S’pore firm develops IT solution for forwarders


Centrolene clients use its C-Suite to transform themselves from local to global players

October 5, 2015 by Amit Roy Choudhury


THE freight forwarding business is a very important part of the logistics and supply chain industry. With Singapore’s position as an entrepot, freight forwarders play an important economic role here.

The industry is facing more competition, new regulations and customer demands. As a result, freight forwarders are increasingly relying on information technology (IT) to remain competitive.

Alex Ruf, CEO of Centrolene, notes that not only do freight forwarders have to compete with other forwarders in their country, they also have to compete with large multinationals trying to poach their best customers. Centrolene provides technology solutions to the logistics industry.

The company was established in Singapore in 2014. Its founders are based in both Singapore and Germany. With its headquarters in Singapore, the company has established a service centre in Cebu, Philippines. The company also has offices in Frankfurt and Mumbai, and will soon open an office in the United States.

“Currently, we have 15 people supporting the business directly but if you include our affiliate, we have another 100 supporting the network,” Mr Ruf adds.

He notes that in order to win and keep business, forwarders need two things – a technological edge and quality partners around the world. “That is what the Centrolene Network offers them. Our aim is to build a global network of forwarders all connected with a common technology platform – the Centrolene C-Suite.

“Members of the Centrolene network use the C-Suite to transform themselves from local players into global players with the ability to offer services that outperform larger industry players.”

Centrolene Network is built around a common technology platform – the Centrolene C-Suite. It was launched last month. Mr Ruf adds that the goal is to have 2,000 members by 2020.

“Interestingly, whilst we expected our early adopters to be the more developed trading economies like the US and Europe, the demand for our new technology is now coming from Africa, Latin America and Asia as well,” he adds.

“What makes Centrolene Network different from every other forwarder organisation is our commitment to technology. We use technology to bring the forwarder networking model into the digital age,” Mr Ruf says.

“Singapore is a natural choice of location for the headquarters of Centrolene. The city is one of the world’s great centres of trade and has numerous skilled and talented people working in the logistics and supply chain management industry. Add to that the business-friendly regulatory environment and competitive tax rates, and Singapore is an attractive place for any new venture,” he says.

Mr Ruf adds that until the development of the C-Suite, freight forwarders had relied on multiple applications by different software developers in order to meet their technology needs.

Trying to get software from multiple companies to work together is an expensive and time-consuming task for forwarders. The price of the software and the integration can cost a forwarder tens of thousands of dollars, he adds.

“The C-Suite solves this problem for forwarders as it delivers all the technology requirements in one seamless ecosystem for freight forwarders.

“More importantly, our customer solution and CRM (customer relationship management) modules are about generating new revenue and securing existing business. So, not only will they benefit from savings in set up costs and implementation time, they will also be able to grow their business exponentially if they use the network and technology effectively. And because of the added transparency in transactions, there will also be improvements in business margins.”

He adds that many solutions offered by freight forwarders to shippers today are based on shipment levels. Centrolene’s solution provides “full transparency including visibility and alerts on global inventory, production lead times and raw material supply times.

Giving an example, he says that one common practice in modern supply chain management is “just in time” inventory management. “So if a shipment is delayed, the C-Suite can alert the forwarder and their customer as well as providing options to re-route a shipment or to take other action, such as sourcing from another supplier to ensure any impact on the supply chain is eliminated or minimised.”

Mr Ruf adds that much of the software used by the logistics industry professionals is adapted from other industries, and “never really quite meets the needs of our industry”. Logistics companies have spent millions trying to adapt software to make it fit their requirements and to get it integrated with their other software, he adds.

“The C-Suite was developed by four experienced industry professionals who understand exactly what forwarder need to compete and win more business. It gives business owners and managers the analytical tools they need to understand how their business is performing, address issues and tap opportunities in a timely manner to grow their business,” he adds.

“At Centrolene, we have the experience in supply chain management and we have worked with many shippers on the improving workflow. We also understand what shippers need on top of the ERP (enterprise resource planning) to manage their business from a supply chain perspective,” Mr Ruf says.