Roland Meekers on the evolution of logistics

Roland Meekers

Roland Meekers is a real jack of all trades. After first working in finance, he accidentally ended up in logistics. After leaving CEVA, he bumped into BME and there a new adventure began for him.

Currently, he still does freelance assignments. In addition, he serves on various boards of directors and advisory boards, each time with a logistics focus. At least once a week he is also active for BME as an investor and chairman of the board of directors.

In short, a man with tons of experience in logistics. It might be good to sit down with him and see how he has seen the logistics industry evolve and sound out 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-oriented 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 cannot, for example, respond quickly to changing consumer behavior, which is becoming much more prominent with the rise of e-commerce.

In short, where logistics used to be a behind-the-scenes process, it is increasingly a translation of the customer with respect to his consumer. What results is a much more flexible IT and process approach, which can be different for each customer. The days as a logistics provider where he imposed his processes on the customer are quietly over!"

warehouse BME

BME: How do you see the future of logistics?

Roland: "There are clear trends:

  1. E-commerce will continue to grow. Especially when you consider that e-commerce will intensify the need for digitization and give rise to new revenue models. The principle of know your customer, will only increase as we continue to digitize. That is why there is so much talk about data, but more important is what you do with that data. How you can look at it as an extra asset, so to speak, to provide additional value to your customer and his consumer.
  2. Second, automation of operations will become important. And I'm not just talking about robotization within operations, but innovations around 3D printing, artificial intelligence, will possibly have an even bigger 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 after all an important channel, will ensure that innovation within the logistics sector will accelerate.
  3. The third change, is possibly still the most important. The supply chain must adapt to changing consumer behavior. After all, it is the consumer who is in the lead and provides innovation to meet expectations. This then has an impact not only on the way you sell, but certainly also on the way you organize your processes and provide your logistics services. If the processes at your logistics provider are not aligned with the way you create customer-consumer value, much of this value will risk being lost."
logistics partner bme genk

BME: As a 3PL service provider, what do you think are the critical success factors for continuing to respond to this?

Roland: "A first key factor is to what extent a logistics service provider goes along with digitalization and is able to respond to the changes it brings. 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's side, without compromising operational functioning.

In addition, as a logistics company in the supply chain world, you must be constantly mindful of your business model. That means, for example, to what extent it should be adapted to the changes in your supply chain. Now we as a sector are not unique in that. What is unique is that these changes are a result of the consumer and not directly from our customer. A few years ago it was unimaginable that there would be so many different ways to serve the end consumer. The result, however, is that new logistics processes have emerged, which require different operations and, therefore, a different revenue model.

Actually, the answer can be summed up very simply in 1 sentence. Success depends on the extent to which you can embrace transparency and flexibility in your operational operation and thus contribute to adding value to your customer."

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