Introductory Interview - Prof. Dr. Frank Rozemeijer

Prof. Dr. Frank Rozemeijer, NEVI Professor at Maastricht University is interviewed by Shreyas Sridhar, Project Manager at Brightlands Institute of Supply Chain Innovation. Frank shares details of his experience in multiple roles and an insight into how he helped build BISCI.

Shreyas: Hello Frank, thank you for joining me today. To begin with, could you please briefly describe your role at UM and BISCI?

Frank: “Well, I have multiple roles. Which is how I like it, to work in different fields, different settings and different contexts. During my whole career I have always combined working in academia with working in ‘the real world’ as a consultant.

Since 2007, I am working as NEVI professor in Purchasing and Supply Chain Management at Maastricht University. NEVI is the professional association for Purchasing and Supply management in The Netherlands. In order to drive the further development of the profession, NEVI funds a number of chairs in Purchasing and Supply Management at different universities. Maastricht is one of them.

It was Prof. Ko de Ruyter who called to ask me whether I would be interested in becoming a course coordinator for the Purchasing Management course in the Supply Chain Management Master program. At that time, I was working at RSM Erasmus University in Rotterdam, but I decided to give it a try and was pleased with the experience. The unique Maastricht flavour of teaching - Problem based learning - was quite different than Rotterdam where I was used to traditional lecturing for 150 students. I love how students are very proactive and take responsibility for their own learning here in Maastricht. The international flavour, the beautiful city of Maastricht and supportive colleagues, were also very instrumental for me to make the turn from Rotterdam to Maastricht.

Next, I am the program director of the NEVI Procurement Leadership Program. This is a 9-month executive program aimed at procurement managers that want to develop their strategic and personal leadership. The program is delivered in Maastricht and Stockholm with the support of UMIO.

Besides my part-time role in Maastricht, I work as an associate partner at SOLVINT, a medium-sized international consulting firm with a focus on procurement and supply chain management. I am mainly active in strategy consulting, organisational development and training programs.

If we focus on BISCI, there I had the honour along with Prof. Gaby Oderkerken-Schroder to lay the first foundations for BISCI. Together we wrote the first business plan and named it BISCI. After we presented it multiple times both internally and at the Province, BISCI was officially launched. Soon after that we were able to hire two very qualified key people for BISCI, Prof. Bart Vos and Ton Geurts. I knew both gentlemen very well for a long time prior to reaching out on this opportunity. Their complementary backgrounds, experience and networks made them fit for the job. We couldn’t be happier with our choice.

At this moment I have no formal BISCI role, but I am part of the BISCI family. I write a BLOG for BISCI every six weeks, and where possible I contribute to the further development of BISCI. Being one of the ‘founding fathers’, I love to see BISCI grow into a successful institute! Sometimes I wish that I could contribute more, however, given my part-time appointment in Maastricht and the fact that I live in Bussum, near Amsterdam, I have to be very critical on how I spend my limited time. So far, I have not been very successful in persuading my wife and two daughters to move to Maastricht (in spite of the positives I mentioned that attracted me to work here!), so it would not be so wise to take up a full-time responsibility in Maastricht.”

Shreyas: That is an impressive and complex list of supply chain focussed roles across business and academia, but how did it all begin?

Frank: “I have a Master degree in Business Economics from University of Amsterdam. During my specialisation course ‘Strategic Management & Organisation’, I came across the book ‘Intelligent Enterprise’ by James Brian Quinn about the strategic relevance of outsourcing. I was fascinated by the idea that an organisation is more than just the people working inside and that there are often multiple suppliers that take over quite critical activities of the business. I decided to write my master thesis about outsourcing relationships in the Dutch maintenance industry. After my graduation, I met Prof. Arjan van Weele who was one of the leading professors in purchasing and supply chain management. To make a long story short, I started working for him on a project for Philips Electronics on the future of purchasing. Together, we travelled the world looking for best-practices in procurement. A fascinating journey through which I had the opportunity to meet a lot of procurement executives at companies such as IBM, Chrysler, Philips, Reebok, Xerox and Honda. Based on our findings, we wrote the book ‘Revolution in Purchasing’ (1996). Soon after, I started my PhD research at Eindhoven University of Technology, on the research question: “How to organise for purchasing synergies in large companies?”  In 2000, I successfully defended my PhD thesis and started working as a consultant, next to a part-time postdoc position at TU/e.”

