“Those who don’t work in the food industry don’t realize how beautiful this sector is”, says Arthur Dresen. Arthur is Supply Chain Director Europe at Verkade. He states the admirable existence of magnificent companies with a long history in the Netherlands. In this interview, we asked him about his role in times of COVID.
What in your opinion is the most important development in the food industry?
If you would have asked me this half a year ago, I would have given you a completely different answer than the one I’m giving today. COVID caused a shift within the supply chain. A pandemic like this one exposes the risks of globalization. When normally speaking you import products from China and China closes, you got a problem. Today, everyone is asking themselves how to prevent those risks.
Let’s take a look at the future
For Verkade, I see a lot of opportunities. We will always have to find a balance between costs and risks. When the production chain is local, there is less chance for disruption. That might outweigh the extra costs. We need to find out how to be less dependent on other regions.
What’s the current situation like
Lately stress has really been testing us. That is not just the case for our organization, but for many companies. Fortunately, Verkade made it through just fine.
How did you manage?
In a quite simple way: we increased stocks, so that we would become less dependent on our suppliers. At the same time, we are turning toward our suppliers network and pondering how dependent we are and how dependent we wish to be. It’s a search for solutions and the options and answers are multiple.
How did you experience this time?
It’s been a very instructive time period. We had to keep our operations working; all of us were in a very active state. Now that the situation has stabilized, we will look back. The pandemic exposed our risks and we are busy bracing ourselves for a second wave. Having to solve small issues once in a while is fine, but we have lessons to learn in order to be less sensitive to extreme situations like these. It’s an interesting process.
What does this ask from your colleagues?
This situation requires a certain degree of mental flexibility. Verkade is an institute, but that doesn’t take away the fact we need to think about the changing world and the consequences that has on our production chain. It no longer is about the products we make; we need to deliver our products to the consumer. That is why we regularly ask ourselves the question: “if we would have known everything beforehand, what would we have done differently?” At home, we order a lot of things online. It is our job to examine the possibilities for online ordering at Verkade.
Did anything change in the work place?
The sector in which we work has been impacted quite mildly by the pandemic. A shift took place however in terms of products, but apart from that, the factory is still running its usual course. For the factory staff the necessary changed. Working from home was not the norm for us, even though it was possible all these years. COVID forced us to organize work differently. The company board agreed to implement at least three office days a week for our employees, including one day on which everybody has to be there. That way, we can still look each other in the eye. That’s always better!