Managementcolumn COO Leendert-Jan Plaisier: Mother's Day rush
Monday the 8th of May was the busiest day in our logistics operations so far this year. This is not surprising as it is the week before Mother's Day. Traditionally, this is a peak week for the industry. We respond to this with extra staff and all the other measures, and Monday was also an early auction day. On this busy day, our logistics colleagues managed to deliver as forecast. The very last plants in Aalsmeer were delivered at around 14:00. Flowers were delivered to all locations much earlier, as were the plants in Naaldwijk. Very good times considering the volumes delivered. After the relatively quiet month of April, this was the first major practical test of our peak measures: Accelerated start for flowers, final push for plants' and higher volumes per auction. I don't want to get too excited, but I am pleased with the performance of our logistics operation. I hope this is the harbinger of a successful continuation of the peak season.
In April, the first month of the peak season, we were not really tested. We were prepared for peak traffic from the beginning of April. Not just us, but the whole industry. Everyone was in the starting blocks, but the kick-off did not happen. Last year, we were caught off guard by a sudden increase in volume due to the movement of direct flows to the clock. This year, the weather gods have confounded our forecasts. The almost autumnal weather in April had a major impact on production and demand. Because let's face it, garden weather has rarely been this good. No other sector is as dependent on the weather as ours, and nothing is as changeable and unpredictable as the weather. Yet no one in the industry doubts that the boom is yet to come. Just a little more sunshine and higher temperatures and we will have our fill.
I look forward to it with confidence. Because we are fully prepared. Despite all the recruitment campaigns that have borne fruit, we still have a shortage of logistics staff on some days. The shortage varies by location and day and is less than last year. In the past period, colleagues from the office have stepped in as peak helper, and that is helping. We also see that the peak measures are bearing fruit. We only use 'higher volumes per auction' when necessary. In April there was hardly any need for it, but this week the auctioneers are using it in a very targeted way. And, as announced, only where they think it can be done. The same goes for 'accelerated start for flowers, final push for plants'. In Aalsmeer, this measure was used on five of the 18 auction days. In Naaldwijk it is now standard practice. This approach has proven itself in practice. I'm particularly pleased that I'm getting very positive reactions from the plant buyers. Where there were sceptical voices at the beginning, many now welcome the fact that they receive the products in a shorter period of time, which allows them to deploy their staff more effectively. This is a great example of a positive side-effect that we have never used as an argument ourselves.
When there was no rush in April, some people questioned the need for peak measures. The same applies to the use of early auction days. We are extra prepared with measures that we can deploy flexibly. If you go out and bring an umbrella or rain gear and it stays dry, in retrospect it may not have been necessary, but certainly not unjustified. If it starts to rain and you have nothing, you will regret it. Early auction days require early planning. Growers, buyers, transporters and staff have to take this into account in their planning. Based on discussions with growers and buyers, we made trade-offs months ago. Doing nothing was not an option, so we put in place flexible measures. These were only needed to a limited extent in April, but it is reassuring to have them in place. Predictable logistics services are very important to us.
So we are prepared. And that is a good thing, because the volume is going to increase. Nobody doubts that. The only question is when and how much. With good cooperation and coordination, we can make this peak period a success. We do the peaks together.