Shreyas: Great, it surely is fascinating to have had the opportunity to meet executives from such large multinational companies. You also mention your role at SOLVINT as an associate partner, which is more on the business or practice side of things, how do you manage this along with the other roles in academia?

Frank: “I consider myself a real ‘Pracademic’. I am very much interested in developing theory, but also in applying and testing it in a real-life context. It is fun to work with practitioners and use theory and see what works for them, and what not. Trying to find out where can we help practitioners to make better (strategic) decisions, and prevent them from all kinds of brilliant failures is what I see as our job as academics in business and management science.

Same is true for BISCI, it is important to go out and collaborate with companies in the field of logistics and supply chain management to formulate new relevant problem statements and conduct empirical research in a rigorous way. There is Nothing more practical than good theory, as long as this theory is grounded in good practice.”

Shreyas: Speaking of good theory, what are your current research interests?

Frank: “Most of my research is future oriented. Over the past years, together with my PhD researchers, I worked on Procurement topics like supply chain collaboration, supplier preferential treatment, social media use, sourcing team creativity, co-innovation, personal leadership and job crafting. In December we will start a new PhD project on exploring emerging digital technologies in procurement.”

Shreyas: Emerging digital technologies in procurement sounds really interesting for me personally and I am sure it will be useful for BISCI as well. I would generally ask what a regular working day would look like, but given the number of roles you fulfil, it perhaps makes more sense to ask how your week looks like?

Frank: “Indeed, it has become a bit easier now due to the fact that we have to work from home. Normally a lot of my time is spent on travelling. A week could begin in Maastricht for two days and then probably Stockholm and then back in the Netherlands spend a day working from Home, to close the week with speaking on a conference in Belgium. My weeks could be quite hectic, but that’s gone now thanks to corona. It surely gives me a lot of extra time!”

Shreyas: That indeed is a hectic schedule, so, what keeps you going?

Frank: “It energises me to do all these different things and meet so many different people. I love to work with people from different industries, different companies and even different professional backgrounds. For example, in the procurement leadership program I work with a Strategy professor from Copenhagen Business School, an Innovation professor from SBE/UM and a Finance professor from Stockholm School of Economics. Learning to understand their worlds and finding out what they can bring to the field of procurement, is what inspires me. My passion for procurement, is what drives me. This year, I have already spent 25 years of my life working in procurement and that’s not because I have to. I am still fascinated by it and still curious to learn more!”

Shreyas: As you mentioned earlier, you are one of the ‘founding fathers’ of BISCI. How well do you think BISCI is positioned now?

Frank: “At this moment, I am very impressed by the progress made, so many things are happening, so many opportunities are being explored! Ton and Bart and the rest of the team are doing a great job, BISCI is very tangible at this moment, which is already a great achievement in such a short time.

The BISCI event in Feb 2020 with 200 people was an important milestone and foundation for developing the BISCI that exists today with projects such as, Smart Packaging, Holland Robotics, Marconi, Change Gear, the SCV in Venlo, and ongoing advisory projects with vidaXL, Seacon, Arvato SCS and VDL Nedcar. That is very important to have as a foundation, you need that momentum.

Apart from working with companies and conducting research, I am curious to see what propositions we can develop for BISCI in the education and training arena. There is a shortage of skilled professionals in logistics and supply chain management and something needs to be done to solve that. Together with UMIO and other institutions in Limburg, BISCI can take up the role of education and training partner. That could be the next step for BISCI.”

Shreyas: Thank you and I agree with you that the focus will now increase on education and training as well. This is being done through the ‘Workforce of the Future’ initiative under SCV.

To wrap up our interview, since you stay in Bussum and would visit Maastricht quite often if not for COVID, do you have a favourite place here, a restaurant or a café?

Frank: “I always stay at the same hotel in the same room. Room Nr. 2 of Galerie Hotel DIS, is my home away from home. When I am in Maastricht, I make sure to stay there. It gives me some peace of mind in my hectic life. The place is at walking distance from both Tapijn and Tongerstraat 53. It is also close to the centre and the Vrijthof. I also love the flat white and cappuccino at Coffeelovers and I like to eat at this nice Korean restaurant called Bim & Bap at Tongersestraat. Feel free to say hello when you see me there!”

Shreyas Sridhar

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