Martien Kennis: Doing business in the post COVID-19 era

Never mind it’s late Friday afternoon and everyone is longing for the weekend after MaastrichtMBA’s economics week; five intensive days filled with work groups, lectures and social interaction. Martien Kennis, Managing Director of Vanderlande, manages to keep his audience captivated nonetheless.

High light of my career

“Twelve years ago, I was sitting in your chair, doing an MBA in Lausanne, Switzerland, listening to a corporate speaker”, he addresses the students. “I hope you are enjoying this special time in your life. I know it’s hard work, but in retrospect it’s been one of the high lights of my career. Besides new knowledge, new perspectives and new friends – it has given me a lot of self insight which has helped me to make the right choices throughout my career.” Martien Kennis has a background in Business Economics and Business Administration. He started his career as a management consultant in the field of Strategy and Total Quality Management. Followed by eleven years for Stork Technical Services in multiple leadership roles. Since May 2015 he works at Vanderlande, currently as Managing Director.

International Business Environment

The topic of the international week is International Business Environment. Or should we say ‘hot topic’ considering the COVID-19 pandemic that’s shaking the world’s economies and affecting virtually every company? As a multinational, located in 28 and active in 100 countries, Vanderlande too is experiencing the full impact of the pandemic. Vanderlande is the global market leader for value-added logistic process automation at airports and in the parcel market. The company is also a leading supplier of process automation for warehouses. “We deliver end-to-end solutions”, Kennis explains. “We design and build systems, develop software and offer (on-site) life-cycle services.” The numbers are impressive. Vanderlande’s baggage handling systems are active in 600 airports, (including 14 of the world’s top 20) and are capable of moving over four billion pieces of baggage per year (11,5 million per day). Vanderlande’s sorting systems handle 48 million parcels every day and many of the largest global e-commerce players and distribution firms rely on Vanderlande’s solutions. The multinational employs 7,000 people worldwide. Last year alone 1,100 new employees joined the company that was established in 1949 and was acquired in 2017 by Toyota Industries Corporation. The company is headquartered in Veghel (the Netherlands).

 

Focused growth

What is the secret of Vanderlande’s success? “Always putting the customer first, a strong focused growth strategy (8% in 2020-2025), clear and appealing strategic ambitions, and talented, skilled and engaged employees. Innovation is at the heart of our business. Together with our customers we work on the design and development of systems that can meet increasing challenges, demands and requirements in for instance the areas of health and safety, climate and energy, but also in improving passengers’ stress free experience on airports.” “Our growth strategy is based on three dimensions: customer, solution and geography” says Kennis. “When new opportunities arise (i.e. a new customer/market, development of a new solution and/or in a new region) we always measure them along our strategic yardstick. At least two of the three dimensions must be stable. The result is a limited list of key customers and segments, allowing our company to focus on our customers’ needs.”

But then, COVID-19…

“COVID-19 has a huge impact on our business. International air passenger traffic came to a full stop almost overnight. And the end of the crisis is not in sight yet. The upside for Vanderlande however, is that the parcel segment is blooming since online shopping and home delivery are skyrocketing. One of the core values of our company is the drive to win. So after the initial shock and first weeks of crisis management, we already started looking for new opportunities. As we are reluctant to let go of employees we’re investigating the possibilities to transfer staff – commercial, R&D, engineers, project managers – (temporarily) from the airport segment to parcel. What strikes me in this difficult period is the enormous solidarity from everyone in the company. Vanderlande may be a multinational, but in its core it is still a family business with family values and I’m proud of that.”

 

The module International Business Environment is one of five core modules of the Executive MBA. It covers micro- and macroeconomics, focusing on four of the most important economic challenges for organisations in today’s strongly interrelated world economy: globalisation, inequality and politics; climate change and energy policies; gender equality and incentives and European integration. Corporate engagement by means of corporate lectures, company visits and real-life group assignments for companies are important ingredients of the programme.

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