indonesian supply chain running and make sure consumers get their products delivered in a safe and timely manner throughout the country. We work as a strategic partner to our clients which are some of the biggest multinationals out there in the consumer, retail, and industrial sectors.
My role has recently expanded and I’ll now be responsible for both Indonesian and Malaysian operations. I see great opportunities to expand our business in both countries and there are some natural synergies between both markets including common languages and cultural similarities. Hopefully, the borders will open up soon making it easier to move freely across the region.
You said that your clients are some of the biggest MNCs in the consumer, retail, and industrial sectors. Can you briefly describe the process when a client seeks assistance?
In a nutshell, we need to understand their businesses, their customers, their specific challenges, and then develop an optimal solution. This is usually a balance of safety, service levels, and cost considerations.
Generally, Linfox can help clients to outsource their logistics function and remove some of the complexity in their supply chain. The benefits of partnering with Linfox are numerous including our scale of operations, industry expertise, and ability to deploy people, assets, fleet, and technology. This allows our clients to focus upon their core businesses which are generally in either manufacturing or retail distribution.
It can take months and sometimes years to build a client relationship. Our business is most certainly focussed on long-term strategic partnerships which often involve presence in multiple countries across the APAC region.
Tell us about the supply chain solutions. Is each solution applicable for a certain customer sector or is it customizable?
It’s definitely more about customization and there are some key areas that Linfox Supply Chain generally focuses upon, including network optimization, transport optimization, warehouse design and build, and productivity within the four walls of the warehouse. We have a regional solutions team that is dedicated to this area and a comprehensive set of tools including advanced software and modeling tools.
There are also examples where Linfox can develop an industry solution that is more generic or scalable and can be targeted at multiple clients within a certain industry. An example is the Linfox Bevchain business, which has recently entered Thailand. This is a joint venture between Linfox and a major beverage manufacturer that has consolidated their logistics activities with Linfox as the execution partner,, bringing scale and efficiency. In Indonesia, we’re looking to develop similar industry solutions partnering with some of Indonesia’s large manufacturing conglomerates… watch this space for Linfox Beverage Fleet on the road in Indonesia.
“You are passing another Fox”. What do you mean by this statement?
When Linfox was originally founded by Lindsay Fox in 1956, the owner had only one truck delivering soft drinks in the summer months and fuel in winter. The slogan “You are passing another Fox” was branded on the rear of the truck to give the impression that there were multiple trucks out on the road and aligned with his vision to expand the business. From these humble beginnings, Linfox now has more than 15,000 trucks on the road with a keen willingness to invest in assets to grow our business in Asia.
For Indonesia, we share a similar vision to expand our fleet presence and introduce new fleet designs into Indonesia which will deliver improved efficiency, safety, and reduced environmental impact. As the Indonesian government moves towards enforcement of ODOL laws (over-dimension over-loading), which will be enforced from January 2023, this will create a more level playing field for Linfox to introduce innovative new trucks on the road. Keep an eye out as very soon you will be “Passing another Fox” on the Indonesian motorways.
Almost everything we do is digitized; with that can you share some examples of cutting-edge technology used by Linfox Indonesia?
We’re now heavily focused on robotics and process automation. As a starting point, we’re streamlining all processes in the back office and operations to automate repetitive tasks. For physical handling, we’ve introduced physical robots for palletizing and shrink-wrapping products. Our warehouse operations are also being constantly upgraded with new storage systems which offer greater density and efficiency.
Indonesia is at a very interesting inflection point. The government has recently introduced the new Omnibus laws aimed at creating a more conducive environment for foreign direct investments and easing of the Industrial Labour Laws which have traditionally been a deterrent for companies to invest. Whilst some of Linfox technology investments will see a reduction in certain blue-collar positions, it’ll also create new opportunities for our staff to do more high-skilled types of work and we are heavily focussed on skills training and development.
Based on your observations, where do you think the relationship between society and technology investments is heading?
No doubt, technology helps everyone to enjoy a better life and lifestyle. Indonesia’s e-commerce industry is growing rapidly and Indonesia has one of the highest adoption rates for e-commerce in the region. Throughout the current pandemic, this has certainly helped consumers to have ready access to products and enjoy convenience.
