Spotlight on… Vincent van Donk, Director Cargo Hub Amsterdam, KLM Cargo

CargoForwarder Global’s ‘Spotlight On…’ series highlights the many different careers within the huge machinery that is global air cargo, whether they are directly involved in air cargo transportation, or have a role in one of the many supporting services keeping the industry running. Air cargo hubs are where everything comes together and distributes – many beating industry hearts dotted around the globe – and CargoForwarder Global is delighted to hear from KLM Cargo’s Director Cargo Hub Amsterdam, Vincent van Donk, this week, who gives insights into his daily work and shares advice to those looking to join the air cargo industry.

We have a significant responsibility to improve and make things better. Image. KLM Cargo

CFG: What is your current function and company? And what are your responsibilities?

VvD: My name is Vincent van Donk. Since 01MAY23, I’m Director Cargo Hub Amsterdam at KLM Cargo. I hold accountability for overseeing the Cargo warehouse activities at our Schiphol Airport hub.

CFG: What does a normal day look like for you? (Or is there such a thing?)

VvD: An operational manager at KLM Cargo doesn’t have a fixed daily routine. The cargo industry is dynamic and so is a day in my role, along with the management team. Our primary objective is to enhance our operations on a daily basis. It’s not an easy task; nonetheless, safety and compliance are the utmost priorities. We have regular safety meetings to monitor our processes and steer our business in a safe and compliant way. Following that, my focus is on streamlining and improving our business processes and managing our workforce of over 700 employees who work in shifts. Although many processes are automated, the intricate nature and complexity of our work necessitates staff involvement. Therefore, I strive to motivate and organize our team efficiently. In addition, we have a ‘flight plan’ as our business strategy at KLM Cargo, and we work towards achieving our strategic goals every day. Consequently, my day is packed with meetings about the progress of our strategic pillars and operational and organizational processes.

CFG: How long have you been in the air cargo industry, and what brought you to it?

VvD: I work in the air cargo industry for 7 years now. Previously, I worked in other operational divisions at KLM. The air cargo industry was completely new for me. I started as the manager of our customer service in the Netherlands at Schiphol. At first, it was challenging to become familiar with the industry. It provided me with valuable insights into the air cargo industry’s importance in many supply chains. It’s easy to forget how vulnerable the global supply chain is and how crucial it is to support it. The insights I’ve gained in the last 7 years have made me realize that we shouldn’t take our daily lives for granted. Every single day we transport essential goods all around the world. Medicine, food, and a wide range of crucial components that keep our society running, all from our unique hub at Schiphol.

AdditionalIy, I firmly believe that we can conduct our business and have a significant responsibility to improve and make things better — not just for our people, but for the environment we inhabit. Simply operating fewer flights or suspending air travel altogether is not the solution, because air travel is a crucial means of transport. But we have to do things better. We want to operate cleaner, quieter and more fuel-efficient flights. We want to be a leader in the industry.

CFG: What do you enjoy most about your job?

VvD: My greatest pleasure lies in collaborating with our staff and striving to continuously enhance our operations. Establishing a connection with our employees is crucial, but it’s not always a straightforward task. We aim to make the work of our operational warehouse employees easier and more efficient. This is essential for improving our processes and, in turn, our business. However, it can be challenging to communicate our ideas about vision, strategy, and cost efficiency to our employees in a way that’s easy to understand.

CFG: Where do you see the greatest challenges in our industry?

VvD: The greatest challenges in our industry are sustainability, digitization, and efficiency. Our industry is heavily impacted by the worldwide economic situation, and it is a low-margin business. All three of these areas require significant investment to achieve results. I believe that these areas are interconnected. However, we must take these steps, which come with a high cost. Funds that are not easily earned in our industry. If we intend to rely on our full strength in the next 100 years, we must continue to lead the way and pioneer. In the meantime, each and every day we take a step closer to the future. With a better and improved KLM Cargo for our people, our customers, and our network.

CFG: What advice would you give to people looking to get into the air cargo industry? Any particular training they should aim for?

VvD: If you’re looking to get into the air cargo industry, my advice would be to learn, enjoy, and be open to everything you see in this industry. Everything is interconnected, and there is a reason for almost everything. A job in logistics, and especially the air cargo industry, requires knowledge of the air industry and its logistical processes. To become familiar with the air industry, there are many courses and trainings available. For logistics, I would recommend a logistic training in combination with a Lean training and/or taking courses in Operational Excellence. This can help you to advance in your career.

CFG: If the air cargo industry were a film/book, what would its title be?

VvD: “Around the World in Eighty Days”. We have brought cargo around the world for decades. We do it with passion and dedication. It’s not easy and sometimes we were confronted with delays and unforeseen situations. In the end we will ensure safe and smooth operations, every day, every time, although it might be ambitious sometimes.

Thank you, Vincent, in particular for underlining how important our industry is when it comes to keeping our societies running.

If you would like to share your personal air cargo story with our CargoForwarder Global readers, feel free to send your answers to the above questions to cargoforwarderglobal@kopfpilot.at We look forward to shining a spotlight on your job area, views, and experiences.

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