Axel Frey and Harry Seifert elected Logistics Leader of the Year 2023

"Guys, tackle and inspire. From nothing comes nothing." What Franz Xaver Seifert stated when he founded the Seifert Logistics Group in 1947 is now called "Full speed towards the future". Not just somehow, but "our DNA is to always be a millimeter better than others," says Harry Seifert during the on-site visit.

Harry Seifert is Chairman of the Advisory Board. In over 40 years at the top of the Swabian logistics provider, he has developed the Seifert Logistics Group into one of the top 100 logistics companies. Axel Frey, a member of the management board since 2019 and CEO since 2022, oversees operations. Under the motto "Full speed ahead into the future", both have implemented a strategic realignment of the medium-sized logistics service provider in recent years, focusing on employees, digitalization, and sustainable growth. The management duo has attracted attention above all with its "employees first" philosophy.

The jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame has honored this achievement as exemplary for the logistics industry. "Through this transformation, Harry Seifert and Axel Frey have not only laid the foundation for economic success, moreover, they have set a remarkable example for the future viability of the logistics industry. This impetus underscores the importance of the industry and provides orientation, particularly for medium-sized logistics industry," the jury states.
The Logistics Hall of Fame honors entrepreneurs and managers from the transport and logistics industry who are currently particularly successful or have set a trend-setting impulse with the Logistics Leader of the Year Award, which is donated by STILL GmbH. The focus is on topicality and the benefits for the company as well as innovative strength, sustainability, and entrepreneurial change.

Yet the transformation begins quietly at Seifert. After a seven-hour heart operation in 2016, Harry Seifert's plan to ensure the company's succession matured. The initial generational change developed into a multi-layered and ongoing transformation process with the goal of "taking on a pioneering role and offering our employees and customers added value that sets us apart. We are convinced that in logistics, only the right employees and digitization can lead to success. That is the basis for sustainable growth," says Frey.

Family businesses tick differently. Family traditionally and quite naturally includes the entire company, and thus each of the now 4,000 employees. "Employees first" would therefore not be surprising, were it not for the details, which even in times of a shortage of skilled workers go far beyond the usual industry tools of employee orientation. The management team has thus initiated a not uncontroversial but consistent paradigm shift that runs top-down through the entire company. For example, the multi-user logistics center at the Ulm Nord exit of the A8 autobahn, which will not be inaugurated until the end of 2022, features an exceptionally stylish office world with almost homely work and lounge areas, combined with a flexible working concept with home office, flexitime and part-time models and numerous opportunities for further training. A professional fitness studio and the company restaurant "Franzl", named after company founder Franz Xaver Seifert, ensure a balanced diet at restaurant level with its own kitchen. In addition, there is a whole range of services that make life easier for employees. Every employee can have his or her personal packages delivered here to the reception desk. And everyone gets the cell phone number of the CEO for emergencies - even private ones. "We give a millimeter more, but we also expect a millimeter more, and the team always comes before the individual," says Frey.

Digitization plays a central role in the transformation process. From inventory drones and wearables to robotics and additive manufacturing with 3D printers, everything is geared towards increasing performance through innovation. Seifert Logistics Group invests in startups and collaborations to remain at the forefront of technology, launches pilot projects and builds teams to stay up-to-date. In the area of sustainability targets, reducing emissions is at the top of the agenda. Electric tractor units and electric trucks are being tested. On the roof of the new logistics center in Ulm, a photovoltaic system covering around 40,000 square meters is being built to generate 5.5 MWp of electricity, enough to supply all the company's own sites. Between 2020 and 2022, the Group will have almost halved its emissions from electricity consumption from 1907 t CO2. 

"If you transform, you have to take risks," says the company owner. But that doesn't apply to the most important personnel matter. When Harry Seifert asks Axel Frey, then 34, on his way to the underground parking garage if he wants to take on the job, the two have already been a well-established team for more than a decade. "We are two logistics junkies and think alike. We're a top-performing team," says Seifert.
Just how great the willingness to take risks and the pressure associated with the transformation process nevertheless can be guessed at the new headquarters. The facility stretches over a kilometer in length. The gym towers dominantly over the A8 and almost makes you forget the 100,000 pallet storage spaces in the multi-user center. Seifert was there once before in 1999 with his sons Julian and Tim. "That's where the future is, and that's where I want to go. This is where the company center will be one day," the entrepreneur predicted at the time. So, when the opportunity to buy the property came along, Corona was just three weeks old, and the world was in lockdown. "We didn't know if the company would survive it, but we went through with it," Seifert says. The lifelong dream turned into a stroke of luck, as it would turn out.
Sustainability in the sense of economy – or nothing ventured, nothing gained. This has also always been part of the Seifert DNA. But money is not the value, but always only a means to an end, to create something for the future. The medium-sized family business has grown continuously and offers more than 900,000 m² of storage space at more than 45 locations in Europe for procurement, production, and distribution solutions in the automotive, paper, chemical, building materials, pharmaceutical and consumer goods industries.

The current key figures reflect the success of the transformation process. Between 2021 and 2023, the number of employees increased by 1500 to a total of 4000. In 2020, the company already achieved the second-highest sales in its history, and in 2023 sales will increase by a further 25 percent to a record 330 million euros. Contract logistics is a major contributor to the sustained growth here. Even the forwarding and transport sector, which faced challenges because of the war in Ukraine, the associated diesel price problems and the shortage of drivers, is making significant gains.

There is no end in sight to the story. Since the facility with the blue-red-white logo has made the neighboring Ulm container railroad station a peripheral attraction, not only have at least two groups of visitors come every week to see the logistics of the future, but something has also changed in the perception of logistics in the region. "Visitors would never have imagined this. The perception among our customers and here in the region has completely turned around. Everyone is suddenly on fire for logistics, and that will pay off in the long run," says Seifert.

Winner of the Logistics Leader of the Year 2023 award donated by Hamburger Still GmbH: Axel Frey (left) and Harry Seifert. 
Photo: Logistics Hall of Fame
Company Restaurant Franzl
Photo: Logistics Hall of Fame
Axel Frey
Photo: Logistics Hall of Fame
Harry Seifert
Photo: Logistics Hall of Fame