Interview: Jurgen Hirsch, general manager, Tranzone

Dubai-based firm's investment in quality is beginning to pay off.
Tranzone, general manager, Jurgen Hirsch
Tranzone, general manager, Jurgen Hirsch


Quality is a loosely ascribed word. These days it can be used to describe anything from a pizza to a luxury vehicle. And for those who have ever ventured out to Dubai’s Karama markets you understand what is being discussed here – quality can mean a genuine fake. The problem lies in the fact that the word has become so overused that it has seemingly lost its meaning and attempts to define it have become tantamount to finding a genuine product at the aforementioned markets.

What one person may determine as “quality” is different from what another may consider “quality”. In searching for a meaning, it is not enough to simply describe quality as something which is “good”, as this opens up yet another question: “what is good?” Attempts to rate anything is also rendered useless. Before you pick up a phone to contact a company to freight your goods, is one company really better than another? No, they are both just freight forwarding companies. It is not until you can assess for yourself the service, efficiency and other key criteria that you hold as representative of quality that a definition can be formed. In other words, quality does not exist separate of the individual − it is not until one becomes involved in a relationship with that company or product that quality can be ascribed.

Walking through the clean and secure environment at Tranzone you can see the attention to detail, the security and professionalism that exists at the pharmaceutical handling and storage facility. Swipe card access adjoins every door, temperature control pads maintain a perfect temperature throughout each facility and the warehouse is immaculately clean − if you were looking for the attributes of quality in a pharmaceutical warehousing company, then Tranzone exhibits them.

“I cannot emphasise enough on quality, says Jurgen Hirsch, general manager of Tranzone. “We see quality as a key to attract clients to work with us. You must never forget that when you deal with people’s health and people’s lives, quality is the most important thing − you see it in our processes our facility and staff − quality is key for us,” he adds. Tranzone Logistics, located in Jebel Ali Free Zone, was established in 2009 as storage and handler of medicines, pharmaceutical and medical equipment and supplies. A subsidiary of Saudi Arabian Banaja Holdings, the firm’s main objective is to attract international pharmaceutical companies to establish regional distribution centres in Jebel Ali, enabling them to supply their clients in the Gulf States and Africa. And two years since its inception into the market, Tranzone has developed a solid reputation in the pharmaceutical market, built on the back of quality infrastructure.

Consisting of 5000 square metres the firm’s warehouse is cutting edge. It has special cooling for each zone in accordance with the sensitivity of the stored product, specific areas for expired and damaged items, ongoing recording and automatic tracking of temperature and humidity in all storage areas, and unique designated storage areas and shelves for each client fully compliant with UAE national and international rules and regulations.

“The facility is very modern and of a very high standard,” claims Hirsch. “We can house up to 10,800 or 11,000 pallets depending on the configuration. We have the main warehouse which is set to 15 to 25 degrees and then we have the two cold rooms which are kept around 5 degrees. We also have a special room for controlled drugs,” he adds. On top of the latest high-tech procedures designed to separate client’s products from each other, the firm also employees physical barriers to guarantee there are no mix-ups.“We have created some special cages to block away quarantined or damaged products. “Each of our clients is also separated according to government requirements,” claims Hirsch.

In recognition of Tranzone’s quality management, the firm was recently awarded with ISO 9001 certification, which was according to Hirsch, a resounding acknowledgement of the company’s success in terms of quality management. “It was good for us,” says Hirsch. “Basically it’s not a stop, it’s a start to develop further. This is confirmation that we are on the right track,” he claims. In a prediction of the future, Hirsch believes the firm will look to acquire more ISO accreditations as the company continues to strive for perfection.

“We already have ISO 9001 certification and we are also going for ISO 27001 which deals predominately with managing information in a safe way,” Hirsch comments. The certifications Tranzone have received are no surprise given the measures the firm has undertaken to ensure the safe storage of pharmaceuticals in the warehouse – the constant monitoring by firms storing their products there, inspections from the Ministry of Health, and implementation of expensive fail-safe technology, demonstrative of the high quality standards to which the company must comply.

