We talked to Jeroen Gehlen, co-founder and managing director at Wuunder, about global logistics and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jeroen Gehlen: Thank you for asking! Our Wuunder family is doing great. Everyone is in good health and very motivated for this new year. 2020 was a good year for Wuunder. Since we already worked mainly from home, we didn’t have to make a lot of adjustments in our working process. Some of our clients could take advantage of the situation, others really struggled. For the latter, we hope that in 2021 things will turn around and we wish them the best of luck.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Wuunder.
Jeroen Gehlen: I was global director of pick-up and delivery optimization and innovation at TNT/FedEx. I developed the framework for a fully digital platform amongst others for the first and last mile, real-time communication. My further background is in shipping and logistics in the areas of marketing & communications, e-commerce, operations, and Benelux profit and loss.
Bart (another co-founder) and I started working together at TNT/FedEx 20 years ago. Working intensively together for a number of years made us wonder about all the operational problems in shipping. This became the base for Wuunder, a shared vision on disrupting the shipping market through a fully digital and flexible platform for shipping parcels, pallets, express, sea, and air freight. There are a lot of companies that can generate shipping labels. Few companies are able to offer full-service transport management services as we do. The combination between great people and innovative software is something I always loved. So Wuunder is basically like a living dream.
How does Wuunder innovate?
Jeroen Gehlen: Wuunder is the only online transport management service with an advanced IT platform in Europe. It sets the new standard for sending and receiving shipments. We add value by fully digitizing the current manual processes for our clients. We significantly lower costs and increase client and end-customer satisfaction.
We offer multi-carrier shipping solutions and control tower services that initiate issue resolution when something goes wrong. For instance, we inform the receiver about delays and urge the carrier to solve the issue. This service can be extended by our call center services that can take all transport-related calls on behalf of our shippers. We also organize fulfillment activities and can perform procurement invoice checks and sales invoice services to carriers and shippers.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Jeroen Gehlen: As I mentioned in the first question, not much has changed. We already worked from home most of the time before COVID-19 came knocking on our doors. We used to meet up at our office in the Eindhoven region (the Silicon Valley of The Netherlands) occasionally per team. Now everything is online. For those who can’t work from home, there’s still the option of going to the office, with the right precautions.
So basically, we’re coping pretty well. Our business was already growing extremely fast due to COVID-19. Due to the increase in e-commerce orders, we find ourselves in a constant “peak season’, comparable to the bustle and hustle we usually experience during the Christmas holidays.
Although we’re very aware of the fact that this pandemic caused a lot of harm on so many levels, the obvious and less obvious ones, it also brought us and our clients new opportunities. In a year, the e-commerce market increased as we would normally have seen in 5 years.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Jeroen Gehlen: Since we work with such a talented team, which is packed with great ideas, it is often difficult to choose the right order in which we want to develop all these projects. And yes, sometimes we don’t make the best decisions regarding that.
What I’ve learned is that along the way, since our business is growing so fast, we win some and we lose some. Sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error. When you find out you’ve taken a wrong turn, you just go back to the drawing board and reflect on your decisions as a team. To be able to have that learning curve really identifies Wuunder as a growing and innovative business.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Jeroen Gehlen: During this immensely crazy period, we found it extra important to keep in touch with our customers. Our Customer Service and Sales team are extremely important in this respect. We use a mix of systems and tools to coordinate all our communication. But the well-being of our team is just as important. The occasional meet-ups we had before the pandemic gave our team a lot of inspiration and motivation. With that falling away, we introduced the Wuunder Virtual Office. This way we still have the possibility to have human interaction during each day. It’s a way to ask your colleagues a question, but also just to chat with each other. For those who need to concentrate and/or get easily distracted, we also have the Wuunder Wave at 12 o’clock. Right before lunch, we have a 30-minute‘ meeting’ in which we talk about all sorts of things.
A possibility for some small talk and to get in touch with all your colleagues. For this, we use Google Meet. Another tool we use to stay in touch with each other is Slack. We also treat the team to some extras. Normally, we would organize a Christmas get-together. Last year we organized one as well, but online. We sent a box with goodies to every team member and had some fun during a Google Meet call. It’s a little effort, but so appreciated by everyone.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jeroen Gehlen: There are some other companies that also provide the software to generate shipping labels. Those mainly focus on webshop and ERP integrations. We focus more on the traditional fulfillment center that generates shipping labels. A 4PL/5PL (PL stands for party logistics) full-service transport management service isn’t something I’ve seen before in the transport and logistics market.
How do we stay in the game? By offering outstanding services, having the best possible in-house expertise concerning all different areas in transport and logistics, and by constantly updating and innovating our platform. The fact that our business is growing so fast, is also having a lot of advantages for our clients. We have a team in The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Germany. This helps us offering cross-border export and import services. We have lots of customers and drop-shipping locations that use infeeds in domestic networks to reduce shipping costs.
Your final thoughts?
Jeroen Gehlen: COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on our lives. It’ll probably continue to do so for even a longer period of time. What it taught us, is that you should always think about solutions and not problems. Wuunder is a link in a very large supply chain. It’s nice to see how each and every other link in this chain has tried, within the range of possibilities, to offer all stakeholders the best possible service and outcome during these circumstances. Resilience and transparency have played a huge part in that. We are very happy to be able to contribute to that.
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