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Supporting a fluent transport management transition

Interview with Tim Verbugt

Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Corporation (MEP) has been working with IDS The Supply Chain Executors since 2010. The relationship started out as operational support to keep the plastics manufacturer’s day-to-day transport activities running smoothly during a hectic transitional period. Since then, it has evolved into a much deeper partnership that considera- bly reduces the workload within MEP’s Supply Chain & Customer Service department.

Interview with Tim Verbugt, General Manager Supply Chain & Customer Service, Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Europe GmbH

Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Corporation (MEP), headquartered in Japan, is a leading global supplier of engineering plastics for use in applications including automotive, lighting, electronics and electrics. Tim Verbugt, General Manager Supply Chain & Customer Service at MEP’s European head office in Düsseldorf (Germany), explains: “If we identify a new area of demand we develop new products and materials accordingly, or we work together with clients to create a customer-specific application to satisfy their needs. This could be a colour, for example
– most people think that ‘white’ is just ‘white’, but you’d be amazed at how many different shades of white there are!”

Seamless transition
Back in 2010, MEP and DSM were involved in a swap deal; MEP took over DSM’s European polycarbonate business in exchange for DSM acquiring MEP’s polyamide activities in Japan/Asia. At that time Tim Verbugt was working for DSM in Genk (Belgium), but he moved across to MEP three years after the swap. “Up until then, the customer service department at MEP was only in charge of arranging import and transport for the products manufactured in Asia for European distribution. Suddenly, a supply chain department was added with responsibility for purchasing raw materials, production planning and the transport of the end
product – namely polycarbonates – manufactured in Belgium, to customers in Europe and beyond. So that meant some major changes to the internal organisation in Düsseldorf,” recalls Tim.
“That marked the start of a hectic and stressful period of transition. With so many internal organi- sational changes, it was initially a matter of ‘surviving’ from day to day. A number of people moved over from DSM to MEP, but it was still a challenging task to build up the supply chain and customer service department virtually from scratch.” Against this backdrop IDS was a rock
of stability, since the company had been handling logistics for DSM for several years. “That transport operation had been running so well that MEP saw no reason to change it,” states Tim. “Thanks to IDS’s experience, they were able to get things up and running quickly and effectively within MEP – they even implemented a copy of the same system for us – so IDS helped us to make the takeover of the existing transport activities as fluent and seamless as possible.”

Tim readily admits that it took several years for the new supply chain and customer service operation
to find its feet: “Business was good and production was full, so the operational pressure was on.
We had no time to consider exploring strategic optimisation opportunities.”

Hands-on approach
Accidents can and do happen sometimes. In the case of a customer complaint about damaged goods, IDS first checks with carrier to investigate the cause of the problem and handles the crediting process. “If there are repeated issues with a particular carrier, IDS will address the problem alone first. If necessary, we’ll visit the carrier together with IDS to discuss the situation and find a solution.”

Delivering indirect savings and supporting strategic decisions
In other time-saving activities, IDS checks the carriers’ transport invoices and investigates any discrepancies before approving them for payment by MEP. “So every invoice we receive from our carriers has already been checked. IDS also handles the tender process for us,” says Tim. “They do most of the preparatory work and send us
a shortlist per country; all we have to do is make the final decision together, which relieves us of a huge amount of work.”
Tim is in no doubt that the fee paid to IDS for this level of service is money well spent: “On paper, we could probably managing these activities oursel- ves. But we simply don’t have the time and resour- ces for that, not to mention the necessary in-house knowledge and capabilities. Just communicating with so many different carriers is very time-consu- ming. Now, we have a single point of contact for transport at IDS and if there are any problems, they solve them for us. It’s the perfect solution!”
So Tim sees no reason to change the relationship between MEP and IDS. “We’re very satisfied with the guidance and expertise we receive from IDS.
They work with several customers in our industry so they have lots of experience and a good under- standing of our business. They also employ the right kind of people: young, proactive and not afraid to demand top-quality service from carriers. For one particular logistics project we’re currently
analysing how we could further optimise the import activities from Asia. It will be interesting to look at what else IDS could do for us, using its large carrier network and based on what we’ve learnt together over the past seven years,”
he concludes.