The five most innovative milestones in our 160-year history

Innovation and entrepreneurship are essential in the growth story of Bleckmann and our customers. As a logistics company we have been experimenting and excelling for 160 years.

Bleckmann has grown from a transport company into the market leader in Supply Chain Management (SCM) services for fashion, lifestyle and consumer electronics brands. This trajectory was not without controversy.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are constant in our growth story. Decisions that were made from this point of view, prove to have been crucial.

These five milestones explain Bleckmann's growth trajectory:

Milestone 1. "We continuously innovate to help customers"

Milestone 2. "We internationalize beyond existing borders"

Milestone 3. "We pioneer e-commerce"

Milestone 4. "We merge two logistics experts"

Milestone 5. "We become more sustainable, also in transport"

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Milestone 1. "We continuously innovate to help customers"

From day one, Bleckmann focuses on solving clients’ problems. Benjamin Bleckmann started his company in 1862 in Oldenzaal, in the Twente region in The Netherlands. At the time, this was the textile region of the Netherlands.

Let the weavers in Oldenzaal spin," said Benjamin, I will transport their fabrics" And that is what he did. To Germany and all over the Netherlands, via the railway to which the town was connected in 1865.

Because we focused on the specific sector of fashion and lifestyle from the beginning: we knew it inside out, explains our CEO, Kurt Pierloot. "We understand the problems, and thanks to experience, we find solutions faster. Moreover; we learn about the challenges our clients face"

"This is how we have been innovating since 1862. Like Apple, we combine technologies to find the best solution. In doing so, we always focus on the needs of our clients."

 

Milestone 2. "We internationalize beyond existing borders"

During the Belle Epoque in the late 19th and early 20th century, one technological innovation follows another. Society is in permanent evolution and growth, just like Bleckmann is. We innovate and internationalize day after day. We cross borders into France, Germany and Great Britain.

Growth continues after World War II. From that moment, the whole world is open. Shipments reach the United States, Asia and Australia thanks to commercial aviation. Global internationalization is a milestone.

Later on, e-commerce reinforces this internationalization. More than ever, goods are transported worldwide. From central distribution centres, fashion and lifestyle brands serve increasingly larger regions.

"For instance, one of our first e-commerce clients told us: “Oh by the way! Our parcels will have to be sent to 30 countries" Steven Rymenans, our Chief of Digital & Innovation’s recalls; "It was unthinkable for us to let the deal slip because of this. At lightning speed, we expanded our network to include 30 carriers."

This is how our international network expands. "Thanks to the wide Bleckmann network, we can serve the whole world," Kurt concludes. "And in addition, we can offer more and more sustainable transport partners. This way, we demonstrate the ambition to reduce our emissions continuously." Bleckmann's international network is not only growing but also greening (read Milestone 5).

 

Milestone 3. "We are pioneers in e-commerce"

"15 years ago, we resolutely chose e-commerce," Kurt points out the third milestone. "Few believed that online shopping would boom. Many other logistics companies saw it as a passing hype."

Nevertheless, Bleckmann chose to invest heavily in e-commerce. Interestingly; we first brought in a new client in 2009 and developed the e-commerce branch only afterwards. "The US brand Stella & Dot asked if we wanted to do the logistics of their new e-commerce in Europe," Steven says. We said: “no problem” and a well-oiled e-commerce fulfilment solution quickly developed.

Ever since, Bleckmann have been pioneering for fashion & lifestyle brands that believe in the power of online sales. This new path created a growth spurt in the company. "We invested heavily in transport management systems, scanning, storage space, people, a network of carriers and so on. We were forced to think about how to realize and optimize e-commerce."

Since Covid-19 pandemic, e-commerce has been booming like never before. Bleckmann's early adoption of e-commerce makes us an e-commerce specialist and the leading player in our segment.

 

Milestone 4. "We merge two logistics experts"

Today's Bleckmann was born from the acquisition of Twente-based TNT Fashion Group by West Flanders-based Belspeed in 2014. The coalition of the Belgian and Dutch experts in logistics for fashion and lifestyle brands and the union of their two cultures signified a milestone for the new Bleckmann. It is undeniably the fourth milestone in the 160-year-long growth story. It marks the start of the current corporate culture in which 4 E’s are central: Entrepreneurship, Excellence, Engagement and Expertise.

"We have worked hard to combine the best of both worlds into the strongest possible organization and culture," Steven explains. As co-founder of Belspeed, he helped to lead the new story. "We learned a lot from the survey we conducted among staff members at the time. We asked our people what culture they worked in and in which one they wanted to experience moving forward. The survey taught us that people want to work in a similar network organization with a moderate hierarchy and an entrepreneurial, hard-working, no-nonsense and can-do mentality which was already prevalent in both Twente and Kruishoutem.

Thanks to this entrepreneurial mentality, the sharing of our knowledge across borders and the combination of the best of both worlds, we developed into a decisive organization with enormous expertise in global logistics for fashion and lifestyle brands. "Until today, we keep the balance between the entrepreneurial approach and the need for procedures and rules," says Steven. "We need both in our growth story. So as long as we don't focus too much on only one of them, it is perfect."

 

Milestone 5. "We become more sustainable... also in transport"

The fifth milestone can already be found in Benjamin Bleckmann's original activity in 1862: transporting goods. "In a way, it is quite remarkable, as we no longer employ one single driver," Kurt says. "We have revamped our entire business and are now working with a wide range of carriers. This creates opportunities for our clients, as they can choose a transport partner that perfectly fits their needs."

Fashion and lifestyle brands never choose one single carrier for their deliveries all over the world. "For domestic and foreign shipments, you choose other specialists. Some specialize in city deliveries. Other focus on ecological priorities. And so on."

We are investing in reducing our ecological footprint and that of our clients. This transition is also seen in the last mile delivery, Kurt experiences: "Brands and consumers want to reduce their ecological footprint, including; by choosing a sustainable carrier. Through our flexible solutions, our brands and their consumers can choose electric vehicles, bicycle couriers, suppliers with parcel machines, bundled shipments, and so on. A solution for everyone."

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Dorota Tankink
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