Interview with Hedwig Sietsma – Project Manager Holland Flower Alliance

Hello Hedwig. Could you tell us more about you, and your role within the Holland Flower Alliance?

I joined KLM in September 2016, and when the opportunity to join the Holland Flower Alliance (HFA) came up in March, I applied immediately.

It is a fantastic experience to be working so closely with the supply chain of a specific cargo – and one that is so close to the heart of Holland – flowers.

In my previous life, I worked for a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) which manages the transport of food and supplies to areas affected by violent conflicts and natural disasters.

It is really interesting to now see how the transport of perishable cargoes is managed over larger supply chains.

As project manager of the HFA, I facilitate our existing working groups, working closely with the members to ensure they achieve tangible outcomes and valuable insights as to the transport of flowers.

I also explore new areas for collaboration, and our newest working group is looking specifically at process innovation across the flower supply chain.

I monitor outcomes, and ensure that all the talking and planning we do comes to fruition!

The HFA is a true partnership; the role of project manager is rotated between all parties, so I have until September, when Royal FloraHolland takes up the post, to achieve all I can!

Can you tell us the objectives of the Holland Flower Alliance, and what it aims to achieve?

This summer will mark the one year anniversary of HFA.

We have learned so much and are developing the mission statement of the alliance to reflect this We know we are “Europe’s preferred flower hub”, but will not let this be enough – there is always further room for improvement to ensure we are ‘taking the best care of flowers throughout the whole chain.’

Current partners are founders KLM, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and Royal FloraHolland, and we are actively searching for other parties to join us!

The alliance works together to identify ways to build upon the flower supply chain at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and showcase to the world our capabilities as the number one flower hub of Europe.

We do this with innovations such as our information sharing working group, our process innovation group, and our project looking at standardising the packaging used in the transport of flowers, which currently differs all over the world, and follows no specific guidelines.

Sounds great – what progress has been made by the group under your watch?

I am excited about having just established our new process innovation working group. Building on our visit to Kenya, our first initiative is to examine the journey our cargo makes, build a clear ‘roadmap’ to see what’s happening at each step of the chain, and then really focus in on the areas we need to work on.

We are working with studies from TU Delft university, and Flower Watch, a consultancy which looks at the logistics of flower transport, to achieve this.

What are your personal highlights of working with the group?

I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya when I first took up the role which was an amazing insight into how the flowers we take for granted end up on the shelves of our supermarkets!

There, I spoke to some of our growers about the issues that matter to them, and then met with a forwarder we work closely with at Schiphol. The flowers fly halfway around the world, and visiting an origin country has helped me to appreciate every step in the chain!

Personally, it has been a highlight working with three Royal companies, with more than 100 years of experience between them. Working on a project external to KLM has been valuable, interesting, and challenging.

Good luck with the remainder of your time as project manager! To get an idea of what you’ll be working on, how would you outline the ‘future vision’ of the Holland Flower Alliance?

When we launched, our very specific objectives focused on information sharing and communication in the supply chain. Now we see where these can take us, and we have several mission statements:

Information Sharing: we believe that information sharing is at the core of good collaboration, and the information sharing working group led by Schiphol is examining how a platform with shared information will work for the flower cool chain.

Packaging Innovation: Royal FloraHolland is leading the investigation into the standardisation of flower packaging. The issue we have is the sheer volume of flowers, a very delicate cargo, being packed in ways that sometimes do not sufficiently prevent damage from crushing or damp. Variation across supply chain parties is too wide. Preventing the wastage caused by this is something the HFA is working to eliminate.

Finally, Process Innovation: the project journey is underway. Our current focus is on internal processes, with a vision to creating a blueprint for best practice, that can be tailored to any organisation.

All in all, I believe the combined effort of the alliance is a refreshing new way of working. It is the recognition that, in a community such as Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the success of anyone benefits everyone.

I look forward to speaking to you all again soon about how our projects are progressing!