Transport and logistics becomes stronger with mutual cooperation and new blood

Wed | 4 Nov 2020 | Interviews

Transport and logistics becomes stronger with mutual cooperation and new blood

Simacan regularly invites characteristic persons from within the logistics and transport, to let them tell us about their work in this sector. Besides that we would also like to know everything about their background and their vision. More and more women can be found in important positions in transport and logistics. This also applies to Elise Gerritsen, Project Manager House of Logistics Collaboration at Logistics Valley Rivierenland. She works 1.5 days a week on three projects that are aimed at people and job market concerning the logistics sector: learning, working and innovation.

An important project Elise Gerritsen is working on is building an online platform for the logistics sector. Anyone who wants to work within this sector can find a variety of useful information here: education, vacancies, internships, seasonal work and apprenticeships. On this platform you can register yourself as a jobseeker. Via an app you will receive push messages, such as news and vacancies, in response to the criteria filled in by the jobseeker.

Elise, can you tell us a bit more about this online platform of Logistics Valley?

The great thing about this project is that all logistic validated partners are involved: logistics companies from the region, but also ROC (regional training centers) and the University of Arnhem-Nijmegen (HAN) and other parties such as UWV/Werkzaak (Center for Work and Income). The target group for this platform consists of young people, who just left school or are in the process of finding their bearings, but also, for example, people who are re-entering the job market.

With this project we do not want to take on the role of temporary employment agency; it is purely a platform to inform our audiences about everything that has to do with working in the logistics sector. If desired, coaching can be arranged when applying for a job, in which case we link the job seeker to work coaches.

Our platform offers a wide variety of jobs, from driver to manager. Much of this is the result of vacancies at SMEs in the Rivierenland region. Many of these companies are active in logistics, or they are shippers and producers with a solid logistical section.

"People and education are becoming more and more important, and that is what you have to work on as an area.”

How did this project come about?

The project has been running for a year now and is aimed at building a strong logistics ecosystem. Again and again we look at what the ecosystem needs to become stronger.

The starting point of the project was a subsidy from the Dutch government for an experiment within the job market for people with a distance to the job market. Working with online platforms and associated communication is the future and we are responding to this: mapping out behaviour of jobseekers and providing feedback to employers. Employers can learn from this by adjusting jobs, working on a better company presentation or by adapting their training package. This way you connect parties with each other, in a digital way.

Before the corona outbreak, you saw a reduction in jobs, but a lot of demand from jobseekers. Now, during corona, you see the emergence of even more e-commerce activities and therefore more companies with a demand for operators. With the help of the platform we can respond much better to these new developments.

How did you enter the logistics sector? And what do you find so interesting about this sector?

Originally I am an econometrician. In the early 1990s, after my graduation, there was a difficult labour market. That's why I initially started as a secretary at Ballast Nedam Nederland. They soon saw my potential and I moved on to the Logistics department, in the section of the Saudi Arabia branch. They were looking for a logistics coordinator who would be in charge of the entire logistics chain. So I ended up in the construction industry with the logistics department by chance.

A few years later, in my consecutive job, I was involved in calculating shipping networks. More and more I became fascinated by that world: the speed, the internationality, the honest, open and hands-on culture... that's what appeals to me. In addition, there are many complex puzzles that need to be solved. I came across them everywhere. As a BU director at strategic level and as an econometrician on major planning issues.

What are you currently doing, in addition to your work for Logistics Valley?

After previously mentioned positions, I started my own company about 12 years ago: I offer support to teams and organisations concerning transformations, with a focus on the total package. Is the management ready for changes, but also very often cultural issues: how do you integrate companies? How do you mix cultures? How do you create effectivity by putting the right people in the right places? I hand a strong mix with operation and business on one side and talent of the people you already have on board on the other hand.

At Logistics Valley I do ofcourse apply my knowledge and experience, but I clearly don't sell my own company. Because I want to keep my neutral position, which is very important in all of this. But I do work together with logistics clients in the rest of the Netherlands.

"Building at area level takes a long time."

Is transport and logistics on the right track, as a sector?

Certainly, I see many good initiatives in the field of sustainability, cooperation and digitalization. But the pace can be raised a bit. There are good developments in the field of awareness, but it is a fairly classic thinking sector on many fronts. In general, it is still managed very traditionally. There clearly is a need for people who think differently, who lead and watch all developments. A different way of looking at things means that you get a different picture and thus an increased need for a bit more pace.

