Roland Meekers is a real master in his craft. After first working in finance, he accidentally ended up in the logistics sector. After leaving CEVA, he bumped into BME and a new adventure started for him.
Now he still does freelance assignments, sits on various boards of directors and advisory boards, each with a logistic approach, and deals at least once a week with BME as investor and chairman of the board of directors.
In short, a man with tons of experience in logistics, perhaps it would be good to look with him at how he has seen the logistics sector evolve and to look at his vision for the future.
BME: How have you seen logistics change over the years?
Roland: “We have evolved, so to speak, from a ‘pallet farmer’ or ‘box trader’ to a more customer-focused profile. Now we really look at a customer’s specific business model. In addition, flexibility in all your processes is now a real must. If this is not there, you can’t, for example, respond quickly to changing consumer behavior, which is even more apparent with the rise of e-commerce.
In short, where logistics used to be a process behind the scenes, it is more and more a translation of the customer towards his consumer. This results in a much more flexible IT and process approach, which can be different for each customer. The time as a logistics service provider in which he imposed his processes on the customer is gradually over.”
BME: How do you see the future of logistics?
Roland: “There are clear trends:
E-commerce will certainly increase. Especially when you consider that e-commerce will further increase the need for digitization and create new revenue models. The principle of ‘know your customer’ will only increase as we digitize further. That is why there is so much talk about data, but even more important is what you do with that data and how you can view it as an extra asset to offer additional value to your customer and his consumer.”
Secondly, the automation of operations will become important. And I’m not necessarily just talking about robotization within operations, but innovations around 3D printing, artificial intelligence, may have an even greater impact than pure robotization. Because uniqueness is much stronger to create added value and that does not always go hand in hand with robotization. Also the evolution in retail, which is an important channel, will accelerate innovation within the logistics sector.
The third change is possibly the most important. The supply chain has to adapt to changing consumer behavior. After all, it is the consumer who is in the lead and ensures innovation to meet expectations. This not only has an impact on the way you sell, but certainly also on the way you set up your processes and provide your logistics services. If the processes at your logistics service provider are not in line with the way your customer creates consumer value, a large part of this value is at risk of being lost.”
BME: In your opinion, what are the critical success factors to continue to offer an answer as a 3PL service provider?
Roland: “A first key factor is the extent to which a logistics service provider is involved in the digitization process and is able to respond to the changes it entails. In other words, you will have to set up your own processes in such a way that they are very easy to adapt to the changes at your customer, without compromising the operational operation.
In addition, as a logistics company in the supply chain world, you need to have a constant eye for your business model. This means, for example, to what extent it needs to be adapted to the changes in your supply chain. As an industry we are not unique in this, what is unique is that these changes are a result of the consumer and not directly of our customer. A few years ago, it was not conceivable that there would be so many different ways to serve the end consumer. The result, however, is that new logistic processes have arisen, which require a different way of working and therefore a different revenue model.
Actually, the answer is very simple to summarize in one sentence. Success depends on the extent to which you can embrace transparency and flexibility in your operational operation and thus contribute to the added value of your customer.”
Are you looking for a logistics partner to cope with these challenges together?