With technology playing an ever more central role in the operations of modern moving businesses, it is a core focus for FIDI’s 39 Club. Jackie Stouffer speaks to four young movers about driving digital change in their companies
In an increasingly digital world, the FIDI 39 Club recognises that the responsibility to continue to push the industry forward will fall to the younger generation. For this reason, it will be one of our pillars of focus for the remainder of 2022, and into 2023.
Our industry has only recently begun to make solid steps in technological advancement. The recent pandemic has – for the most part – solidified a common goal of increased digitisation and technological improvement. This includes improvements within individual companies and industry-wide advances such as the future of the virtual FAIM audits.
We can no longer afford to move too slow.
Below, Alvin Ong (Vanpac Intl.), Christiaan Van der Ent (Van der Ent Group), and Lennert de Jong (Gosselin Group) share their own experiences and involvement in driving technological change within their companies.
JS: Our industry is often criticised as being ‘stuck in its ways’ with a reputation for being resistant to change. How can the upcoming generation help spearhead technological advances in our industry?
AO: Our industry may seem stuck in its ways as our operations are very labour intensive. However,
this hasn’t stopped us from introducing technological advances. From the use of app-based trucking
systems to the introduction of cryptocurrency payments, we are continually looking at how we can introduce new technologies in our company. Some of these have brought improved productivity and efficiency to our operations – while others, such as cryptocurrency payments, have provided a good standout from competitors.
CVDE: It all starts with a good vision. I always say: ‘It’s not what I want, it’s what the customer asks for.’
Holding on to the past makes you vulnerable. If you do so, you will eventually be overtaken by competitors who are more flexible and open to embracing change. You need to give younger talent a voice and give them the opportunity to grow within a company. It’s a privilege to be fourth generation, but it’s also a big responsibility to constantly challenge the organisation.
I have made plans to work faster and more efficiently and to improve various aspects of quality.
It has been an interesting journey so far, moving from traditional servers to cloud-based programs, consolidating redundant internal programs for a more streamlined operation and choosing a new transportation management system.
LDJ: I don’t entirely agree with the statement that the industry has been slow on the uptake with technology. This might be a nuanced answer from a normally very direct Dutchman, but I think moving as a whole has made some big leaps in the technology landscape – particularly in last five years, in terms of working digitally and remotely, with virtual surveys, data sharing and even knowledge sharing.
The upcoming generation always had and still has the advantage that they have grown up with the existing technology. This might be using a mobile phone for the ones born in the 1980s or feeling more comfortable to videocall or use social media to connect with clients and peers for those born in the 1990s and onwards.
The next generation will need to lead the push for the generation afterwards. The next major factor that will play a role is artificial intelligence, which is slowly earning its place in workplaces in areas such as finding the right logistics solution or assessing the volume of a move.
JS: In your view, what has been the technological advance that has had the most impact at your company during the past few years?
AO: COVID changed the way many people work and, like many companies in the industry, we had to make changes to adapt to the different and changing requests and government regulations. On-site pre-move surveys had to be changed to virtual ones. In our industry, we have always thrived on physical interaction with clients, and the virtual surveys were the closest we could get to ‘meeting up’ in person. We also used video conferencing to interact with clients and check on their moves – a way of being ‘present’ but not present.
To introduce our cryptocurrency payments, we partnered with TripleA, which is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, to offer digital payment token services as they have shown that they offer a safe and secure crypto payment ecosystem for businesses.
The main reason we adopted cryptocurrency payments was because it provided access to new demographic groups of clients and access to lower fees for cross-border money transfers, which benefited both clients and agents.
CVDE: Van der Ent was the first European company to use the Yembo virtual survey software. COVID, of course, accelerated the decision to go live, but it was completely new in our industry.
Internally, the initial reaction was that the system would not work as well as an on-site survey – but having an extra online option to carry out surveys has been a good option. Some two and a half years later, our organisation has fully integrated Yembo into our processes.
Involving our younger colleagues helped us build an online team of young students who manage Yembo for us. They love to work with new technology and, for some, it triggered them to choose to work for our company.
Besides the good documentation, we also see fewer insurance claims on Yembo surveys, and no discussion about volumes. The other beneficial side-effect is that Yembo reduces or eliminates transportation for surveyors, making it more sustainable, increasing efficiency within the sales team.
LDJ: We have two active AI’s running in the company around the clock; one finding logistical solutions by comparing hundreds of options, and the other assessing survey volumes. Both make our lives and days less repetitive and give us more time to focus on contact with the actual transferee – they make the day-to-day job less repetitive and actually less ‘robotic’.
I have had the privilege of being involved in the implementation of both systems and although it takes time to set up, and to train existing staff to work with the new tools, once the benefits are clearly shared within teams it spreads like wildfire, as nobody likes to do repetitive tasks manually.
AI is often believed to be something alien that learns and takes over but it is not the case; it starts with being fed existing knowledge by the user and then, during the process, it is refined and trained further by the same people. Sharing knowledge about logistical solutions throughout Europe with more than 50 offices is a fantastic thing to have automated.
JS: What does the future hold in terms of upcoming tech changes – can you share any sneak peaks from within your own company?
AO: We are constantly exploring and on the lookout for new ideas. No sneak peaks at this moment – but keep a look out for us as we have created a fresh young team to look into this.
CVDE: If we look at our internal changes/processes, I guess we are on the right path. Perhaps we can make some small improvements on details, such as customer portals. I am also looking to automate the FIDI FAIM requirements, to eliminate human errors.
Vehicle-wise we also need to take steps towards electrifying our fleet if we are to have a better world. It can be hydrogen or fully electric, or a combination of both. Realistically, I guess a good solution with a wide range of options can take some years, but I am convinced this will be the future.
LDJ: There will be lots of exciting news to share from Gosselin. We all know IT will be a big part of our lives, both professionally and personally for the future. Gosselin has changed its ICT team to a so-called ITS team. ITS stands for ‘Innovation and Technology Services’. This means IT will no longer be solely a support role for your general PC issues, but will also be at the forefront for the development and research of new innovation.
Actions speak louder than words and we have created another 20 positions in our ITS department to drive this leading change, within our own company and vision and beyond. Custom-made APIs and data integrations have been up and running with our largest clients for some years now, avoiding errors and data entry for thousands of moves every year, for example.
We are happy to connect with FIDI, as well as organisations such as IAM to help drive standardisation of data integration in our industry, both on the rates side as well as the client and data integrity side.
Check out the FIDI 39 Club blog for the longer versions of these interviews at www.fidi39club.org