We have built a new, modern warehouse for our client Nestlé in the town of Prostějov. The building as well as the team on site are ready to supply the whole of Central Europe, despite the COVID-19 crisis. The director of the Prostějov DC, Radim Marák, talked to us about their challenges, opportunities and the future.
Soon you’ll be opening a new HOPI warehouse for Nestlé. What has been the biggest challenge?
Honestly? Hard to say. First and foremost, acquiring a big client like Nestlé and convincing them to take this huge step of changing their logistics provider is an event in itself, which resonates across the Czech and Slovak Republics, and maybe even beyond. And once you’re done with construction work, within the required deadline and in the required quality, warehouse operation comes into play. It is paramount to put together a good team who will be able to not only kickstart operations for such a demanding customer, but also to meet their strict time and quality requirements in the long run.
What do you think is most interesting about the new warehouse? What can employees look forward to?
Our general mission is to simplify, automate and introduce robots to warehouses. The new warehouse will, for example, feature material handling equipment with Li-on batteries; we are also planning on implementing semi-automatic lines for VAS processes (specifically the production of promotional packaging), trying out an automated conveyor belt and more. Employees can look forward to a modern, high-quality working environment, technical equipment and facilities.
How is the hiring process going?
The hiring process is, to a certain extent, impacted by COVID-19. The situation on the labour market is hard to predict; there are many risks completely beyond our control. We are trying to do our best, like all the other companies. I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to our entire HR department, which has been working tirelessly. It is thanks to them that we have been able to meet our hiring targets. The management and operations teams are almost complete, and they are already busy with preparations, training, process testing, etc.
We are going through a bit of a déjà vu. The last time we embarked on a major expansion of the HOPI distribution centre in Prostějov was also on the eve of an economic crisis. It was 10 years ago and the client was MONDELÉZ (then Kraft Foods). The expansion was a great success, I must say, and it made the whole HOPI Holding group, of which we are part, much stronger and more resilient. Long-term stability, continuity and development are the cornerstones of employees’ trust in their employer. In times when it’s all sunshine and rainbows, we sometimes tend to forget this fundamental quality. But good times are not forever – they regularly alternate with bad times, as we can all see right now.
What do you do if someone wants to work for you but they are not a licensed reach truck operator or they don’t have any experience whatsoever with working in the warehouse?
If you are completely new to the industry, you can train at our brand new training centre, which is a huge, standalone room outside of the actual warehouse. Here we use modified material handling equipment, pallets and racks to teach people everything about the process from unloading to dispatching, so that they know what it looks like in a real warehouse. The new training centre allows us to onboard our new colleagues in a safe environment, without unnecessary pressure. And, of course, we provide training which will prepare you for becoming a licensed material handler.
You first have to learn to walk to be able to run, and the same goes for material handling. Instead of facing the challenge of operating a reach truck right from the start, you have to reserve some time for getting to know all the warehouse processes and gradually improving your skills. Stacking a pallet worth dozens or even hundreds of thousands of Czech crowns in a rack with stacking height exceeding 10 metres requires some practice, no question about that.
Tell us more about the hiring process. How hard is it to get a job as a reach truck operator at your site?
The easiest way is to contact our HR department by phone or e-mail. They will tell you everything you need to know including information about hiring bonuses for experienced workers.
If you are a skilled reach truck worker with a proven experience, your training process will be a lot simpler, of course. It is basically just about verifying your qualifications in a practical exam supervised by our trainers and getting acquainted with our processes, namely our information system and hand-held terminals.
What do you see when you close your eyes and imagine HOPI in 5 or 10 years from now?
Looking back at the 20+ years I have spent working for HOPI, I see continuous improvement and expansion.
Which means that in 5–10 years from now (at the latest), we will be opening another new warehouse for a new, prestigious client.