Van Duuren focuses on export with larger premises

 In News

Logistics service provider Van Duuren has moved to twice the size of its premises in Vianen. The reason for this was the increased volumes for the company due to a new partnership with Cargoline. From the new location Van Duuren sees opportunities for further growth, and for balancing import and export. But the current employment market is causing concern for entrepreneur Jeroen van Duuren. It’s never been so difficult in 40 years, he says. Nevertheless, satisfaction prevails.

Well over three months after the first departments of Van Duuren moved into their new premises, the office at the front of Stuartweg in Vianen is still full of boxes. From the moving company Jan van Duuren, family of. Not all the doors have been put in place yet, there is still Parts Express above the entrance and desks still need to be put together. “The most important thing is that it runs smoothly downstairs, in the warehouse”, explains Managing Director Jeroen van Duuren, laughing. “This is where we indeed still want to build a nice reception area and install the rest of the doors.”

The family business, which Van Duuren runs together with his brother Jasper, moved last summer to a building practically next door to the previous location. The entrance has remained the same, but the new warehouse (10,000 square metres) is twice as large in terms of surface area. The number of loading doors has even tripled, to sixty now. In the first place Customer Care and the warehouse staff of Van Duuren Domestic were moved, and later in September the rest of the staff were also relocated.

Why was there a need for a larger location?
Jeroen van Duuren: “In 2020, Kuehne + Nagel took over Rotra’s road transport activities. Rotra was the partner in the Cargoline network. Now we have taken over this role. Since September 2020, we have been working officially with Cargoline. Cargoline is one of the top three logistics networks in Germany, with 84 European partners, so this meant a substantial expansion of our network in Germany and Eastern Europe. The partnership with Cargoline has led to a significant increase in volumes: we are now delivering at least 1,200 pallets every day throughout the Netherlands.”

Tell me something about the new warehouse?
“We have sixty docks here. Thanks to our fixed routes, they are arranged in line, so each dock corresponds to a particular delivery location. We unload the trailers in the middle. Pallets are weighed on one of the four scales. In addition to the weight, we also record the exact dimensions and any defects in the load using cameras. We apply a prominent, yellow Van Duuren sticker to the pallet for the further steps in the chain. Most pallets then turn right, for further distribution within the Netherlands. On the left-hand side are the docks for export.”

How big is Van Duuren?
“We work a hundred people at the office, have 175 trucks, 150 trailers and have offices in Vianen, Schiphol and Barcelona. We handle 1,800 shipments every day. We now have a turnover of 45 million euro. This has been built up over seventeen years: we started in 2004 with a turnover of 500,000 euros.”

2004? You are the third generation of Van Duuren, aren’t you?
“True, but my brother and I had sold everything to GLS in 2000. Jasper and I took over the four Van Duuren companies in 1994 after the death of our father, namely the Nederlandse Pakket Dienst in Amsterdam and Den Bosch, Van Duuren pallet distribution, Van Duuren Logistiek and International freight forwarding. At the same time, in 1994, my uncle continued with Parts Express. Van Duuren Logistiek was quite large at that time. In 2000 it had some 60,000 pallets in storage.”

“At GLS, as a 36-year-old sales and marketing director in a much larger company than I knew, I was in the right place. I didn’t have to worry about money and contracts either, but I missed being an entrepreneur. Managing, scoring customers, doing business. That’s why we stopped after three years and bought back the remaining activities of the international part of Van Duuren international freight forwarding. And our name. We still work well together with GLS. Next door on the site is GLS Cargo. Pallet transport, the former Van Duuren actually. We give them imported parcels and if they have exports they give them to us.”

