Katrien Buys shares insights with X2 Logistics Networks

X2 Logistics Networks had the opportunity to get to know more about one of the members on Richard’s & Murray’s X2 European Tour.

Check out the Q&A with Katrien Buys – Managing Partner of Robema NV as she shares some of their project shipments.

Could you describe your typical workday as a forwarder?

Upon arrival in the office, check the emails with a cup of coffee and make the planning for the day.
Managing the operation , meetings with customers and suppliers ,
pricing negotiations , quotations , …

What made you choose logistics as a career?

It is the dynamics of the transport industry which made me choose for a Bachelor “international commerce and logistics”. And shipping never gets boring due to the wide variety of tasks.

What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?

The most important skills of a freight forwarder are being able to multitask, being stress resistant, being able to think outside of the box and you have to be a people manager.

And what about the skills and learnings you acquired through the years of your experience in this business?

Over the years you expand your network of customers but also your network of suppliers and agents. This allows you to diversify and allows you to offer your customers a lot more services. A network as X2 can speed up this process. Over the years I also learned a lot about specific handling requirements of certain types of cargo which is imperative to be able to find the correct solution. Another item is the increasing importance of EDI over the years, which we need to embrace but which often also reduces the personal relationship with the shipping lines.

What parts of your job do you find most challenging?

As a small forwarding company you need to distinguish yourselves from the big forwarding groups by offering extra expertise and a more personal approach. It is not possible to compete only on basis of rates.

Which seasons of the year are toughest in your job? And why?

The holiday season(s) as the workload remains the same but it has to be managed sometimes with only half of the staff.
The rush to Christmas and Chinese New Year are usually not only the busiest but also the toughest part of the year as the urgency of cargo comes together with the fight for sufficient space.

Can you please share us your humble beginnings as a company and how you progressed?

Robema was founded 25 years ago and I’m here since the beginning being the first employee.
Initially, our core business was project forwarding and shipping from mainly German customers to Africa. Meanwhile, we gradually expanded our customers base and we are offering services to worldwide destinations for all kinds of cargo.

What are the current difficulties or challenges you are facing in Belgium when it comes to logistics?

The ever-increasing road congestion in and around Antwerp which makes it more and more difficult to get the cargo timely in the port for departure. With the upcoming infrastructure works, this will become an even bigger burden in the near future.

The battle for talent. Finding the right candidates to join a growing organization and how to convince them to go for a career in our industry.

In projects, we do know that there are different type of shipments, what do you specialize in?

The majority of our project cargo are tubes and pipes for the oil & gas industry.
Next to that, we often handle oversized machinery, storage tanks, steel coils for the automotive industry and oversized conveyor belts.
Currently, we are handling the complete transport ( dismantling, crating, road transport to port, stuffing, and shipping including onsite delivery ) of a car manufacturing plant from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.

If you can change anything about the freight forwarding industry, what would it be?

Do you think new technologies is vital in the Project sector? Are there any new technologies in particular that your company has embraced? If yes, please specify.

What’s the most challenging project shipment you’ve ever handled? Please share to us how you plan for the solution and the execution.

Projects can be challenging due to different reasons. It can be due to the weight and the dimensions of the cargo, but a project can also be challenging due to the volume of the shipment or the urgency. It can happen that a box of 100 k is equally challenging as a shipment of 10.000 tons pipes. Another aspect of difficulty can be the final destination. For example for inland Africa destinations we need our network in order to provide the transport up to final destination.

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