Dirk Wilhelm, 53 (left), is team manager at DSV's Westerkappeln terminal in Germnay.
Regardless of whether you work at the terminal or in an office, everyone respects one another at Westerkappeln, where Dirk Wilhelm is now a team leader after 37 years at DSV. Dirk started out as an apprentice driver but soon switched to the terminal. Here he became a shift boss and later warehouse manager, and he is currently responsible for all goods processing at the cross-docking terminal in Westerkappeln, including staff management, recruitment and supplementary training. But he is also active in day-to-day operations of loading and unloading.
"We have a very flat organisation here in Westerkappeln and everyone helps one another and we take quick decisions. We’re one team," Dirk Wilhelm says, adding that this environment also enables him to cope with critical situations and:
It’s a tremendous help in my daily work, and it’s an environment you don’t find very often in other companies. We’re all part of the success and by this I don’t just mean financial success
Looking for improvements
Respect for one another’s skill-sets, regardless of whether you work in the hall or an office, is something Dirk learned early on. In 2014, he was asked whether he wanted to accompany his boss on a visit to other German locations to compare working methods and find best practices. The boss was the General Manager for National Production and he was looking for improvements, not only in the warehouse but in other departments as well.
"Back then, this was only possible because we had a small, extremely well-run department in Osnabrück with 800 outgoing shipments a day. Our operative KPIs were excellent, which was what actually made it possible for my colleagues and I to help out elsewhere," he explains.
Dirk was not the only one to accompany the boss and other colleagues from the offices on visits to other companies: depending on the need and specific tasks, employees from the palletising department, the department for outgoing groupage loads, freight forwarding, etc., also went on these trips.
"You can only optimise something if all process chains are intermeshed, because you can’t achieve anything on your own," Dirk says.
That is how Dirk and his colleagues have been optimising workflows at various German locations for the past three years. Sometimes they could learn something new, whereas other times, different adjustments and new procedures were needed.
For instance, the comprehensive dissemination of measuring and weighing equipment (Apache) originates here: the equipment has been implemented at all locations with associated training courses for everyone involved. Apache is used for check-weighing and high-speed dimensioning of general and palletised cargo and it is integratable with the company's other IT systems.
"Occasionally, the differences are so extreme that check-weighings can pay for both the investment in the system and the employees who operate it," Dirk Wilhelm says. He also helped implement the transition to two-storey loading of swap-body containers and trailers. This made it possible to increase capacity utilisation and, as a net result, get a less costly production form – without damaging any goods.
"Dirk goes the extra mile"
"Dirk has always been willing to make an extra effort, not only at his workplace but also for colleagues at other destinations," says Peter Fog-Petersen, CEO, Germany, who has praised Dirk on several occasions for his team spirit and efforts for the entire company.
"Dirk goes the extra mile and he's not afraid to roll up his sleeves, even if he's a manager. As a person, he makes himself very clear: no one misunderstands Dirk when he calls for assembly at the terminal," says Peter Fog-Petersen with a twinkle in his eye.
Teamwork creates change
Workflows do not optimise themselves, according to the expert from Westerkappeln.
Whatever the circumstances, a well-oiled IT organisation and, not least, motivated employees are crucial for changes.
"Without motivation and employee teamwork it would be utterly impossible to create lasting improvements," Dirk Wilhelm asserts, and he can see the results of improvements on the bottom line.
"Here at Westerkappeln, we have finally gone from deficit to surplus in our financial statements after years of hard work. Now we have a stable profit which gives us a breathing space to make new decisions and achieve even more," he says.
To Dirk Wilhelm, the crucial element was not whether he spent his life working in the terminal or an office. "Every workplace has its good and bad points," he says, adding that interpersonal relationships are paramount:
"We’re actually quite proud that office staff here in Westerkappeln lend a hand in the terminal without hesitation in critical situations. This includes a bookkeeper who helps out at the chain facility, a freight-forwarding manager who assists in scanning cargo or a divisional head who lends a hand. It shouldn’t make any difference; we’re one location with one goal," Dirk Wilhelm says.