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The Rise of the Phoenix

It's one of the most spectacular comebacks of recent years: the Weerts group has redeveloped its logistics division, launched a division devoted to logistics real estate, and another devoted to energy, all the while owning one of the world's top motor racing teams. At the helm of logistics is Didier Weerts, who has been leading since 2021.

Weerts had sold its transport activities to Jost Group in 2008 but remained active in logistics, albeit discreetly. It was in 2017 that things began to accelerate.

Didier Weerts - The Rise of the Phoenix


Logistics Management: What made you decide to reinvest in logistics?
Didier Weerts: We had retained our real estate portfolio and a few logistics customers. We convinced Audi Brussels that we were capable of supplying their assembly lines. We allocated the necessary resources, took over 400 people, and significantly improved all KPIs, winning the Logistics Employer of the Year award in 2020.

LM: Why did you then decide to stop?
D. Weerts: Because we wanted to grow with our own WMS and procedures. We weren't having enough impact on our operations. Today, we work for the plant's suppliers on a 5000 m2 site 500 meters from the factory, where we assemble wheels and interior fittings. All with an error rate of zero PPM and full traceability of all processes!

LM: What accounts for the success of your logistics renaissance?
D. Weerts: We don't jump at every opportunity. We know where our expertise can generate added value. For example, we relaunched our transport business because it supports our logistics activities. Today, 90% of our customers request it.


LM: You lease your buildings to Weerts Logistics Parks, which also provides infrastructure to other logistics companies. How do you deal with any conflicts of interest?
D. Weerts: For example, Kuehne + Nagel is a major customer of WLP, and we won't compete with K+N for an existing customer when they rent from WLP. It's a matter of fair play. Otherwise, we let the market decide. The two divisions are completely separate.

LM: How did you manage to open so many sites in such a short time?
D. Weerts: Customer demand drives us to open new sites. Investing in Hainaut and the north of France means physical space is not a problem. Regarding the workforce, we must have a very good reputation, as we're receiving more and more unsolicited applications. What matters to us is the mindset before technical skills.

LM: Do you find this mentality in Wallonia too?
D. Weerts: I'm Flemish, and many Flemish entrepreneurs are apprehensive about Wallonia. But if you're clear about your expectations and integrate new employees into your corporate culture, combining a 'hyper-professional' side with the spirit of an SME, there's no problem. Taking over an existing structure, where habits are deeply ingrained, is more challenging.

LM: What synergies exist with the Weerts Energy division?
D. Weerts: All our buildings are recently certified BREEAM Excellent. We benefit from the green energy produced by solar panels on our roofs, thanks to investments by Weerts Energy. In the long term, we will likely benefit from other initiatives launched by Weerts Energy, such as on-site batteries to utilize even more green energy or the installation of super truck chargers. Weerts Energy drives us to be at the forefront of renewable energy, critical in today's logistics market.

LM: Do you feel pressure mounting from your customers?
D. Weerts: Carbon neutrality will soon become a prerequisite for participating in tenders. We are prepared with a global ESG plan. We'll be well on schedule to publish our carbon footprints, and the reduction of our carbon footprint is already well advanced.

Weerts Supply Chain in brief

- one of Weerts Group's divisions alongside Weerts Logistics Parks, Weerts Energy, and Weerts Racing Team

- business sectors: food, household & electronics, consumer goods, industrial logistics, and pharmaceuticals

- infrastructures: 22,000 m2 in Tongeren, 50,000 m2 in Hermalle-sous-Argenteau (Trilogiport), 40,000 m2 in Herstal, 50,000 m2 in La Louvière (Garocentre), 12,500 m2 in Gembloux (pharma site), 5,000 m2 in Brussels, 35,000 m2 in Bierset

- projects under development (not exhaustive): 68,000 m2 in Charleroi (food and consumer goods), 90,000 m2 in Dunkirk (food & industrial), 30,000 m2 in Ghent, 250,000 m2 in Bierset


LM: What role does technological innovation play at WSC?
D. Weerts: It's a key factor. Our engineering department of 12 takes care of both operational excellence and developing new solutions. We develop our WMS in-house with state-of-the-art technologies and are already using artificial intelligence.

LM: Are you automating everything?
D. Weerts: We're focused on automating both physical and administrative processes. However, automation doesn't always mean it's better. Sometimes it costs too much for the result obtained. For example, we often underestimate the initial investment and fixed maintenance and repair costs of an automated system. And the more customers you have, the more complex it becomes.

LM: What advantages do you derive from the WRT racing team?
D. Weerts: Initially, it was a matter of passion. Today, WRT is a profitable business. But the passion remains, and it's an excellent example of the principle that a team is only as strong as its weakest element. A principle I keep repeating at WSC...