The FedEx Supply Chain Services warehouse in Veldhoven is an impressive sight – a high-tech building with space for the widest possible variety of products received from and destined for the widest possible variety of customers. The building even houses a cold storage area for biopharmaceutical products, an inspection and repairs section for technical equipment as well as recycling facilities. But just as impressive is the concept and approach adopted by the company when it comes to supply chain and express services. Thanks to FedEx, Brabant has its very own logistical Renaissance company.
The man behind the FedEx concept is Fred W. Smith, who launched the company in the US in 1973. The challenge at that time was to ship goods overnight from east to west in the US. While the basic idea behind this challenge still holds true in FedEx, the bar is set considerably higher in 2009. In Europe, 24-hour transportation is as common as daisies, but the company’s regular service doesn’t stop there – it also consists of delivering a crucial part of a machine from Veldhoven to its destination within a few hours... on Christmas Day. US companies who order flowers online through an auction in the Netherlands in the morning, European-time, take delivery of them 24 hours later. Around the world, FedEx ensures that 90 percent of all freight arrives at its destination within 48 hours.
The logistics company employs 280,000 people globally and, with a fleet of over 650 cargo planes, is the second-largest airline company in the world.
FedEx Supply Chain Services has head offices in Memphis, Hong Kong and, of course, Veldhoven. “Our services today comprise much more than rapid transit of freight alone,” says Neil Bird, managing director of FedEx Supply Chain Services for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa. “We offer our customers integrated total solutions for their logistical needs. We not only examine the best form of transportation, we also sort out all the legal aspects involved and the customs facilities. Our service is focused on all the critical factors that could become involved in a logistical operation. You can simply think of us as a logistical business partner. Companies even ask us to restructure their entire logistical division and sometimes the partnership reaches beyond logistics, and we use our expertise to contribute to a customer’s marketing and sales services.”
Bird says that the internet and new forms of distribution have brought far-reaching changes to the logistics market. “The rise of e-commerce means that consumers now place orders all over the world, while it is no longer only the major companies that do business at an international level. This means that our logistical services are confronted with very different requirements in terms of their significance and quality.” In Veldhoven, the service focuses primarily on high-grade products in fields such as IT, healthcare and the automotive and aviation industries.
FedEx Supply Chain Services set up shop in the Netherlands in 1989 after it became apparent that the UK office’s sphere of influence was not wide enough to serve the continent properly. The company based itself in Amsterdam after Brussels was scrapped as an alternative option. But it turned out that the advantage provided by being in the vicinity of Schiphol was not as beneficial as initially thought, given that much transport in Europe is undertaken just as rapidly by road. This meant that Brabant was, thanks to its strategic location, a much better option. And so the company moved to a site near Eindhoven Airport in 1992. But the company outgrew that location and at the end of 2006 FedEx moved to its new 20,000 m2 site in Veldhoven where, even after the recent extension of the flexible office building and warehouse, there is still room for future growth. Today, FedEx’s Express services and Supply Chain Services sit side-by-side in Veldhoven, which results in the requisite benefits in terms of efficiency. In 2008, FedEx Supply Chain Services distributed goods on behalf of its customers to over 130 countries from its Veldhoven site.
Neil Bird is highly enthusiastic when it comes to the conditions for establishing a company in Brabant. “From here we have incredibly fast access to Europe. And we also have staff at our disposal which is internationally oriented, with over half our 200 employees being non-Dutch. Moreover, we have a very low level of sickness absenteeism,” the general manager says. But that is also thanks to FedEx itself. After all, the company has won the Great Place to Work Award four times.
“A perfect place to be,” is how Bird describes Brabant and Veldhoven. “And that’s not just because I’ve been living and working here for the last 17 years. Together with the Brabant Development Agency and the Holland International Distribution Council, we demonstrate to US and Asian companies why they would feel right at home here.”