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People Who Move the World: CFR Line

A forward-thinking attitude to technology combined with an ambitious desire for growth have allowed CFR Line to expand from a small office in New Zealand to seven offices across the Pacific region.

New Zealand’s CFR Line began its work in logistics and freight forwarding as a five-person operation in a shared office. Two years later, they moved into a larger office with ten employees. Today, CFR Line’s business spans Oceania with seven offices and 70 people—and the company hasn’t even celebrated its tenth birthday yet.

This type of dramatic expansion doesn’t come easily, though. When a company grows its business faster than it can develop its resources, workloads tend to get bigger as well, making it more difficult for a small team to keep up with the operational and accounting workload.

“That’s when you start working harder, but to a certain extent, losing more,” Group Director Sam Osman says. 

It’s not uncommon for companies in this growth phase to feel the strain—for those who place a high value on customer service, delivering goods can end up taking priority over internal matters such as processing invoices. 

“If you leave out those parts you’re actually starting to throw money away,” Osman says.

Managing Director Harold Hermans had international ambitions for CFR Line from day one, and was well aware of the risks associated with pursuing rapid growth when he and his partners formed the company. It’s for this reason Hermans chose CargoWise One for CFR Line’s IT infrastructure.

“We wanted a system that had no limitations in growth; we can literally grow user by user and module by module,” he says. 

“In the beginning we started with freight forwarding, then we added customs, then we added logistics. And of course, since the beginning, all the accounting was done in CargoWise.”

In his own words, Osman was “dead against” adopting CargoWise One when he joined CFR Line four years ago. But after seeing the difference it made to the company’s operations he became a strong advocate for the platform.

“The big-win moment happened four years ago,” he says. 

“That was when we had six weeks to get a huge warehouse emptied and transported to a second warehouse that was not set up. 

“During the day I would be at the old location helping with the loading of containers to move the product out. And at night, I’d be at CFR unloading those containers.”

But as anyone who’s worked in third-party logistics knows, business doesn’t stop just because you have to set up a new warehouse. 

As Osman explains, “You cannot tell your customers, ‘We can’t dispatch goods,’ or, ‘We’ve stopped because we’re doing a stocktake.’ Business has to carry on.”

“That was my big moment—the fact that we achieved that. We could move that amount of product in a period of six weeks while still continuing day-to-day business.

“That was a challenge, and the fact that we did it without losing any fault lines, that was a really good effort from the entire team.”

Besides enabling CFR Line to scale seamlessly, CargoWise One also allowed the company to tackle another challenge it faced in New Zealand: entering a market already crowded with much larger multinational freight forwarders.

Equipped with CargoWise One, CFR Line was able to offer all the bells and whistles that come with a fully integrated global enterprise while maintaining the excellent, boutique-level customer service expected of a local provider.  

“Customers overseas, they can see their inventory in our warehouse,” says Hermans. 

“They can see the orders live. They can place their orders live in our system. It’s the same system that also runs all forwarding. So if a customer orders 
a product in Germany, or in China, or in America, the orders track from the factories there … to the delivery point of the customer.” 

“The customers, they’re dealing with a midsized company. Yet they think they’re dealing with a multinational. And it’s ideal … it’s perfect.”

The company has come far in a short space of time, but Hermans and Osman are not the types to rest on their laurels. For CFR Line, the next big moment is just around the corner.

“We’ve grown really quickly,” says Osman. 

“I feel we just need to focus on tidying up, neatening things up. That will allow us to make our core stronger, and then move forward in a big way.”

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