Food logistics: Schmidt Zeevis puts its trust in trucks with the three-point star

Economics & Logistics

Royal fresh fish.

Schmidt Zeevis won many new customers following the company's move and a distinction from His Majesty. And that subsequently led to new stars joining the company fleet.

Distinction: Star. With a fleet including an Actros and 18 Sprinter vans, Schmidt Zeevis ensures an appropriate reputation of its transport fleet too.

On weekdays at around lunchtime, the shop is full of people who know about good food. And let's not even mention Saturday afternoons. The previous fish shop belonging to Koninklijke Schmidt Zeevis at the edge of Rotterdam's city centre was one of the nicest in Europe, but the new shop on the A20 is a true pearl. One that definitely deserves its noble distinction.

The company was founded in 1916 by Grandma Schmidt and for 99 years it was located in the heart of the city. Slowly but surely, the shop started to burst at the seams; particularly after their online shop opened in 2011. "Our old building was built in 1962 and was revolutionary at the time, featuring, amongst other things, heated foundations to prevent possible damage to the refrigeration rooms," Managing Director Marcel van Breda explains. "Back then, the building was built entirely according to the needs of Schmidt Zeevis. However as there were only two loading ramps, in the past years that meant it was a bit crowded there and led to a good deal of improvisation being used. The old location was fine for the fish shop, but over the years we become increasingly involved in processing the products. That led to a lot of transport activity internally within the company. Practical aspects such as parking for our staff also caused a problem. Accordingly, in 2009, the first cautious plans for a completely new building were drawn up."

Today, the company employs around 150 people spread across six business areas. About 140 types of fish are delivered to restaurants, hotels, caterers, businesses, wholesalers, cruise ships, luxury yachts and airports worldwide. In their online shop, the bar was set very high from the start with the service promise of next-day delivery if you order by midday. Another speciality of theirs: Schmidt Zeevis is one of the Netherlands' largest fishmongers which still operates with traditional trade skills. The fish is still filleted by hand although machine-filleting is much cheaper. However, the latter requires a lot of water and thus the fish loses its characteristic taste and that of the sea. Care and a love of the product are the recurrent themes throughout the history of the fish specialists. That is why their regular customers have gladly stayed with them and new customers quickly found their way to Schmidt Zeevis. Even after the pivotal move to the Spaanse Polder industrial area. "We had an evaluation made of the possible effects on our shop customers," says van Breda. "The results showed that we would have to reckon with a loss of around 25 % due to the move. However, in practice the opposite was the case: we have even won many new customers."

There's a story behind the move: two generations of the Schmidt family had expanded the company to a flourishing business with a well-respected name. But when the baton was passed on to Marcel van Breda in 2000, the company was still the property of the Kennemervisgroep. In 2012 van Breda, together with his CFO Jos van Vuren, pushed through a management buy-out without the need for large external investment companies. When, ABN Amro quite surprisingly took over the business of the Deutsche Bank which had been somewhat biding its time, the plans for a new building were suddenly and intensively pushed forward. On 8 December 2015, Her Majesty Queen Máxima inaugurated the new building, whose deep-sea vessel form is by no means a coincidence: at the front there is a splendid shop and behind it a large warehouse with lots of space and the necessary infrastructure for storage and processing of the products.

"The jump from two to twelve loading ramps is quite a considerable improvement," van Breda continues. "Let's just consider the last week of the year. Then, in addition to our regular orders, we have around 2500 orders from private persons. In that week no less than 91 vans, of those 18 company-owned Sprinters, drive through all regions of the Netherlands for us."

Traditional skills. Other companies today machine-fillet the fish, but there is a considerable loss in taste due to the huge amount of water used. That isn't the Schmidt Zeevis approach.

Added weight was given to the princely dimensions of the company's space when on 2 September 2016 a crown was incorporated into the logo. His Majesty King Willem-Alexander personally gave his permission to add the title "Koninklijk" (Royal) to the name Schmidt Zeevis. Van Vuren: "That was a true piece of recognition for our quality, but within our national borders it means that and nothing more. However, for our international customers, it does indeed bring important emotional added value. And there are quite a few of them. Often we become known internationally because of world-famous top chefs who only want to use the best products and who have therefore been buying from us for years. We serve the upper market segment and that's why I find it so nice to receive the recognition for which we work so hard."

The unconditional decision to focus on quality is also reflected in the vehicle pool which is supplied entirely by Mercedes-Benz. In 1984 van Breda bought his first Mercedes-Benz 508 D – thus initiating the close connection with the ROGAM dealership. The Van ProCenter in Bergschenhoek is very familiar with the requirements of Koninklijke Schmidt Zeevis. If a vehicle ever breaks down, they send a replacement vehicle immediately so that the driver can transfer the load and continue the journey.

Van Breda: "There's absolutely no discussion. With our fresh products, we don't wait to see if the mechanic is able to repair the vehicle on the spot or not. Although it has to be said that downtime in our young vehicle pool is minimal. The Sprinters are replaced on average after three years and 300,000 kilometres, although they could be used further without problem. As far as I know, no other brand makes that promise."

The Sprinter vans with 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission are leased via Mercedes-Benz CharterWay. The cleverly designed box bodies are equipped with both a refrigeration and a deep-freeze unit which can be opened independently of one another. In addition to the vans, Koninklijke Schmidt Zeevis also has an Actros and two Atego trucks in operation for pallet transport jobs to wholesalers. The plan is to expand the vehicle fleet and use it more intensively. "In the end we will be delivering seven days a week," van Breda explains. "Gastronomy companies, above all those at expensive A locations cannot afford to install large refrigerating storage units. That is why it is becoming increasingly important to deliver fresh on a daily basis. In essence, logistics manager Kees Groenenboom's calendar will continue to get even more full. But our building is designed for that and we're ready for the challenge. The Mercedes-Benz fleet has never been a limiting factor."

Fotos: MCR