Bert De Winter: Springing Forward with Innovation

Bert De Winter: Springing Forward with Innovation

Bert De Winter is director of EMEA logistics with HP Inc., and based in Amstelveen, the Netherlands. He has been with HP (and previously, Compaq) for 29 years.

Responsibilities:Operational and profit and loss management of EMEA inbound and outbound transportation flows, distribution centers, warehousing, and customs; regional procurement and management of transport, customs brokerage, and vendor-managed inventory hub activities.

Experience:Various positions with HP and Compaq, including EMEA Printing and Personal Systems logistics operations director; logistics and warehouse manager; senior program manager, EMEA business operations; and EMEA project manager, supply chain development. Senior economic analyst and financial controller with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Education:Bachelor’s degree, business administration, Economic University of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

I enjoy the dynamic environment of logistics and supply chain. You need to make sure that day in, day out, you focus on operational excellence. That’s a constant challenge. You also need to find innovative new ways of doing business and staying ahead of the competition.

HP has done a lot of logistics development over the past few years. While our supply chain is geared to optimize cost, we recognize that cash flow speed is also a virtue. That’s why we’re developing multimodal supply chain and logistics capabilities that allow us to switch between fast, expensive transport modes and slower, more economical modes, if they meet customer requirements and business expectations.

For instance, more production has moved from coastal to inland China as labor rates increased. That has presented a logistics challenge, because the inland production has to get to a coast, and then on a boat to the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region.

Working with the transport ministries of China, Kazakhstan, and Russia, we connected a train that runs from mid-China through those countries and into Western Europe. That saves us about two weeks of transit time.

Initially, it was an HP private train and ran about once per week. Now, other companies can move their products on the train. We’ve been able to increase the frequency to three to four trains each week.

Another project involved ocean shipments. We used to have ocean vessels pass through the Suez Canal, and into Rotterdam. However, some products would then go from Western Europe back to Israel and Egypt.

If you look at a map, you’ll see it doesn’t make sense. So we developed a gateway at Piraeus, a harbor in Greece. The shipments that don’t need to go to Western Europe stop there, and then go to sea feeder vessels into Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. It saves time and cost.

One accomplishment I led at Compaq was setting up a pan-European capability for global accounts. Before, each country had its own ERP and CRM systems and call center. We moved to one European ERP, CRM, and call center, which set us up to serve global customers so they experience the same performance wherever they order.

During this project, I learned you always need to go back to your sponsors and make sure you’re on the right path to meet the business objective, whether it’s cost savings or a faster supply chain that can react better to customer expectations. Don’t get sidetracked trying to deliver a process capability.

I started my career as a financial controller, but it wasn’t dynamic enough. I applied for a job at Compaq, which at that time in the Netherlands was almost a startup. I joined as the 20th employee in the country, and had a team of four people in financial reporting, demand planning, order intake, and distribution. As time passed, it started to ramp up, and became more dynamic and entrepreneurial.

We’re currently working on a few imperatives. One is to continuously optimize our physical network. If one way to get products from Point A to Point B isn’t working, we need to find alternative ways. We’ve also started to deploy our 3D printing business, and need to make sure we set up the right logistics to bring those printers to market.

Whenever you take on new assignments, it’s normal to feel a bit uncomfortable, but that’s also one of the best ways to learn and develop. You dive in and plow on. If it’s a stretch, and then eventually you make it happen, you can look back with pride.

The Big Questions

If you could attend any event in the world, what would you choose?

Although it’s not possible anymore, I would have loved to see a David Bowie concert. If I could choose another event, I would visit the Australian Open.

What book have you read lately that has left an impact?

A Dutch book, This Can’t Be True. The author interviewed 200 bankers in London and the United States about the bank crisis. He learned that what happened in 2008 could happen again.

If you had one million euro to start a business or a philanthropic organization, what would you do?

My son is starting to study bioscience, which looks at how all the cells operate internally in the body and how DNA is triggered. If you understand how DNA hangs together and influences your cells, you can make better medicines. I would contribute to this effort.

Who do you admire?

Musicians. They can bring joy to people’s lives. To have that kind of skill is amazing.

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