Our company in corona times: “Flexibility is key.”

Our company in corona times: “Flexibility is key.”

Halfway through March, Belgium was suddenly confronted with shocking figures: Covid-19, the new coronavirus, was spreading out of control in our country and would take many lives. It also became clear that it would stall the economy for an indefinite period of time. Insecurity struck many companies. What should we do? Leave our customers high and dry? That was definitely not an option. That’s why we are continuing to work, obviously respecting the strictest safety measures. Gert Bervoets, CEO, Mike Dautzenberg, HR Director, and Salvatore Napolitano, Chief Purchasing Officer, shed a light on the past period and the future.

When Covid-19 started to advance steadily in Southern Europe, Flemish companies were watching it closely. But not many countries had expected how quickly and drastically the situation would change in the following weeks, including Belgium. “When we were informed about the lockdown and the government measures, we soon came to realise that we were one of the essential businesses that would have to continue operating,” says CEO Gert Bervoets. This obviously had a lot to do with our strategic segments. “With our pharmaceutical and chemical segments, for example, we take care of the logistics and storage of crucial medical products and raw materials,” he adds. “Products that are now, more than ever, produced in higher volumes. So we decided to take all the necessary measures and continue to serve our customers as safely as possible.”

Acting responsibly

This safety is vitally important for employees in all departments. Those who could work from home were allowed to do so straight away. But the drivers and workers on the work floor had to be actively protected. “We responded quickly and communicated clearly about the safety measures,” explains Mike Dautzenberg, HR Director. “We also talked to our partners and customers, to make sure our drivers would be safe on arrival at their destination.” Salvatore Napolitano, CPO, agrees: “Additionally, we invested in large quantities of protective clothing, materials and infrastructure. Fortunately, we noticed that everyone took the measures very seriously and acted responsibly.”

Continued international operations

Nevertheless, the practice of international transport takes quite some doing. Every country in Europe is dealing with a different situation and therefore different rules with regard to the corona crisis. Gert Bervoets: “For example, we have a branch in Northern Italy, a region that was hit particularly hard by the virus. By using our own facilities optimally, we still managed to get medicines to patients, who would normally be supplied from this location, at home.” And in these challenging times, the dedicated attitude of the employees keeps the company going. “You would notice a certain level of anxiety, but at the same time they were motivated to keep going,” says Mike Dautzenberg. “And although we were able to deploy fewer employees at our sites, the work never came to a standstill. Quite an achievement!” During this time, the role of the communication teams is also indispensable. “Both internally and externally,” says Gert Bervoets. “At all levels of the company, we put a great deal of time and effort into setting up a structured crisis communication which clearly outlines the situation and needs for each party. The effect was so positive that we decided to maintain this communication at all levels, to ensure the flawless operation of our company in the coming months.”

A new future

The management has already prepared its continuity plans for the future. For the time being our company will have to continue to take the corona virus into account. Salvatore: “Our internal prevention advisors are organising internal audits to verify our own procedures and implement the necessary improvements. Anything to guarantee our safety.” Mike Dautzenberg is aware of this too, and expects that the company’s operations will never be quite the same again. “Social distancing will be the new normal for the time being. It is therefore very important for everyone, in every department, to adopt an attitude of flexibility, especially now.” This flexibility should also prevail at policy level. “Personally, I have learned an important lesson from the sudden corona outbreak,” says Gert Bervoets. “Because, at first, you can’t imagine that the world can be so affected by a virus, and that the economy and society are going through such an impactful shock wave. Adjustments and alternatives that might have seemed impossible before, such as organising our transport planning from home, have been successfully implemented during this crisis. So it is possible, after all! This proves that we are indeed capable of coping with the greatest challenges and that we should tackle them with confidence.”

Our company, as an all-round logistics service provider, is well-equipped to meet these challenges. “Our foundations are strong, and new opportunities are already in the pipeline,” says Gert Bervoets. “Because customers are looking for alternative transport solutions for their pharmaceuticals, for example. To Asia, but also across Europe. And that’s where our synchromodal routes come into the picture, with all the specialist cold-chain and security solutions that we can additionally provide. So, you see, every crisis eventually makes room for opportunities as well.”