Kennedy Kiarie: “Logistics is so key to a successful supply chain!"
Coordinating our flowers' journey from Kenya to the Netherlands.
Logistics aligns the complex pattern of traffic and transportation, shipping and receiving, import and export operations, warehousing, inventory management, purchasing, production planning, and customer service.
One of our largest logistical challenges is our flowers’ journey from Africa to the Netherlands (and a few other destinations). Part of it is in our hands, the other part is in the hands of our logistics partners. The one coordinating the whole process from Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya is our smooth operator Kennedy Kiarie who is based at the epicentre of all logistic movements, at JKIA Airport in the K+N building.
A complex process
When flowers have been harvested, graded and packed, Kuehne+Nagel picks them up in their cooled trucks, and drive them to the airport. Here, the flowers are stored in cold rooms until it’s time for them to board the plane. Sounds simple right? Well… Kennedy: “There is more to it than that, there are so many parties involved. There is the packhouse manager at the farm, people loading the truck, the truck driver, people unloading the truck. And that is just for the first part of the journey. A lot can go wrong, and we won’t even know it until hours later. Sometimes entire truckloads are delivered to the wrong place, or boxes are on the wrong pallet. Sometimes this happens at night, when we are not there. These are things we cannot control, but we sort it out.”
Kennedy has been doing this job since 2015, and in these years the number one thing he has learned is to stay calm. Kennedy: “You can plan very well, about what is going to come on a particular day, but somewhere in the line something will not go according to plan. In logistics you cannot reverse. When something happens, you have to stick to it and look for solutions. We are chasing people and chasing information every day, but we have to stay calm, regardless of the pressure.”
There is a lot of decision-making. Sometimes in consultation with the Sales team in the Netherlands. Kennedy: “Lately we have had to deal with capacity constraints. When that occurs I consult Michiel and Jamie, and together we decide on a plan. The team in the Netherlands really depends on my communication. If a shipment is delayed, they have to know because they have to adjust the sorting and unpacking plans. And it directly has an impact on the way that our flowers are brought into the market. Buyers are counting on our supply each and every day. Besides minimizing the impact on the market, communication back to the farms is also key; together we learn and improve our processes.”
Excited for the future
Kennedy too is very much looking forward to the implementation of DXP (our new digital information platform in the making). Kennedy: “I think it is really going to help with some man-made mistakes we are currently dealing with. Of course, with the numbers of flowers that we ship every day, it is only natural that a few mistakes will be made. But how amazing is it that our new software package can drastically improve these error prone processes! Problems with packing lists, delivery notes and labels will be something of the past.”
Kennedy is the linking pin in the Marginpar logistics for shipping all flowers from Kenya to Aalsmeer where flowers are unpacked and sold. At JKIA Nairobi Airport, he and his partner in crime Clifford Mongare share their office with our freight forwarder Kuehne+Nagel. Being this close to the fire brings many advantages. Marginpar feels a lot of support by K+N on a daily basis and for the long term. Definitely a strategic partnership!