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Stijn Wouters introducing spare parts management in South Africa

Stijn Wouters, managing consultant of Gordian Logistic Experts South Africa, has a background in operations research and specialised in inventory management, supply chain management and quantitative modelling with a strong focus on spare parts management.

Stijn has worked for Gordian Logistic Experts for more than five years, originally in the Netherlands. To name only a few of the projects he was involved in, Stijn trained the Royal Netherlands Airforce and Naval Maintenance organisation on spare parts management, implemented EAMS/ERP at KLM Equipment Services and set up tactical spare parts planning at NedTrain and European Container Terminals (ECT).

In January 2015, Jan Willem Rustenburg (CEO of Gordian Logistic Experts) and Jürgen Donders (CFO of Gordian Logistic Experts) went on a ‘fact finding mission’ to South Africa. “We visited many South African companies and universities to find out if there is a market for spare parts management. We also discussed a possible partnership with Pragma,” says Jan. “It was a very successful trip and we unanimously decided to extend our operations into South Africa.”

In May 2015, Gordian Logistic Experts and Pragma signed a far reaching collaboration agreement. An important part of the agreement was having ‘boots on the ground’. “We debated who would be the right person to send to South Africa as our Gordian representative. We thought of Stijn almost immediately. He had gained a lot of experience in the Netherlands, speaks English fluently, and is a real team player. Additionally, he is young, a traveller, and keen for new adventures. To prove this point, at the time when we offered him the opportunity to relocate to South Africa, he was exploring Australia with his girlfriend for three months!” says Jan.

It is truly rare these days to find a match of culture and values between companies, as Pragma and Gordian have done. “The Pragma/Gordian partnership is born out of the joint desire to make a real difference in the client environment,” says Gerrie Olivier, partner consultant of Pragma. “The focus on asset management and spares optimisation complements the single most important objective of ensuring optimum performance of the client’s assets. Both partners offer training, business processes, systems and the skilled expertise to really ensure an optimum balance between asset related costs, performance and risks.

“Stijn is a living example of passion, energy, drive and the desire to really make a difference. In any partnership, teamwork is of the essence. Understanding your partner’s strengths and making the most of them is crucial. Stijn is the ideal ambassador for Gordian in South Africa. He embodies the spirit of the partnership and is excelling at making friends as he continues to reach deeper and deeper into what is a difficult market in even more difficult economic times,” says Gerrie.

Stijn and his Dutch girlfriend Kelly van Raaij moved to Cape Town more than five months ago. “Working and living in South Africa is really interesting,” says Stijn. “The nature and the culture are extremely diverse, which I think is wonderful. It is a blessing to have the chance to gain experience in my field of expertise in a foreign country like this. Besides, I am actively supported by our partner Pragma. Luckily, I do not have to do it alone!”

In November 2015 Gordian organised two successful ‘Business meets Science’ seminars on spare parts management in Johannesburg and Cape Town, together with Pragma. Different industries, such as manufacturing, mining and the public sector joined the seminars as well as professors from South Africa and the Netherlands.

“Marketing is crucial when you start up a business in another country,” says Stijn. “The seminars were a great opportunity to bring different companies and industries together to discuss spare parts management. Here the biggest aim was to create awareness around the topic and to plant the association of ‘Spare parts management = Gordian’ in people’s minds. Kelly, who is responsible for the marketing of Gordian in South Africa, took a leading role in organising the seminars. We are a great team and it is wonderful that we can do this together,” says Stijn.

2016 has only just started but already a lot is happening. “Having planted some seeds, it is now time to harvest,” says Stijn. “A typical approach in the sales process is conducting a quick scan for the client. This quick scan reveals the current situation at the client but also identifies the improvement potential. This powerful tool actually provides input to build a business case which makes for a focused conversation with the client. Quick scans have been carried out for various companies already.

“Apart from the quick scan we want to add value for the client in the early stages, so we often prepare an interactive workshop where we build the case together with the client and give some basic training about spare parts management concepts and methodologies. Direct feedback shows that this is a rewarding approach.

“Furthermore, we are planning a training course about tactical spare parts management for 29-31 March 2016. With this course people will gain knowledge and some skills on basic statistics, demand forecasting, and inventory control, i.e. reorder point calculation, lot sizing, etc. The target group for this course is material planners, logistics engineers, buyers and store managers. “We are happy to give these people some knowledge, but are even happier when they realise that they can actually start implementing some elements immediately,” says Stijn.

“In South Africa we sometimes see that spare parts management falls into a ‘niemandsland’ – no man’s land. Everyone sees the problem, but no one really owns the problem. The various stakeholders involved (procurement, finance, engineering, production) have different views on the same problem: low availability and a high cost level. The challenge we face at Gordian is educating people in this matter, even before providing solutions for it.”

Awareness around the topic is key. That is why Gordian wants to set up a spare parts management community where people of various industries gather and can talk about spare parts management. On March 22, 2016 this community kicks off with an interactive workshop with a site visit at South Africa Airways Technical. “We believe that creating a community creates awareness which adds value to all peers in the community,” says Stijn. “Seeing the benefits from this concept in the Netherlands, we are convinced that this concept will be a win-win situation for companies but also for the business of Gordian Logistic Experts South Africa.”

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