DHL was started by innovators and grew by using innovation to respond to customer demand all over the world, said Stephen Fenwick, CEO of DHL Express Americas.
"Conceptually, DHL was a garage start-up. We started out with a few people sitting on planes flying documents from San Francisco (California) to Hawaii," said Fenwick, who has worked with DHL for three decades and now runs a division that includes the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, employing about 15,000 people in 57 countries and territories.
DHL began in 1969 when three men, Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom and Robert Lynn (whose last names provided the initials for DHL), established an air express business by personally delivering shipping documents by air. The documents arrived at customs offices before the freight, which allowed cargos to pass through customs more quickly and helped improve the flow of international trade.
"For years, our people carried documents on planes," said Fenwick, an Australian who previously worked for DHL in Singapore as senior vice president of network operations for Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "Sometimes our people would take up a whole plane, and the airlines didn't like us at the beginning.
"That's how we started--through innovation. Offering a service that didn't exist," he added. 'And we've grown over the years by using innovation to respond to customer demand." DHL today is the courier service with the greatest international reach, serving more than 220 countries and territories worldwide.
As its business expanded, DHL realized the value of computer technology and word processing. The company was a pioneer in using word processors, Fenwick noted, a step that sped up the handling of enormous volumes of paperwork previously done either with typewriters or manually.
As the company grew, it acquired its own planes and added more routes. Today it operates its own worldwide fleet of cargo jets and partners with regional airlines in order to extend its reach.
In Latin America, DHL expanded its network far beyond capital cities, following international and domestic trade patterns and setting up service in...