Network News

Robema NV - Interview with Katrien Buys

8:16am 28th May 2019






Robema NV has built a very strong reputation in shipping, forwarding, distribution and international logistics.


They follow a philosophy to deliver innovative, tailor-made logistics solutions that gives their customers quantifiable added value and pride themselves that they achieve this with their dedicated personnel, their long-standing experience and the latest information technology.


Let’s take a quick glance as Katrien Buys shares us her day-to-day life as a Managing Partner of Robema NV and their operations.



Can you please share us your humble beginnings as a company and how you progressed?



KB - Robema was founded 25 years ago and I’m here since the beginning being the first employee. Initially, our core business was project forwarding and shipping from mainly German customers to Africa. Meanwhile we gradually expanded our customers’ base and we are offering services to world- wide destinations for all kinds of cargo.


What are the current difficulties or challenges you are facing in Belgium when it comes to logistics?


KB - The ever increasing road congestion in and around Antwerp which makes it more and more difficult to get the cargo timely in the port for departure. With the upcoming infrastructure works this will become an even bigger burden in the near future.


The battle for talent. Finding the right candidates to join a growing organization and how to convince them to go for a career in our industry.



Could you describe your typical workday as a forwarder?


KB - Upon arrival in the office, check the emails with a cup of coffee and make the planning for the day.


Managing the operation, meetings with customers and suppliers, pricing negotiations, quotations and etc…



What made you choose logistics as a career?


KB - It is the dynamics of the transport industry which made me choose to took up Bachelor in International Commerce and Logistics. And shipping never gets boring due to the wide variety of tasks.


What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?


KB - The most important skills of a freight forwarder is being able to multi task, being stress resistant, being able to think outside of the box and you have to be a people manager.



And what about the skills and learnings you acquired through the years of your experience in this business?


KB - Over the years you expand your network of customers but also your network of suppliers and agents. This allows you to diversify and allows you to offer your customers a lot more services. A network like X2 can speed up this process. Over the years, I also learnt a lot about specific handling requirements of certain types of cargo which is imperative to be able to find the correct solution. Another item is the increasing importance of EDI over the years, which we need to embrace but which often also reduces the personal relationship with the shipping lines.


What parts of your job do you find most challenging?


KB - As a small forwarding company you need to distinguish yourselves from the big forwarding groups by offering extra expertise and a more personal approach. It is not possible to compete only on basis of rates.


Which seasons of the year are toughest in your job? And why?


KB - The holiday season(s) as the workload remains the same but it has to be managed sometimes with only half of the staff.


The rush to Christmas and Chinese New Year are usually not only the busiest but also the toughest part of the year as urgency of cargo comes together with the fight for sufficient space.



What do you specialize in project shipments?


KB - The majority of our project cargo are tubes and pipes for the oil & gas industry.


Next to that we often handle oversized machinery, storage tanks, steel coils for the automotive industry and oversized conveyor belts.


Currently we are handling the complete transport (dismantling, crating, road transport to port, stuffing and shipping including on site delivery) of a car manufacturing plant from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.



What's the most challenging project shipment you've ever handled? Please share to us how you plan for the solution and the execution.


KB - Projects can be challenging due to different reasons. It can be due to the weight and the dimensions of the cargo, but a project can also be challenging due to the volume of the shipment or the urgency. It can happen that a box of 100k is equally challenging as a shipment of 10.000 tons pipes. Another aspect of difficulty can be the final destination. For example for inland Africa destinations we need our network in order to provide the transport up to final destination.



Let's check-out some of Robema's break bulk shipments:





Shipment of 2 “furnace” of each 67 tons to the Middle East. The biggest difficulty for this shipment was the very long pre-carriage distance and due to the road licences we could only drive during the night.


A 34-ton conveyor belt which has been stuffed and lashed on a flat rack. These were shipped worldwide.


These pipes has been stuffed into container via a rolling dock. Allowing to load very long lengths into a container.


This is a shipment of 12,500 tons of pipes per part chartered vessel to Dammam.


Dismantling of a car production line.  This plant has been completely dismantled, all items have been cleaned and packed and shipped. Robema NV are handling a lot of machinery relocation up to complete production lines.