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DHL warehouse at Brussels Airport
How times can change. In its early years in Flanders, DHL, today’s biggest player in the worldwide logistics industry, operated out of a small apartment building in Zaventem – the sorting center being the garage below. Now, the international company’s 36,500-square-meter hub at Brussels Airport alone processes up to 42,000 shipments per hour. Danny Van Himste, managing director of DHL Express Belux, explains why Flanders remains such an important base for DHL.

DHL International was founded in San Francisco in 1969, with the first activities in Flanders taking place in 1978. “At that time, DHL's core business was still primarily sending documents worldwide,” explains Danny Van Himste. “Since then, we have always continued to grow in Flanders. The main activity of DHL Express is now overnight express delivery. In short: getting goods from here to locations around the world and vice versa, in the best and fastest way possible. This translates into our mission statement: connecting people and improving lives. In 2021, the latter could be taken literally, since we started the international COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

16th worldwide for volume of packages sent and received

In 2008, the European hub of DHL Express moved from Brussels to Leipzig, but in 2018 the company again invested in a new regional hub at Brussels Airport

“The site plays a crucial role in the global DHL Express network,” Ken Allen, then-CEO of DHL Express, said at the time. “It's one of our largest hubs, and because of its location in the logistics heart of Western Europe, it also plays a key role in connecting companies to the world. This new hub supports our growth, the efficiency of our network and the high level of quality that customers choose with DHL Express.” 

These aren’t just empty words: DHL Express Belgium is ranked 16th in the global ranking of 220 countries when it comes to the volume of packages sent and received. 

Smart and greener

In terms of logistics trends in Flanders, sustainability is at the top of the list. DHL Group has defined an accelerated roadmap toward decarbonization and plans on investing EUR 7 billion before 2030. “Our goal is to reduce all logistics-related CO2 emissions to zero by 2050,” explains Danny Van Himste. “By 2025, we want to rely on at least 70% clean transport, such as electric vehicles and bicycles.” 

In addition, using multiple modes of transport will increasingly become important in getting goods to their destinations. A less discussed factor in supporting sustainable logistics is more collaboration between its main players.

The media often highlights the challenges of making urban distribution more sustainable. But what about parcel deliveries to, say, De Panne, or other remote corners of Flanders? Are five different companies going to keep driving there with their delivery vans half full? It's where there is less density in the network that we will look at new solutions, preferably together.

Danny Van Himste
CEO of DHL Belux

Adding value to logistics

A second priority for the whole logistics sector in Flanders is digitization. Today's customers want fast, efficient and simple service online. “It's also about optimizing our internal processes for customs-related activities,” Danny Van Himste says. “In addition, we want to drive value-added logistics. Building the right expertise in handling data, and then using it to create innovative, sustainable and more efficient processes.” 

DHL Express fosters interesting collaborations in that respect. “VIL, Flanders’ spearhead cluster for logistics innovation, of which I am chairman, is worth mentioning. Its main goal is to support innovation throughout the logistics industry in Flanders. More recently, we became a supporting partner of Log!Ville, the demo and innovation center of VIL. Companies can call on it to learn more about high-quality logistics applications and innovations in automation, digital transformation, sustainability and e-commerce.”

Discover more about establishing logistics activities in Flanders.

Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade

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