This is how Deutsche Bahn Cargo will stay on track in the future

How do you make the largest rail transport company in the Netherlands future-proof? At Deutsche Bahn Cargo, Pim van Asperen listened to the employees and worked closely with the management. He then optimized the processes and introduced a new standard for project management. This resulted in an annual targeted cost savings of €2.4 million.

Deutsche bahn

Deutsche Bahn Cargo is the largest rail transport company in the Netherlands. Pim van Asperen of Boer & Croon was asked to make the company future-proof.

Listing ideas

Deutsche Bahn Cargo gave Pim the ambitious task of optimizing the processes using the available resources. For Pim, this started with an inventory of the ideas within the company: 'The first ideas were not yet prioritized and translated into implementable plans. That is why I introduced a program to inventory all initiatives from Production & Operations, Facilities, IT, Finance and Controlling, HR and QSHE. These included the improvement of last-minute orders, digital freight documents, tools for the field, scheduling of drivers, a new portal for placing customer orders, and specific departmental optimization.'

'Everything revolves around the employees. Without them, you won't achieve anything.'

Alles draait om de werknemers

To achieve optimal results, Pim ensures that all stakeholders are involved. This also included Deutsche Bahn Cargo: 'First, I involve HR and the Works Council, due to the potential impact of the program on employees. Additionally, I also involve IT, as almost every optimization or improvement initiative has an IT component. Finally, I also involve Controlling, so that the identified savings are included in all departmental budgets and can be tracked through the regular controlling cycle.'

Pim then outlines a picture of the culture, including the attitude of employees towards these types of programs, in order to choose the right approach. This is followed by a discussion with managers and close collaboration with the board of directors. Throughout, Pim never forgets that everything revolves around the employees: 'Without them, nothing can be achieved. So it is essential to listen and be open to their ideas, so that their objections and possible obstacles are taken seriously. That is what makes or breaks a program.' In this phase, Pim looks at three levels: 'Organization, team, and individual. For the results to work, all levels must work with the same image.' These components, along with close collaboration with the board of directors, set the program in motion. This also initiated the transition in a structured manner, with everyone aware of their

'It was now time to accelerate, by establishing a standard and prioritizing'

Establising resources and accelerate

Pim quickly realized that the employees could benefit from more experience with project management methodology. He gradually introduced some tools, and together they created a project charter based on their own initiatives. This included developing a business case, which allowed Pim to create a framework and guide them through the process.

From there, Pim discussed priorities with the leadership team and determined who would be the project managers and how the projects would be carried out. He reported to the board and involved the employee representation in this process. Pim met with the project managers every two weeks to discuss progress, ensuring that all resources were in place to make the program a success. The next step was to accelerate the process by standardizing project management and setting priorities.

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Cost reduction of 5%

The implementation of the new standard resulted in a program that prepares the company for the future. Pim says: 'At the bottom line, €2.4 million in OPEX savings will be achieved each year. In the end, the standard for project management was adopted by the entire organization for the other strategic projects on the management agenda.'

'It was really a matter of fitting things together to make it happen'

Second role as interimmanager

After this first part of the assignment, Pim took on his second role: interim manager of Goods Management & Customer Services with a team of 45 employees. "Essentially, rail transport is the solution for sustainable transport. But the rail network in the Netherlands and Europe is so full that it is a continuous logistical puzzle. In my second role, I was responsible, among other things, for the transfer of goods between parties and coordinating customer orders and was given the opportunity to bring more peace and structure to the daily activities together with the team."

On the rail there is always something to do and you often face unforeseen circumstances, such as snowfall, track work or the war in Ukraine. "It was really a matter of fitting things together to make it happen every time. But this is something the team has managed to do continuously. It was really special to work with such people who love the rail."