The first impression: this man is not easy to rattle. Open, likeable and very lively, he gives us an insight into his work.
A passionate European
Mr Arndt, you are responsible for the European GLS network. Do you feel like a European?
Yes, absolutely. And I like the internationality of GLS. I interact with people of different nationalities and mentalities every day here. That has always appealed to me and continually drives me on.
You have been at General Parcel  and GLS since 1993. A lot has changed over that long period. Has anything stayed the same?
He laughs cheerfully.
That’s true. I am a real dinosaur in my job. But I am somewhat proud of that. I developed the quality management at General Parcel over 20 years ago. At that time, we were the first company with a Europe-wide ISO 9001 certificate. Today it is standard – so we were already setting benchmarks back then. Of course, we have developed the system further at GLS, but quality has remained the top priority.
My department is still responsible for international quality management, among other things. We ensure that all countries are audited twice a year and evaluate the quality statistics. Together with the companies in the different countries, we improve process steps whenever necessary.
What do you currently view as the particular challenge in the European network?
Expanding the service portfolio. Demand from the B2C sector is increasing and we are developing our current product and service offer for the future in order to meet expectations in this area even better.
What does that mean specifically?
For example, we already offer the FlexDeliveryService across borders between some countries, which has been very well received by customers. However, our aim is to get the widest-reaching European coverage possible.
The EU Commission wants to remove barriers to international online shopping. What does GLS think of this initiative?
That is indeed an interesting scheme that we are watching very closely. The number of international e-commerce parcels in our system is already increasing. But discrimination-free access to private customers does not exist in all countries. In many cases, only postal companies have access to blocks of flats – in France, for example, this is often the case due to door codes. In addition, we cannot deliver to PO boxes. If barriers are removed and more transparency is established, it would surely be beneficial to recipients.
Let’s focus on customs handling in international transportation: what is GLS characterised by in this area?
Customs handling is an important topic that will probably increase in significance even more over the coming years. We can already see that high customs costs outside the EU are inhibiting development, particularly in e-commerce. Our aim is therefore efficient customs clearance with the lowest costs possible.
This already works very well for export goods from Switzerland, for example. Together with our partner Swiss Post GLS, we have automated customs clearance for more than 20 major Swiss customers. Thanks to our specially developed software, we can complete more than 1,000 customs clearance operations in one day with low staff requirements.
Some countries have astounding import bans. For example, sending chewing gum to Singapore is not permitted. Does GLS have to monitor that?
He smiles, amused.
Yes, Singapore and chewing gum. Actually, it is the customer’s responsibility to take a country’s import regulations into account, but we try to recognise and filter out problem parcels as early as possible, because the chewing gum’s journey will end at the import customs in Singapore at the latest. But by then transport costs have already been generated, and there is usually no choice but to return or destroy the parcel.
We want to save our customers that inconvenience. That is why we inform them and the employees in our depots about special regulations and always check the shipping documents for international deliveries. If there are any discrepancies, the parcels are not sent, so that these issues can be cleared up and costs for the customers can be minimised.
Is Singapore somewhere you would like to go on holiday?
Singapore and Malaysia are very interesting countries, but unfortunately they are also very far away. With children, a beach holiday in Italy or Spain is more suitable at the moment – or, of course, skiing in Austria.
 European cooperation of what later became GLS companies
Thomas Arndt, Director International Network, is responsible for connecting the national networks of all GLS companies and network partners. The 50-year-old transport management expert supports partners in everything from quality assurance to analysis and coordination of business processes. He came to GLS via General Parcel. 23 years ago, he was the first employee and later the managing director of the European cooperation of what would later become GLS companies.