Logistics Hotspot Tilburg-Waalwijk going for digitization, sustainability and talent
For the second year in a row, Tilburg-Waalwijk has been chosen by an expert panel of Logistiek.nl as the number 1 Logistics Hotspot in the Netherlands. But what exactly is the secret behind the success of this region?
In central Brabant, businesses, educational institutions and government bodies work closely together on economic development, with the regional organization Midpoint Brabant acting as a link in the chain. Sandra Smits, chairman of the Smart Logistics steering group at Midpoint Brabant, says: ‘We want to be and remain the leader in smart and sustainable logistics. So it gives us a huge boost to be awarded this title once again. The fact that we have managed this for the second year in a row is due above all to our successful, multi-helix cooperation, together with our focus on three core themes: digitization, sustainability and talent development.’
The sum of the logistic parts
Berend de Vries, councillor for the economy in Tilburg, stresses the power of an integrated approach, or ‘the sum of the logistic parts’: ‘In this region we are working hard on the logistics sector of the future. A sector that seeks with us a balance between economic development, growth and employment on the one hand, and sustainability, biodiversity, a pleasant living environment and leisure on the other hand.’
A major advantage of Tilburg-Waalwijk is of course its excellent accessibility. Inland shipping and rail connections are increasingly concentrated in and through central Brabant. The Railport Brabant terminal for rail transport, together with the Barge Terminal Tilburg and the Waalwijk Regional Transshipment Centre (Regionale Overslag Centrum (ROC) Waalwijk) for inland shipping, handle containers from around the globe.
These hubs give businesses access to the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp and the European market. The region is ideally situated for distribution in the Benelux and Europe and is particularly favourable for European parcel distribution via the air parcel hubs of UPS (Cologne), DHL (Brussels) and Fedex/TNT (Liège).
In the field of digitization, Midpoint Brabant has developed a range of programmes, one of which is DALI (Data Science for Logistics Innovation), a collaborative venture with Logistics Community Brabant, BUAS and REWIN (West-Brabant). Ronald Bakker, councillor for the economy in the Municipality of Waalwijk, explains: ‘Entrepreneurs and educational institutions work together at DALI for the further digitization, datafication and robotization of the logistics chain to enable it to operate even more efficiently and sustainably.’
One of the projects focuses on image recognition software for the container terminal at the Barge Terminal Tilburg. Using data and new technologies, more accurate information is produced and logistic schedules can become more predictable. And in central Brabant, many businesses make use of state-of-the-art automated storage systems, such as the Autostore solution at Versteijnen Logistics and Rhenus Contract Logistics.
Incidentally, Waalwijk-Tilburg is number 1 too in the category of ‘Best national e-fulfilment hotspot’, also thanks to the presence of Ingram Micro, which according to Emerce is the ‘best e-fulfilment warehouse’. Together with partners such as bol.com in Waalwijk and the Bijenkorf in Tilburg, it forms the beating heart of the logistic process, handling countless online orders in the Netherlands.
In the area of sustainability, a particular focus of central Brabant is multimodal transport. During the past year some 23 million road kilometres have been saved by transporting goods by inland vessel (via the water corridor connecting with Rotterdam) and train (direct connection with China and Poland). The result is a reduction of no less than 28,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The region is also committed to achieving the Zero Emission targets. The Municipality of Tilburg is working on the Green Deal Zero Emissions City Logistics and the Municipality of Waalwijk is focusing on making the new inland shipping terminal energy-neutral.
The Municipality of Tilburg is joining forces with Midpoint Brabant, Vollenhoven Olie and various companies to work on the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ hydrogen project, aimed at developing a proper fuelling infrastructure and targeting businesses that will use it. Hydrogen is a promising alternative fuel, especially for heavy transport, alongside biofuels and electric transport. Hydrogen appears to be an excellent alternative for trucks too, particularly for longer distances.
Around 7,000 new workers will be needed in central Brabant by 2030 to compensate for the ageing population. Logistics firms are experiencing labour shortages, have the challenge of training their employees and are finding it difficult to fill vacancies. The challenge for senior vocational education institutions in particular is to maintain student numbers on their courses. Midpoint Brabant and the municipalities of Tilburg and Waalwijk will soon be launching the ‘Smart Moves’ image campaign to show how exciting the logistics sector is. It’s not surprising that young people are attracted to the distribution centres of the trendy brand CoolBlue in Tilburg or bol.com in Waalwijk.
Links to education
Twan van Lankveld, programme manager of Smart Logistics at Midpoint Brabant: ‘We are also seeking new competences, and so we certainly benefit from the unique situation of one university, two universities of applied sciences and three schools of senior vocational education in the region. Robotization, automation and datafication in logistics have consequences for the tasks that employees carry out. It remains an important challenge for educational institutions to keep in step with the demands of the business sector. The regional labour market cannot manage the transition alone.’
The employment of labour migrants is and continues to be vital, and much attention is also being given to housing. Van Lankveld: ‘Around 15 per cent of the labour migrants have now settled permanently in the region. And in the industrial zones there are various large-scale residential campuses for labour migrants. For example, next to Ingram Micro’s premises in Waalwijk there is even a campus with communal areas such as a restaurant, shop, sports club, launderette and leisure space. That too is a ‘Smart Move’ and typical of the Tilburg-Waalwijk region.’
This article is published by Logistiek.nl.