“We have regular inspections from the Ministry of Health which is once a year per client, then we have the quality departments from the different clients coming in at any point in time,” says Hirsch. “With a new client we have to pass three audits − one which involves our security CCTV system, security staff and intrusion control, then our IT system plus IT department is audited. We also have an audit for our quality management system,” he adds.

On top of the regular visits by the Ministry of Health, auditing and inspections by existing clients, the company has invested a significant amount of capital in technology to maintain and protect the quality standards the firm has built. With pharmaceuticals highly dependent on a constant temperature, it is critical that the firm has the necessary backup should other systems fail. As a preventative measure the company has purchased a backup generator as well as installing additional cooling units.

“If the electricity goes down, we have a backup generator which kicks in automatically,” explains Hirsch. “This keeps the facility going without any change in the conditions.” Though the generator was an expensive investment for the company, it is not a case of set and forget, as Hirsch comments. “We check on a weekly basis to monitor if there is enough diesel and if the coolant is sufficient,” says Hirsch. “It’s not just a matter of having it, but of maintaining it.”

Tranzone has also “over designed” the warehouse’s cooling system in order to protect client’s products in the warehouse. “We have designed the cooling system just to be prepared in case one or two of the cooling units fail. If this occurs, the other ones are strong enough to maintain the temperature,” explains Hirsch. “In one cold room there are four cooling units. We are able to run the complete warehouse with one cooling unit, so there is no issue or risk,” he claims.

With so much invested in maintaining and protecting the business, it is difficult to see Tranzone having the time to expand operations, but that is exactly what the company is looking to achieve, even in the shadow of an economic crisis. In fact, the company is looking to reach 80 per cent of the warehouse’s storage capacity by 2012 and after achieving full capacity in 2013, will add more storage capacity and extend the firm’s capabilities in both freight forwarding and transportation networks.

“Together with our principal in Saudia Arabia, Banaja Holdings, we feel that it is the right moment to expand,” explains Hirsch. Firstly, we believe that pharma companies are ready to invest in setting up new logistics hubs, and secondly, the pharma business itself is one of the areas that is giving the best margin within the logistics sector − we want a piece of that cake,” Hirsch adds emphatically.

Despite the allure of the pharma industry, the amount of interest in the pharmaceutical market suggests the company will face some fierce competition from competitors. However, it is a challenge to which Tranzone remains unfazed. Conversely, Hirsch confidently proclaims the firm is not afraid at all.

“Right now I don’t see any other major facilities being built up and I don’t see any major new competition coming up,” explains Hirsch. “The Saudi Arabian market could be additional competition, but we are not scared about that as we have our own set up in Saudi Arabia as well −either we get a piece of the cake in Dubai, or we get a piece of cake in Saudi Arabia,” he comments.

Hirsch also adds that the investment required to establish and maintain a pharmaceutical compliant warehouse is not something that will suit any logistics firm. “It is a very special business,” says Hirsch. “You have to achieve very high quality standards and it’s very strictly regulated by the Ministry of Health. Not a lot of companies are willing to invest in this quality, so I see that whilst the competition is there, it will not grow very much.”

At present Banaja Holdings employs 700 employees across Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In Dubai, that figure is between 25 and 30, but it is another area which Hirsch would like to see grow. “When I joined six months ago we had 22 heads on the payroll, right now it is 25. By 2013, I would expect we will have between 50 and 60 people, explains Hirsch. “We’re very confident to eventually overachieve,” he adds.

In terms of what Hirsch would like to see Tranzone achieve under his guidance, the general manager points to significant growth. “I would like to see the facility completely full and I would also like to set up an expansion project with Tranzone,” he says. “I would like to have Tranzone achieving volumes that make us a very competitive force in the freight forwarding market for pharmaceuticals and healthcare products,” he comments.

Whilst the definition of quality is something which will always remain difficult to define, it is perhaps only through a visit to Tranzone’s Jebel Ali premises that one will find the answer.

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