2015 Fleet Forum Conference Opening Day: Professionalise or be left behind

WEDNESDAY_0476The 13th Annual Fleet Forum Conference opened with a strong message to delegates: Keep evolving and improving or be left behind. Ramiro Armando de Oliveira Lopes da Silva, Assistant Executive Director for the World Food Programme, kicked-off the meeting in Rome, Italy, on behalf of conference host WFP. Lopes da Silva shared his personal experiences of the evolution and growth of WFP’s logistics operations, underpinning the importance of staying relevant and continuously responsive to a changing landscape.

Fleet Forum’s Executive Director Paul Jansen echoed those words, stressing that fleet managers who do not evolve will be left behind, no longer adding value to quickly changing organisations. WEDNESDAY_0592 WEDNESDAY_1085

“The fleet management sector is at a critical juncture. As the number of crises increases and funding decreases, organisations are faced with growing pressure to operate responsibly, efficiently and cost effectively. This can only be done through the professionalisation of fleet management,” said Jansen.

The theme for this year’s conference, Professionalising Fleet Excellence, aptly represents the next step in the journey of fleet management, he added.

The Annual Conference is taking place from 3-4 June at the Rome-based headquarters of the WFP. Attendance at the meeting has grown each year; this year, more than 110 participants from 68 organisations and 34 countries are in attendance. There is also more representation of African and Asian countries, creating still more opportunities for cross-continent collaboration on fleet and safety issues.

Simon Houghton, DFID’s Overseas Security Liaison Officer, summed up the significance of the conference: “This meeting has already demonstrated a wealth of experience, which reveals that there are many common issues in fleet management,” he said.
Gabriel Kardos described how Johnson & Johnson has embedded a fleet safety culture in its decentralized organisational structure and he outlined the challenges that came with that change. Kardos, who is Johnson & Johnson’s Senior Fleet Safety Manager for Europe, Middle East, and Africa/ Asia Pacific, made it abundantly clear that an organisation can only have a fleet safety culture if its senior management and employees live the values. Johnson & Johnson is testament to the fact that professionalising fleet management is a journey that will yield many payoffs.

The aid & development sector has little choice but to adapt and innovate in response to some of significant trends that are occurring around the world, said Lars Gustavsson, futurist at World Vision. He shared some of the megatrends impacting the humanitarian sector.
Christopher Benardis of Nissan Europe observed: “it’s not often that such a large group of diverse organisations with a general interest in fleet management are able to meet. The ever-increasing pressure of environmental standards legislation and the implications for vehicle maintenance and parts replacement and is going to require a change of mindset of fleet managers,” he said.

Said Rebecca Vince, Plan International’s Head of Logistics & Procurement: “The great thing about today is that we had thought-provoking, visionary statements from various experts, as well as frank breakout sessions about ongoing topics from telemetry to e-learning programmes.”

In the afternoon, WFP logistics staff presented the changes that are taking place within WFP’s own fleet management sector. Rounding up the day, Luk van Wassenhove of INSEAD made a strong call for investing in the competencies of fleet managers. Based on findings from multiple fleet management projects, he indicated that increased fleet management capacity strongly impacts effectiveness, efficiency, safety and environmental footprint. “Focus is needed on the management cycle of continual improvement, closing the loop and training people,” he said.

The conference will continue through Thursday.

See more photos from Day One of the conference here.