“Buyers don’t always get a good press and I can see why,” says Maarten. “With many of them it’s all about price, but negotiating a price isn’t very difficult at all. You play a power game, put people under pressure, create dependency and go for a quick win. But that’s completely at odds with my outlook or GEA’s. The Purchasing department is the link between what the customer wants and what the supplier can provide; you have to be able to offer the right product at the right time. It’s an incredibly fascinating job, because the purchasing process is quite complex. As the ‘spider in the web’, building good, lasting partnerships takes precedence over short-term success. Mutual interests are much more important than price in that context. How does it work in practice? You work with a supplier, striving towards the same goal, and early on in the process you get him involved in designing a product, finding ways to dispel the customer’s concerns or even keeping an eye on costs. This forms the basis of a healthy and sustainable partnership in which all parties can play to their strengths and everyone wins.”
The Purchasing department is the link between what the customer wants and what the supplier can provide; you have to be able to offer the right product at the right time.
Onwards and upwards
“When I started at GEA, the Purchasing team didn’t have a manager. I thought it would be a wonderful challenge to take the team to the next level. After a few good chats, I knew that I could go far with this group of people and also that, as a team, we could really leave our mark on the changes needed to become more efficient. Working closely with the Lean Manager, we gradually implemented the principles of lean management. It’s been a real transformation, during which everyone has learned so much. Take a moment to consider what you do, visualise processes, dare to break out of established patterns and think about what you do and the value you create every day: that’s what we’re actively engaged in. When I was offered the opportunity in 2015 to apply what we’d done with the Purchasing department to planning and the warehouse, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. As Supply Chain Manager, I was responsible for purchase planning and warehouse planning, so we started working together as teams to improve our processes across the department. As a result of organisational changes, my remit was expanded in 2017 and I took on responsibility for production and assembly as well. This gave me the chance to promote two highly competent members of my team. Seeing your people grow and being able to reward their efforts is just the best feeling in the world, isn’t it? As you may have guessed, I’m anything but a directive leader and that’s why I fit in so well at GEA.”
Take a moment to consider what you do, visualise processes, dare to break out of established patterns and think about what you do and the value you create every day: that’s what we’re actively engaged in.
“Do you know something I’ve never forgotten? A sticker with three words – continually improve together – with a smiley underneath. That sums up exactly what I believe in: by working together, changing together and making mistakes together, we can build a stronger organisation together. The market is constantly changing, so it’s only logical that we have to change too. The crux of the matter is that people need to understand why some things have to change. Only then can you improve and grow together. The great thing is that GEA points you in a particular direction, but at the same time gives you a lot of freedom to shape your own career. GEA offers opportunities for personal development, but you have to make it happen yourself. Look at me: I joined as Purchasing Manager, but have since been given the chance to advance my career and replicate the success story in other departments so that we see change not as a threat, but as an opportunity to improve. You are the architect of your career. If you don’t have vision and don’t take the initiative, nothing will happen. But if you do, then that’s where the smiley sticker comes in (laughs).”
The great thing is that GEA points you in a particular direction, but at the same time gives you a lot of freedom to shape your own career.