In which countries do you deliver pallets?
“Van Duuren has its work area in Europe. We only do road transport. And we do as much as possible of our transporting in direct lines. So directly to Lille, directly to Hamburg. Sometimes twice a day. We prefer to drive to Paris with a truck that is as full as possible, but otherwise we add goods for Bordeaux. We offer groupage consignments. Anything over 2.5 to 3 metres, we deliver directly. Anything below that is done by a partner. In each country, we have partners who handle further distribution to shops and businesses, including the foreign Hema stores and all Hunkemöller shops in Europe. Our partners are usually also family businesses. Only in France do we work with a big player: Geodis. They have a large French national network, which is hard to ignore. We are also very happy to be working with a large company there.”

Isn’t the dependency of partners in these hectic times stressful?
“That is always a challenge. When we arrive in Paris at 2 a.m., the trailer must be unloaded and at 7 a.m. the first retail outlets must be supplied. These are short periods of time. Everything has to be scanned, because that data enables us to follow the partners in the course of the day and keep in touch. Corona and the restrictions on shops have made it a little more difficult, but you must always be able to rely on the partners. That has not changed.”

The dependence on drivers, perhaps?
“The logistics market is more challenging than ever due to the driver shortage. We have dedicated drivers, but they are not employed by us. We do try to approach them as our own employees. They have our company clothing and we pay quickly. We want to keep them in, but drivers are simply approached by other companies to work for them. They’re gone in a flash if you’re not careful. But the labour problem is not only about drivers. Employees for the office, sales and the warehouse are also almost impossible to get.”

Is it easier for a family business to hold on to employees?
“I don’t know. I can imagine that with a smaller organisation you have a bit more involvement than with a corporate organisation. If, for example, a driver can only start at 10 o’clock because he has to take his son to school, we are more willing to accept that. We are all human beings. But being bought off is really a thing. People are offered higher salaries by someone else. You hear it a lot in England. We have a lot of Romanian drivers driving for us, they are just bought off. It’s really terrible at the moment. We don’t pay badly, but we are under pressure. I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now, but this is a really difficult period.”

Employee costs are up, but that’s not all. Are all the higher costs to be passed on to the customer?
“We have to. I know that some customers are going to be upset, but you both have to be able to earn a good living. Will our costs increase by 8 per cent as well? Yes, we are on that course. It does depend on the customer, with some we are at 9 per cent. We ourselves pay 13 per cent extra to deliver to England. Delivering a pallet to London costs 13 per cent more than before. That is a lot of extra money.

Do you do much in the UK?
“Because of the announcement of Brexit, we have avoided that as much as possible. Of the 45 million euro turnover, it will be about 2 to 4 million.”

Do the increased costs mean that Van Duuren will have to cut back on innovation?
“No, you must see these things separately. Next door is the automation department, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to predict deliveries. We have a lot of data and we know when something will be delivered, after which the retailers have staff ready at the right times to receive pallets and put the goods on the shelves. This is also becoming easier to manage for long distances. Making those predictions and automating all that stuff is a different matter. This is where we need to compete, this is where we need to develop.”

Battle, but at the same time there might be some time left after the move to focus on something.
“Export. Because of the cooperation with Cargoline – and their 84 partners throughout Europe – the balance between import and export has been somewhat lost. In the coming decade, I will be focusing purely on exports, on Dutch parties who want to go abroad. Preferably business-to-business. Van Duuren is not unknown on the market, because we distribute our own magazine Drive widely, and because of the eye-catching yellow trailers on the road. For 2022 we have again set ourselves the target of growing by 5 to 10 percent.”

Organic growth?
“We really want to focus on the organisation now. A renovation and a move like that take up a lot of time. Taking over the company demands a lot of energy: you have to get the automation systems to match, the people and the offices. On the other hand, if you don’t have any ambition, you won’t get anywhere. We want to, but at our own speed. Are companies interested in us? Yes, they always are. But we are not interested. Sven, my brother’s son, has been here for two years. He runs the whole domestic department as a 27-year-old. And my 24-year-old son is also interested in Van Duuren. They’re copies of my brother and me, and they probably want to carry on with the business. We don’t see any need to sell either, because we are financially strong.”

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