Ever seen a container arrive ‘out of the blue'? Dogan has!

It’s busy in Botlek. Lorries come and go all the time around here. I walk towards the reception area thinking about what lurks behind the doors of those hundreds, or actually thousands, of containers. Dogan just happens to be escorting a lorry into the shed. It was Dogan I was looking for, the Assistant Warehouse Manager. We navigate a route between all the international drivers, to a quieter area. The location affords us a great view of the entire Hooymeijer site.

Dogan is 27 years old and has lived in Rotterdam all his life. His bond with the port goes almost without saying: "I’m from Rotterdam, so I have a connection with the port. Hence why I’m here now, this is where I once started as an intern. Back then I was eager to learn. I wanted to know everything about the warehouse, from A to Z.” So, he set himself a goal: to become a warehouse manager. And he has almost realised his goal in just seven years of working at Hooymeijer. Dogan is now an Assistant Warehouse Manager, supervising the warehouse staff. And, when he becomes a Warehouse Manager, he has another goal: "You can't live without goals, so eventually I would like to go to the office and manage the warehouse from there.”

Containers arriving ‘out of the blue'
The busy environment at Botlek is part of Dogan’s day to day work. "It is not a quiet job. It can be really hectic. The workers start at 7.00 am and I always arrive a little earlier. I check what work we have for the day and set our priorities." In the warehouse, Dogan works with teams: a thrower (someone who empties the containers and puts them neatly on a pallet), a driver (takes everything to the right location in the warehouse) and a scribe (measures everything down to the millimetre and checks for damage). "We all do this together, but ultimately I am in charge of the warehouse”, Dogan continues. "Everyone is different. Everyone has their own quirks. I use a serious approach for some colleagues, with others I have a bit more fun. The average age of my colleagues is about 35; I am 27. But I still have to provide leadership even though I’m quite young.” Fortunately, Dogan is good at putting himself in other people's shoes: "I understand when a person is just not in the mood. I will try to find out more and, if I have time, I will engage with them."

It feels like a big responsibility. The work here in the warehouse has to be done with precision; it’s easy to make mistakes. "I want everything to be perfect. But in logistics, that doesn't always work. Sometimes containers turn up ‘out of the blue’ and we suddenly have an extra container. That can be stressful at times, but when I finish at the end of the day and have met my schedule, I always get into the car feeling satisfied. We did it again!" Fortunately, his day always ends well. But when he sees something going wrong, he takes the time to explain. "Of course things go wrong. But when I see it happening, I always try to explain to colleagues what is going wrong, why it is going wrong and how to do it better next time. This means we can work a little more efficiently every day.”

From China, to Rotterdam, to Portugal
But I couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer. I couldn’t wait to find out more about the contents of the containers, so I asked Dogan. “It’s always very different. Sometimes a container is full of one type of product or package. Sometimes they are groupage customers, i.e. there are items from different customers in the container. But we see everything passing by here: chairs, coats, cups, but also very large heavy crates weighing a few tonnes! It could be anything really.”

We carry on walking through the warehouse. A huge amount of boxes, crates and everything in between is being driven back and forth by his team. They know exactly what they are doing. A pallet is placed in a row of numbered spaces; it will be loaded back into a truck later. In one container, the team is unloading smaller boxes, coming from China, destined for Portugal. "We all work together. It is truly collaborative. I can’t do much without the guy on the forklift and the office can’t proceed without me. Every person, every link, is equally important.”

When I ask if Dogan is ready to achieve his goal, he smiles confidently: "Yes, I am ready to take on the role of Warehouse Manager.”