ULD manager ACL Airshop wants to up its market share

ACL Airshop gained a new CEO on 01 March 2024. Bernhard Kindelbacher, a former Lufthansa Cargo executive, took over the top leadership at ACL Airshop, following Steve Townes’ nine-year tenure. ACL Airshop provides a customer-centric variety of ULD services for over 150 airlines, including tailored solutions customized to a client’s specific requirements.

Kindelbacher is based in Amsterdam, however CargoForwarder Global (CFG) met up with him for an exclusive interview at the IATA World Cargo Symposium in Hong Kong. Here is what he had to say about his initial steps and feelings regarding his new position and market perspectives of his company.

Former Lufthansa Cargo executive Bernhard Kindelbacher heads ULD manager ACL Airshop since five weeks – photo: private

CFG: If you reflect on the period before your official start, what primarily influenced your decision to join ACL Airshop?

BK: The opportunity initially presented had a strong entrepreneurial element. Having recently completed a work assignment in the USA and Canada, where I engaged deeply in leading an operation, this aspect of the job intrigued me. And even within the global Lufthansa structure, it often felt like we were running our own medium-size, unique cargo organization in North America. Upon examining the structure of ACL Airshop, I saw parallels to my previous experiences, coupled with the freedom to drive the Company forward within the logistics sector on a global scale. ACL Airshop asked me to bring airline and air cargo ‘know-how’ and that is what we are doing now. There are many opportunities for ACL Airshop to grow. The ingredients for a comprehensive Cargo ULD Management are all here in ACL Airshop, but it is all about putting them together, making it work, and presenting custom ULD solutions to our customers.

CFG: Which steps have you already taken in terms of onboarding and transition?

BK: We did a lot, quickly and efficiently. I visited on a global tour our stations and customers first in the USA, then in Europe, and finally in Asia with my respective COO colleagues joining me. These experiences contributed to my understanding of the company’s operations, its goals, teams, customers, stations, and my colleagues. It was a perfect onboarding and I received such a warm welcome from all the ACL Airshop colleagues as well as the customers.

CFG: Did anything unexpected happened during this period?

BK: Not really. Maybe one surprise: ACL Airshop offers all the ingredients, yet we’re still not perceived as a comprehensive ULD fleet management provider, despite having all the necessary solutions and services. People don’t recognize yet that we can offer more than just individual parts. I believe there’s much more potential here. With my 30 years of experience in the industry, I view it as a familiar challenge that we need to navigate within the ULD environment now.

CFG: What makes the ACL Airshop model different from competitors on the market?

BK: It arises from the ACL Airshop origins, with one aspect being short-term leasing solutions. Others operate within the framework of a more closed, fixed system, but we can offer much more additional benefits. We now offer long-term comprehensive ULD management programs as well, with roughly 50% of our large worldwide ULD fleet under multi-year contracts with major customers. That includes not only the flexibility through our available stock worldwide but also our network of Repair Stations, our award-winning logistics technologies such as Bluetooth track/trace and ULD mgt software, and our substantial manufacturing resources in-house which is a plus in the supply chain. It is a competitively unique combination of all those features, all aimed toward satisfying customer requests. We possess greater flexibility, faster reaction time and global ad-hoc capabilities. We have a very large network of service locations plus our large available inventory of lease-ready ULDs. I believe this full array of skills and deliverables are unique and very attractive for our customers so they can focus on generating revenues while ACL Airshop takes care of their cargo ULD Management.

Secondly, my colleagues at ACL Airshop bring so much air cargo experience on the table from their times in airlines. This background aligns very well and provides a better understanding when we interact with customers. We know from customer surveys that they rate our people very highly in terms of responsiveness, speed, solution orientation, professionalism and dedication. That stems from over 4 decades of a vibrant, customer-centric organization.

CFG: Could you state a couple of goals to be achieved in the upcoming future?

BK: First, our goal is to clarify in the market that we are a comprehensive cargo ULD fleet management provider. Our aim is to become a more-dominant cargo ULD management provider. We are already well-established in the USA and Europe, so the next step would be to establish a greater presence in Asia. We have an advantage there, as the Asian market is mainly driven by cargo carriers or divisions, and we have all the necessary knowledge within our team. Our footprint of air hub locations across the APAC region is large and still growing.

Secondly, our aim is to retain and attract professionals from the industry with extensive knowledge, the right spirit for our challenges, and great interest to develop and use modern technology and innovative processes. 

ACL Airshop in short:
More than 74,000 Unit Load Devices (ULDs) are owned, maintained, and leased by ACL Airshop. These include air freight pallets and containers, sourced from 57 airport hub locations across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and Latin America. The overall company employs close to 250 people globally.

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