KLG Europe: Our people are our most fragile capital and we take them seriously

2019 – KLG Europe is a family business. It provides transport by road, water, rail and by air, and provides value-added services, warehousing and customs formalities.
The company was founded in 1918 with transport as the core business. Since 1947, KLG Europe has spread its wings nationally and internationally with various services and sites. KLG Europe currently has 16 sites in the Netherlands (Eersel, Rotterdam and Venlo), England (Bradford), Romania (Bucharest Cluj Napoca, Constanta, Craiova, Brasov, Timisoara, Bacau, Sibiu) and in China (Shanghai, Qingdao, Xiamen, Shenzhen). The organisation employs 550 people throughout the Netherlands, and 200 employees at the Venlo site. There are 1100 employees worldwide. In 2011 the company won the Lean & Green award and is consciously working on reducing the CO2 footprint by opting for sustainable solutions. KLG Europe has good and modern equipment. The drivers are trained to drive as safely and economically as possible.
KLG Europe pursues a CSR/PPP policy because the company is aware of its social responsibility. In addition to what was said above about the sustainability policy (Planet) this is reflected in an informal corporate culture. Good and ergonomic equipment, respecting European driving times and adjustments for people with a reduced work capacity, represent the ‘People’ part. The stable course of the organisation and the financial reliability give substance to the subject ‘Profit’.
This article is about the Venlo site with 200 employees. The Venlo location is the organisation’s headquarters. Cross-docking, transport planning, warehousing and customs formalities are the services of this location. So there is a wide variety of employees working here in different jobs. The services that the Venlo site offers can be classified under the term: expediter. This site does not have its own fleet of vehicles but has a reliable partnership with various international carriers in order to be able to offer European coverage to its customers in this way.

Workplace Innovation
KLG Europe is a family business that has an informal corporate culture. The organisation has “a heart and a soul" (these are the words of one of the interviewees). Due to the dynamic environment of the organisation, speed of change is of paramount importance. KLG Europe expects its employees to dare to take the initiative, to be critical of their own work and to feel the freedom to improve matters and to participate actively in this. A high degree of self-reliance is expected of teams and departments. Due to the rapid growth of the organisation, the innovation of the internal organisation has lagged somewhat behind, the management team has indicated that it wants to improve that.
In 2018, KLG Europe made the choice to participate in the SILL project (Social Innovation Logistics Limburg) together with nine other companies. Thus the organisation shows that it consciously chooses to listen to the employees instead of “thundering through the issues of the day". The purpose of KLG Europe is to invite employees  to participate in the decision making about innovating the organisation and the operational processes. With the participation in the SILL project, the first steps were taken towards workplace innovation within the organisation. 

The reason for participating in the SILL project was to increase employee involvement and to listen to the ideas that employees have. They expect workplace innovation to bring not only employee engagement and satisfaction but also more product or process innovations, more productivity and profitability. KLG Europe’s idea behind this is: “We are doing well at the moment, but innovation is important to keep it that way. To stand still is to decline." In addition, KLG Europe is aware of its good corporate image and does not want to lose it. This image ensures the recruitment of new employees and the binding of its current employees.

To participate in the SILL project, a SILL team was set up internally, consisting of “ambassadors" from the departments. The “ambassadors" have been approached personally and were asked to be part of this team. The main criterion for nominating and inviting employees was: “Who gets energy from something like this?"
KLG Europe participated in the external SILL meetings with other logistics companies, where they received support and coaching from people of the Fontys University College. In addition, the input of the other organisations in the SILL project provided inspiration. The internal actions concerning workplace innovation and the internal SILL meetings were attended by a Fontys project supervisor. The SILL campaigns within KLG were announced with flyers and banners and via social media.
The “ambassadors" were sent into the company to gather the points for improvement and ideas. In addition, an internal survey was conducted to test the importance and urgency of a number of points. The response to this survey was large, 95% completed this survey. This gave the ambassadors great satisfaction.
The points received are classified according to the subject, urgency, applicability and practicability. To all points submitted feedback was given; it was indicated whether these points will be picked up, how and when. Points that could be dealt with on the workplace were picked up there. Proposals concerning the employment conditions were submitted to the management. Proposals that could be implemented quickly were taken up immediately. For a selection of proposals project groups were created in which the proposer was actively involved. A number of these projects are still being worked on.
Some examples of quickly implemented improvements are: better accessibility of employees at the warehouse and crossdock, this ensures faster handling of questions, shorter lines, more autonomy and more involvement. The canteen has been made more attractive with a coat of paint, new furniture, new kitchen, cozy seats and a number of board games have been purchased. The plastic cups have been replaced with cardboard cups because of the environmental aspect. The purpose of this was to create a pleasant meeting place for employees.
In addition, various ergonomic measures have been taken and tools have been purchased and the option to purchase additional days off has been realized. An internal project group is working on a proposal to improve the e-mail culture.
Even though the SILL project has ended, the KLG Europe SILL team will continue to handle all submitted points and to call for and collect new points for improvement. The plan to crown the best idea of 2019 and awarding it an appropriate prize is still under discussion. The internal SILL team still meets frequently, approximately once every 6-8 weeks. In this way, the next steps of the step-by-step plan towards the renewal of the work organisation are prepared. 

The most important result is that employees at KLG Europe feel more involved and heard better. The employees notice that their ideas are taken seriously and they are included in the processing of them. This ensures more involvement and contributes to a culture to which every employee has his own input and can give consent. This ensures mutual trust, which means that innovations are embraced faster and easier. A general effect of the project is that the core of involvement starts and ends with communication. It is important here that the information is provided on time and is correct. KLG Europe is currently responding to this by providing communication training for its employees. This contributes to independence, involvement and self-management. Employees can make practical decisions quickly because the right information is available everywhere and for everybody.

Lessons learned
Participating in such a project together with other logistics companies in the region and with the support of a knowledge institution gives a “boost" to intentions that had been around for a long time, but were not fully taken up by the busy day.
The use of social media such as Facebook, Intranet etc. makes it easier to let a plan being accepted throughout the company. It is therefore important that there are employees involved who know how to make good use of it.
Sharing knowledge and experience with other logistics companies, has a stimulating effect and promotes the inquisitiveness of the people in the organisation.
Coaching by an independent and impartial outsider such as the Fontys University college is useful and provides “a stick behind the door".

his case description was made by F. Vaas (TNO) who interviewed a Management Assistant, a Teamleider Crossdock, a Transport Coordinator and the Quality & Legal Manager. 
And see the website of KLG Europe: https://www.klgeurope.com/

Themes: Dynamic Management & Leadership; Innovation & Innovation capacity
Sector: Logistics
Source: Case