Similarly to the other groups, our first afternoon on arrival day was free, so we used the time to explore the city’s Diamond Quarter, the shopping district and the cathedral. And of course we couldn’t miss out on some typical Belgian food and drinks – waffles, fries, chocolates and beer definitely made our day.
On Wednesday morning we officially started our study tour with a visit to KPMG in Brussels. Patrick Gilis, a Cranfield alumni, warmly welcomed us and invited us to breakfast for a chance to chat with him and his colleagues. After breakfast we heard several presentations about the company including topics on customer services, physical asset management, financial management, and people and change. Patrick also introduced us to some supply chain projects and case studies that KPMG has worked on. After a lovely lunch and some great conversations (and receiving a KPMG blanket) it was time to say goodbye as we were expected at the Antwerp Maritime Academy.
The Academy offers unique courses on Nautical Science and Marine Engineering. The school was even built in the shape of a ship! We were given the opportunity to visit their simulators, which was really interesting, especially as some students were in training. On the way back to the hotel we drove past the harbour and were able to observe some of Total and Esso´s operations from the outside.
On Thursday morning Nike opened their doors to us. We were able to get a tour through their highly automated distribution centre. This was especially interesting after having taken the warehousing module last semester. Some of the facts our tour guide mentioned were impressive, such as the amount of stock in the high bay being between 19 and 23 million products! Afterwards we were on a three-hour bus drive across Belgium to Zeebrugge where Toyota ships (and stores) most of their cars for the European market. First, a presentation gave us some background facts on their operation, then we went to see how cars are taken apart to add all the additional features such as video screens in seats. That night we all had dinner together at a lovely Italian restaurant.
On our last day we visited Baxter which is a pharmaceutical company. A presentation gave us an insight into the company structure and its operations. Afterwards, we got two tours – one through their distribution centre, and another through their manufacturing plant. The distribution centre was highly automated, and it was interesting to see how different types of businesses use different types of storage, transport etc. Then, sadly, it was time to say goodbye to wonderful Belgium and say hello to Cranfield again.
We all had a great time and want to thank all the companies, the Cranfield alumni, our two professors and Cranfield for an amazing trip!