The Grocery Trader talk with coldstore specialists, Partner Logistics’ CEO Duco Buijze about his career, the challenges and opportunities facing the sector and his plans for the future.
GT – Could you tell us a bit about your career to date?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the logistics sector throughout my career and have seen a fair few changes. However, it’s still a very exciting and diverse sector where no two days are ever the same!
My first job after graduating in management science and industrial engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology was in sales at Leyland DAF Trucks. I saw things from the sharp end with the need to manage and plan for truck production to keep the supply chain moving efficiently.
I worked with DAF for 5 years before deciding to take the plunge into consulting where I developed new business models for the logistics sector aimed at making companies more effective and efficient. It was very enlightening to be working with different companies but I realised I prefer implementing change from within an organisation as ultimately this is where you can make the real difference – so I knew I wanted to get back into the ‘thick of it’.
So I took up positions as Director of Operations at logistics experts Lekkerland Nederland BV, and then as General Director at urban distribution specialist Downtown Service before taking up the helm at Partner Logistics in November last year.
GT – What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I don’t think you can beat acknowledgement from your peers and I felt I achieved that when I won the Netherlands ‘Logistics Manager of the Year’ award in 2009. After a 360 degree review I was selected from about 35 nominees by a judging panel with a wealth of experience across the logistics sector! Today the award has pride of place at Partner Logistics’ HQ.
GT – What challenges have you faced along the way, and how have you overcome them?
When I was at Lekkerland Nederland BV I was asked to manage its merger with Conway, a major Belgium-based FMCG supplier and vending services provider to newsagents, petrol stations and small supermarkets. The cultures of the companies were just so different and there were a lot of labour-related issues and union discussions with the 400 employees from Conway and Lekkerland combined. In hindsight I would probably say it was one of the most demanding but also one of the most rewarding experiences of my working life so far.
GT – How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m inspired by leaders who are able to draw the very best from their team and for me this means being open and approachable. I make time to listen to my team so I can understand the jobs that suit them best, keeping them motivated. Prompt feedback is also key, this includes positive and corrective comments, as well as support when needed. I also make a point of ensuring staff are familiar with the organisation’s current strategy so everyone is clear about our goals and know which direction we’re heading.
GT – In your opinion what have been the biggest areas of change within the logistics sector over recent years?
Demand for speed within the supply chain is greater than ever before. This has led to ever more stringent service level agreements to ensure closer monitoring of products as they move through the logistics process.
In addition to the fast-paced environment another key area of change and expansion is the introduction of European networks within the sector as a result of customers requiring more flexible storage. For example our network of six frozen warehouses in the UK and Benelux has a combined storage capacity of over 500,000 pallets and helps to effectively maximise the distribution efficiency for our customers’ supply chain.
GT – Finally what are the biggest challenges you face at Partner Logistics now and in the future?
We have come a long way in a very short time but we are also very ambitious about the future. For now, we appreciate the importance of building trust and reputation within the marketplace. We are also focussing on maintaining and developing relationships with our key customers such as Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s, Pinguin Lutosa and Birds Eye as well as making new contacts.
In the future we will be looking for progressively innovative ways to grow market share, particularly as we recognise the current operating environment is increasingly dominated by the larger players. Despite this we know we can add value and provide a more bespoke service for customers delivering flexibility and reliability first time, every time.