Lifting the lid on our equipment processing operations in Zeebrugge

With seasonal demands and tight timeframes to contend with, OEMs in the construction, agricultural and mining industries need machinery to be delivered on time and in dealer-ready condition, as Sam De Spiegelaere, equipment processing manager at our terminal in Zeebrugge, well knows. Here he shares how our value-added equipment processing services can help get your products to market as swiftly as possible.

Sam profile

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how long you’ve been working for Wallenius Wilhelmsen?

After 11 years managing internal and external warehouses for global public transport vehicle manufacturer Bombardier Transportation, I jumped at the chance to join Wallenius Wilhelmsen as equipment processing operations manager in Zeebrugge. Coming from trains and trams, I just couldn’t go smaller, so machinery was a match made in heaven for me. Boys and their toys!

What does your role as equipment processing operations manager entail?

Essentially my job is to oversee and optimise all processing operations for our customers. It’s a very varied role, and a typical day can involve anything from capacity planning to implementing a new warehouse management system or looking at ways to increase efficiency and productivity using our Continuous Improvement and Operational Excellence tools.

The biggest challenge is not only to define, document and implement a process; it’s to go that extra mile. To be critical and reflect on that very same process that has been implemented and ask: ‘how can we do even better? How can we make sure our customers benefit even more from our cooperation?’.

What supply chain needs do agricultural, mining and construction OEMs currently have and how do our processing operations meet these needs?

The ‘order today, delivered tomorrow’ mentality that many of us have become accustomed to is reshaping expectations, and this level of agility and supply chain velocity is something our customers also strive for. To keep up with seasonal demand and deliver products to dealers in the shortest timeframe possible, they might have last minute customisation requirements, for example.

Our main purpose is to create that added value for our customers and give them the flexibility to cope with these challenges. After all, that’s what logistics is about: having the right part, in the right place, at the right time and at the best price.

Are there any emerging pain points in customer supply chains that you’ve noticed recently and how are you helping to address these?

We’re currently seeing a severe global shortage of parts and materials across our customers’ supply chains. Seasonal peaks are commonplace in the construction and agricultural industries in particular, but these shortages are an extra challenge. When parts do become available, we’re seeing spikes in the number of machines passing through our facility and an extra urgency to have everything delivered as soon as possible. That’s why ensuring we have the right processes and resources in place to deal with these volumes is essential.

What makes our equipment processing services in Zeebrugge unique?

Zeebrugge’s unique selling point is the fact it’s located on our terminal. This means we can start our activities as soon as a machine is unloaded from a vessel, without the need for the customer to truck it to another location.

Following our recent expansion, we now have even greater capacity to meet the processing needs of our customers. But having the space and skilled staff isn’t enough; we actively strive to achieve operational excellence and lean manufacturing, and to have the right mindset and methodology in place. We recently set up our own production line for one of our customers and have invested significantly in an automated warehouse to enhance our capabilities to serve customers even better.

What technical services do we offer customers at Zeebrugge?

From front-kit installation to protecting a machine with fluid film or completely dismantling it: you name it, we do it. Our wide variety of services include everything from storage and pre-delivery inspections to washing and painting all types of units. We’re also exploring ways to use technology, such as HoloLens to improve our product handling and customisation operations.

What skills and expertise do you need to oversee equipment processing operations?

The two most important skills are communication and people management. Apart from the fact that I manage as many as 80 to 130 people depending on the season, I also need to meet the expectations of our customers who have their own preferred channels of communication. In high season, customers will often have their own employees working at our EPC, and with as many as 700 to 800 units moving through our facility a month, I have to ensure that we’re balancing our resources effectively to deliver the best service possible.

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