That said, the logistics sector in Indonesia remains very traditional with a high dependence on manual tasks and a large blue-collar workforce. As technology advances and becomes more commercially scalable, there’ll be an increase in digitization and automation which will create some challenges at a society level including structural unemployment as certain jobs are no longer required. Truck drivers and warehouse operators will someday be replaced by machines. Thus, those operating them will have to navigate into new jobs and learn new skills.
The COVID-19 pandemic has startled businesses globally. What challenges have struck Linfox Indonesia and how have they been resolved?
Our biggest challenge is maintaining our business continuity. Linfox is a very large business and we run our operations 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Looking at our biggest customer warehouse, we handle more than a million cases throughput daily and the mega-DC and back-of-factory operations is a critical component of their supply chain that’s servicing Indonesia. Imagine what would happen if this essential service was halted for a seven–14-day period? Supermarket shelves would be empty and consumers wouldn’t be able to get their necessities.
Our initial response to the pandemic required rapid mobilization to respond to the crisis and protect the business. This involved forming pandemic response teams and quickly implementing new SOP’s and protocols to protect the business. We’ve implemented strict tier 4 protocols and operate to standards well above government regulations and PPKM restrictions.
In recent months, we’ve weathered the storm of the Delta outbreak and managed to maintain business operations without any significant disruption. Moving forward, our business is now at a greater than 90 percent vaccination rate and we’re very pleased to see the situation in Indonesia is improving daily.
This year marks 20 years since Linfox established operations in Indonesia in warehouse and transport solutions. What’s next for the company?
It’s a great milestone for Linfox to turn 20 this year in Indonesia and I’m certainly very proud and very happy to come into a well-established business with a strong leadership team. Looking ahead, we’ve got tremendous opportunities to grow and diversify our business, which makes Linfox a great place to work. We plan to expand into new geographies and market segments. We’ll also shortly commence new warehouse operations with our customer Dynapack, long-term partnership, and investment in a VNA (Very Narrow Aisle) warehouse with specialized handling equipment. We’re also moving into the high-growth cold-chain sector where Indonesia currently has a shortfall incapacity to meet the market demands. I hope Linfox Indonesia will lead the way in terms of growth in the APAC region.
We’d love to know more about your personal story, Albert.
I studied international business and other foreign languages then thought that logistics would be a great way and opportunity to travel the world. Logistics is an area in which, no matter which country you’re in, there’s always a requirement for the services. The skills are quite transferrable and applicable in many different situations.
So far, I enjoy the challenge and opportunity to explore, meet people, and live in new countries for extended periods, because it gives a much better understanding of the places and cultures, which is much deeper than traveling for short-term assignments or traveling on holiday.
How has expat life been? Do you have any cultural activities waiting to be ticked off your bucket list?
I spent about six years in Malaysia and picked up some basic words, some of which are notably similar to Bahasa Indonesia. My Bahasa Indonesia isn’t as good as it should be, so I need to brush it up.
Given the whole pandemic situation, it’s actually going a lot better than I expected! I find Jakarta, despite being a very big city, still has a very small-town type of feel. It’s easy to connect and meet with people here, too. I’m keen to further explore Indonesia, given the opportunity to spend a bit more time traveling and exploring a bit more of the country and the culture.
I’m an avid scuba diver. I’ve previously spent a lot of time exploring Indonesia’s underwater scene and hopefully can continue soon. In the meantime, I’ve also enjoyed trail running out in the jungles not too far from Jakarta. It’s been a great experience and a really nice surprise to get out and enjoy some nature so close to the big city. There are many parts of Indonesia that I haven’t seen and I’m always finding new things to try.
In your opinion, what do Indonesia’s diverse culture and rich history tell you about the country?
Indonesia has vast geography. The country has developed over the years, thus becoming an extremely diverse country in terms of cultures and customs, originating from the many islands that make up this archipelago.
The people are very warm and inclusive in many ways, welcoming somebody new to the country. Everyone is always very willing to share more about their culture, be it food or other aspects, which is wonderful. Diversity, all in all, is probably one of the benefits of Indonesia’s rich history.
How can our readers reach you and Linfox Indonesia?
You can find me on LinkedIn, Albert Davidson. Also, feel free to reach out to Linfox Indonesia through our website www.linfox.com.