There is no denying the fact that innovative digital solutions offer the potential to transform the industry. Nevertheless, the digitization of the supply chain is still barely advanced in many companies and poses major challenges. We talked to Menno Benningshof about the current challenges, opportunities but also about possible dangers. Besides this, he told us what he would advise companies that want to become more digital.
Menno started as a trainee in a forwarding company in the days when the fax machine was the pinnacle of digital development – He has been working in the logistics and supply chain management industry for nearly three decades now. During that time, he has developed from a general forwarder into a manager of teams and companies. Moreover, he has seen the industry evolve from a regional, conservative sector into a global acting and constantly changing environment with a profound influence on world economics. Today he consults multiple customers from the logistics and supply chain management industry.
Hi Menno, to get us started, what does your everyday work currently look like? What keeps you most busy?
Already since 1992 I have been active in logistics, and that is what keeps me busy during the work week. At this moment I do freelance work for multiple customers with different needs. Basically, they and what their expectations are will drive my days.
You have been in the logistics sector for almost three decades now. In which areas do you currently see the greatest challenges?
The biggest challenge is transforming the conservative world of transport into a digital world. One of the biggest challenges is how to minimize communication, or better, how to streamline communication.
What advice would you give to companies to meet these challenges?
Invest, organize and optimize is my motto. Investing does not necessarily mean putting in tons of money. Be smart, look at solutions, but also think about the possibilities you yourself have within the organization.
In logistics, we are experiencing a huge digitalization push. Where do you see the greatest opportunities and where perhaps also possible dangers?
Digitalization is great, but it holds dangers, employees will be more and more dependent on software and systems. This could mean loss of knowledge, and that is potentially fatal. Therefore, optimizing through software is the way forward, but make sure your team(s) still hold the knowledge. There is nothing more disappointing to a customer than talking to a customer service desk that fully relies on a system. If the system is down, then the business is down, or if the customer needs a quick fix, or something which can not be run through the software, then how are you able to help your customer? That is deadly for your business, or at least for a high level of customer satisfaction. So keep investing in knowledge as well, make sure that the user understands what actually is being done by software or systems.
What advice would you give to companies that want to become more digital?
Make small steps. Big ones might trip you up, and make you fall hard and deep, let alone the possible financial consequences. Analyze thoroughly how your business flows are set up, try and find the choke points in your flows. Once you have analyzed these, discuss with your team(s) what they feel needs development first, and keep them involved in the whole process. This will give you a firm base and more importantly, it will keep and grow the knowledge within your teams and you make them understand how processes are set up. In case you want to choose a project group or team to give them the assignment, remember to make sure the team members not included in the project are taught afterwards. Or in a few words: include your employees in the optimization process, make them part of the progress and renewal of your business.
Thank you for the interview, Menno!
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