Growth in online sales helps firm deliver

DPD expect 22m parcels this year as online shopping continues to boom
Growth in online sales helps firm deliver

Des Travers: DPD Ireland chief executive

The last 18 months have been both a challenging and exciting time for DPD Ireland. With the volume of online shopping having boomed since the pandemic began, the company has seen volume goals originally planned for five years in the future already being reached.

“We have already achieved numbers and volumes expected for 2025, and so have had to scale up to meet this demand,” DPD chief executive Des Travers explains. “People have definitely moved to an online presence like never before, which has had a dramatic effect in the increased volume we have had to deal with.”

The increase in online shopping resulted in a 47% increase of volumes handled by DPD Ireland in 2020, with an expectation of over 22m parcels this year — up from 17m in 2020. Increased investment in driver scanner technology have also been put in place to support the anticipated parcel volume into the future. 

The company plans to build a new €30m hub to handle the increased demand and which will represent its largest-ever investment in Ireland.

Though the dramatic increase in volume during the pandemic has presented logistical challenges, it is a problem Des admits being happy to deal with.

“We are obviously very pleased to be in this position, especially when so many other businesses have had to lay employees off, as well as taking very hard financial decisions due to the effects of the pandemic,” he said.

DPD Ireland increased its employee numbers by over 800 throughout its 37 depots across the country last year, enlarging its nationwide workforce to 2,000. In addition, it has doubled the size of its depots in Cork, Kildare and Meath, bolstered by a new 15,000-sq ft distribution centre in Cootehill, Co Cavan.

The company reported increases in deliveries of electrical goods of 800%, with pet food up 300%, and sports equipment up 225%.

Tracking portal

DPD Ireland are also launching a new portal which will allow customers track the status of parcels and make changes to items such as an incorrect address in real-time.

“Our services have played an important role in these unprecedented times, with consumers ordering more online due to Covid-19 concerns. The new jobs will enable us continue to meet customer demand, and will hopefully provide a glimmer of light against the bleak backdrop of the pandemic crisis, with the expansion of our business helping boost the economy as a whole," Des says.

Interlink Ireland Ltd was founded in 1986 with 10 depots and a central hub based in Athlone. In 2000, Interlink Ireland became part of GeoPost SA, the parcels and express division of La Poste, the French Post Office. By 2006, business had expanded to the extent that the company committed €18m to the development of a new hub and headquarters.

In 2008, Interlink Ireland changed its name to DPD, subsequent to La Poste uniting its express parcel companies under one single brand. In 2016 DPD expanded further, doubling its hub size and trebling the sorting capacity from 7,000 parcels per hour to 21,000.

Des Travers, born in Glasgow of Irish parents, had initially trained as an apprentice welder, before coming to Dublin to work as a courier driver for DHL. Working his delivery routes during the day, he studied at night to achieve his sales qualifications. Headhunted by Federal Express, he went on to become general manager of the Dublin depot. He subsequently became general manager of Airborne Express, and later Parceline prior to his joining DPD.

Decarbonising fleet

DPD is investing €2m in decarbonising its Irish fleet, with plans to add 100 electric vans and trucks by the end of next year, aiming for a target of 250 electric vehicles by 2025. It has deployed 30 electric vans in 2021 so far, and will save 100,000 litres of diesel this year.

It is adding 10 new electric vehicles to the Cork depot by end of 2021, serving Cork city and surrounding areas with zero emissions.

As part of its smart urban delivery commitment, the company launched the “Green Last Mile” initiative in November 2020, a new scheme set up to deliver 1,000 parcels per day in Bettystown, Laytown and Drogheda using a double decker bus and ten electric bikes.

The CO2 saving is significant as the scheme is replacing ten diesel vans on the road, and, at full capacity, can save 550Kg of CO2 emissions each week.

The initiative avoids a significant number of motorway miles given the vans would have been driving from the depot to their destination each day.

“This project is already having a massive impact on communities in the towns involved,” Des explains. 

Rather than having diesel vans driving into these urban areas, we are using electric bikes which really improves the delivery experience.

"It has really grown into a triple-win — it avoids CO2 emissions, it reduces congestion, and it allows us to deliver parcels more efficiently. We are looking very closely to see how we can replicate the scheme’s success elsewhere.”

Looking to its future workforce needs, DPD is running a Logistics Associate Apprenticeship programme, consisting of one day a week studying at Technology University Dublin and four days a week working at DPD. It is seen as the optimum entry point into the Logistics, Freight, Shipping and Distribution sectors for school graduates, mature students and career changers. 

Earn while you learn

It also offers upskilling opportunities for the existing employees with no former qualification who wish to advance their careers in logistics, with the added benefit of ‘earning while learning’.

As to the ever-changing consumer habits and how they have been influenced by the pandemic, the annual DPD group e-shopper barometer report sheds light on the latest tastes and behaviours of Europeans who buy online. 

Fashion, a long-time favourite, declined significantly in 2020, while other categories such as high-tech, cosmetics, home furnishing/DIY, and sports equipment all showed impressive growth.

However, the true king of 2020 was the grocery category. Driven by consumers eating far more often at home, online purchase volumes of groceries reached remarkable levels worldwide, with grocery stores experiencing a 95% increase in transactions between March and December.

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