What trends have marked 2020 and how will they evolve next year? How has Transmare Chemie responded to these new trends and how do they think they will emerge as a winner from the crisis? We discussed this with Koen Berghmans, CFO-COO at Transmare Chemie.
What do you think were the main trends in 2020?
Koen Berghmans: “The most important event of 2020 was, of course, the corona pandemic that struck us. As a result, companies had to adapt very quickly. The biggest trend of 2020 was therefore the increasing digitalisation: we were required to do a lot of things differently. A different way of working, more working from home and simultaneously thinking about the future. Although working from home also had a positive impact on mobility, it turned out that employees don’t generally prefer to work from home full-time. Coming to the office almost became a privilege in the end. Another trend was the great uncertainty facing companies: everything became more unpredictable than ever and rules changed almost every week.”
How has your company responded to this?
“The unpredictability for our sector, among others, was reflected in the large fluctuation in transport rates. In March they were still very low, whereas a few months later it became extremely expensive to ship a container from China, for example. This was because not all the ships were being used, resulting in a more limited supply.
So we had to respond flexibly to these market trends and we did this by looking for new logistical solutions for our customers. For example, we increased our focus on deliveries from Europe instead of Asia. We were even able to expand our product range and our market share.
Due to this approach, Transmare Chemie achieved very good results in 2020.”
What do you see emerging as the main trends in 2021?
“Digitalisation will certainly continue. Companies that offer solutions in a creative and flexible way will make all the difference. Once the pandemic is over, I think there will be a kind of new ‘roaring twenties’ like after the Spanish flu, a counter-reaction to the restrictions we have had: going back to restaurants, parties and travel. On the business side, employees will want to go back to the office to see their colleagues, but working from home part of the time will probably become the norm. Among businesses, there are likely to be further blows to companies without a safety net and those that did not do their homework properly in 2020. Being too cautious is usually not a good thing. Companies that only get back on track in 2021 will realise that there are many others already ahead of them.”
What is your company doing to ensure it will be ahead of the curve when the corona crisis is over?
“As our employees were unable to travel, we had more time for internal projects such as our regulatory compliance. We have also started an ERP implementation, we have automated more and we have been looking for additional financing. So we prepared ourselves for 2021, when the markets open up again. We also set up a local office in Morocco as our suppliers wanted us to have a local presence there. We created this office remotely in collaboration with external contacts. Fortunately, we were able to use Teams communication tools to do this, otherwise it would have been impossible. Now we are reviewing the balance between our local presence and our operations from here. In time, we may work more with our own agents and local warehouses, for example in Africa, where we are very active. The corona pandemic has made companies realise that globalisation can have a negative impact, hence the trend towards buying more locally, local trade and avoiding unnecessary transport.”
“So at Transmare Chemie, we are always looking ahead. Compare it with cyclists who work on their basic level of fitness and eliminate weaknesses outside the cycling season in order to perform at top level afterwards.”
Transmare Chemie is an international distributor of chemical products. The company has offices in Antwerp, Hamburg and Singapore and has more than 85 employees. Regional centres and local partners provide logistical, technical and commercial support to customers in more than 100 countries worldwide.