Why, in your opinion, is there little new inflow into the sector of, for example, girls and people with a different cultural background?

This is partly due to image formation: for example, people would like more girls to follow the logistics training programs. But the study programs themselves often still focus too much on boys with their information and website.

This also still happens too much within logistics companies without them being aware of it themselves: unconsciously out of patterns, out of convenience, or because of the power of habits. Too many tough, young, white men are still being shown in expressions of the sector. Many women are already active in the sector (in management, as drivers, etc.), but in the dynamics of the sector they are going along with the old habits.

"We need to be conscious of the need to change the focus of the branding to ensure that new influx derives."

The new way of thinking and ensuring new influx is about little things that count. The sector will have to take this into account. This can be done by telling us how awesome this industry is, we do not bring this out enough. For example at secondary schools, the sector is often unknown, although more and more programs are being set up at schools. But bringing the logistics to new target groups needs time, we really need to catch up. We are lagging behind other sectors, such as technology.

We are actually a very modest sector, hard-working and down-to-earth. There is now a new generation in transport and logistics that does consider marketing to be important and who do network. Because of them, a less traditional setting is created and specific qualities of the company are emphasized and propagated more in order to be able to distinguish themselves from the competition.

Are certain sources/resources left unused to attract people/capacity in the logistics sector?

Quite a lot of use is made of all the sources that exist. Steps can still be taken by linking things even better together, like chain cooperation and even more horizontal cooperation. Wagonloads, for example, could be combined from the same business park. Best practices could also be shared: cooperation and sharing of knowledge, skills and experience.

Is there a company that, in your opinion, already thinks in this way, future-oriented? Who could set an example for the sector?

Every company is very active in its own way. There are companies that are already very progressive on a certain axis, for example the sustainability axis, and have already consciously opted for a fleet that runs entirely electrically. There are also many young entrepreneurs, the new generation, who are very active online. They dare to share knowledge, but they also dare to ask.

Is there too little of that, of asking colleagues within the sector for help?

Yes, that is certainly the case. People in the logistics sector, male and female, are naturally geared towards solving things themselves. They are generally solution-focused people who like to sort things out. It is in the DNA of the sector to want to do things themselves. While sometimes it can be very powerful, or necessary, to indicate that you can't do it yourself and need help.

Logistics companies are societies that like to do everything themselves, but if you look at digitalization and sustainability, investments also have to be made, for example in the purchase of hydrogen trucks. The average SME cannot do this themselves. The environment is going to have an increasing impact on logistics companies. In time, many companies will have to turn their logistics systems upside down as a result of changing legislation within a few years.

What is the ideal image of the logistics sector for you?

As far as I am concerned, it would consist of a nice balance within the sector between the decisiveness, result-orientation, perseverance and feeling for doing business that you already see a lot in the sector, combined with more room for compassion. A better balance between feminine and masculine qualities, one could say. But where business and humanity are also balanced. We tend to hang over too much to one side, I am very much in favour of balance.

"Actually, I find the masculine to feminine ratio within a company more interesting than the ratio of men to women. I think that each sector benefits from balance."

Nor do I care whether there are 30% or 70% women at the top in a company. It's more about the right balance between male and female qualities, whether they come from a man or a woman. For example, a woman can have many masculine talents. That is also the case with me. Women are by nature often more connective and know intuitively that a little more time is needed.

What are your further expectations in supply chain?

In short: shorter supply chains, more and more IT, more and more mechanisation and a lot of re-engineering. There may be less work within the sector, but it will be a higher level. But you don not only see this in our sector, you can actually see it happening everywhere. It's all going to take another 10-20 years, but it's going to happen. The only question is whether we are already sufficiently prepared for this.

What do you see happening in the sector now that we are all dealing with the coronavirus?

I can only speak for our region, Rivierenland, and what I see happening there. There are many companies operating in the food sector here and they are extremely busy at the moment. These food and e-commerce companies are actually busier than ever. They are doing just as well, or perhaps better, than they were before COVID-19.

There are companies among them that have had more blows internationally, but they are doing well and they are responding and adapting quickly.

Anyway, there are of course also companies that have suffered a great deal, look at event logistics, but they are throwing everything overboard to, for example, other distribution or other customers. Adjustment and rethinking...

There are companies that do get in heavy waters, but those are really the exceptions. Resilience is enormous in the logistics sector. Of course, we still have to wait and see the economic impact. I expect we will not see this until 2021-2023. Perhaps it will not be all bad.