Sometimes it seems like there is no such thing as coincidence. For example, a few months ago Nadine van Helvoort had the idea that being a plant manager would be the perfect next step in her career. That very same evening, she saw the opening for the position at Vetipak in Veghel. And the rest is history.
Vetipak and the coronavirus pandemic: pushing on to the finish line
March 2020: most Dutch people believe that the new coronavirus won’t be that bad. Just be careful for a few weeks, and the worst will be over soon... But at Vetipak we had other ideas. We formed a coronavirus team even before the first lockdown was announced. March 2021: a look back on the past 12 months.
“People laughed at us for taking so many precautions”, recalls Chief Commercial Officer Mark van der Burgt. “But we sensed that we’d be running a marathon, with no idea how long it would be, other than that it would definitely be longer than 42.2 kilometers. We were watching what was going on in China and other European countries, so we felt we had to take it seriously.”
Putting people first
The first thing we did was draw up a list of priorities, which is still in force today. Number one on the list is the individual person. Everyone needs to stay healthy. Number two are our colleagues and customers. As an individual, you have the responsibility to offer them maximum protection in everything you do. And number three is: the future of our company. “We took them into consideration in every decision we made”, says Mark. “That approach, and anticipating for the future, eventually resulted in exceptionally low sick leave rates, and we didn’t have to let go of any of our permanent employees.”
‘Like our slogan promises:
we made the difference together’
“I’m proud of that”, he continues. “I’m also grateful to our people for their strict adherence to the control measures. Separate breaks, separate shift changes, workplaces behind plexiglass screens: it definitely wasn’t cozy. Especially for our younger employees from other countries. But fortunately, we made the difference together, just like our slogan promises. In a lot of different ways.”
In the boardrooms, the main task was to anticipate events. The planning boards for all nine locations – some of which had to shut their doors temporarily – were laid out next to each other. Operations had become a gigantic puzzle, with the pieces being all of the orders, machines and Vetipak employees. Mark: “We worked extremely agile. For example, we were able to transfer fifteen people from Oss to Zeewolde for a big job in just a few days.”
“It was only supposed to be for two weeks, but the puzzle changed every day and it ended up being six”, Mark continues. “That went well, partly because we communicated openly about our challenges from day one, but mainly because our employees have a heart for Vetipak.”
Thinking in opportunities
Everyone put their shoulders to the wheel, which was definitely appreciated, because things didn’t always go smoothly. We had to invest in safe workplaces, and we were quickly faced with inevitable loss of revenue soon after the lockdown went into effect. “So we didn’t wait around; we immediately let our customers and relations know that we were there for them”, the CCO explains. “As a result, we were not only able to help our existing and new customers, but also our colleagues’ clients.”
“Of course, we had to cut costs wherever possible. But at Vetipak, we think in terms of opportunities. One good example: together with our logistical partner Bakker, we made room in Tilburg for a rush order from an A-brand in snack and savory. We also took over some work for a chocolate producer for a while. One of our relations in the United Kingdom had almost half of the staff at its own factories and co-packers go on sick leave. So we arranged everything for some of their projects: from sourcing the packaging materials to delivery.”
‘We’ve looked for opportunities
for our people too’
Our own familiar way
Now that a few hundred miles of marathon are behind us, we can safely say that it’s been a challenging run. But it’s also been a special one: we’ve done an excellent job together as a team. And it’s important to note that we did it in our own familiar way. “We always think ahead”, says Mark. “And since we’re manoeuvrable, we used our people, technology and innovation flexibly, like we always do.”
Another integral part of Vetipak is the fun company activities. Unfortunately, our employees missed out on that last year, at least in the usual format. Mark: “We also looked at what’s possible for our employees as well. For example, we gave everyone ‘Vetipak Happyboxes’, packaged by the board and plant managers. Our chimney soot Petes travelled around the country for St. Nicholas, and on Christmas we organized a drive-through - all to keep up our employees’ spirits. And to look everyone in the eyes and express our appreciation - from a safe distance, of course.”
These little encouragements are vital as we approach the finish line - wherever it may lie. And it’s important to stay motivated. “We’re pushing on, without letting up”, Mark concludes. “What will we do when we get there? It’ll take a while, but we’ll definitely breathe a sigh of relief. And of course, we’ll celebrate that we’ve crossed the finish line together! Because it’s mainly thanks to our teamwork that we’ve managed to constantly adapt: to the coronavirus pandemic, and to our customers’ needs.”
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