Embark on a journey through the dynamic landscape of collaboration to discover our perspective on partnerships. Join Tomasz Okowiak, General Manager of Radial Poland, as he reveals the evolution from humble beginnings to a strategic powerhouse, offering valuable insights into the delicate art of nurturing client relationships and fostering growth in fulfilment services.
Joanna Stankiewicz: doTERRA, an American producer of natural essential oils, is the biggest client of Radial’s Poland. How did you start cooperating?
Tomasz Okowiak: It all began in 2012 with a small order for which we issued an invoice for 500 euros. At that time, doTERRA had a permanent logistics partner and a warehouse in the Netherlands, and we were commissioned for individual jobs such as printing advertising materials, assembling kits, or other additional services. Over time, the orders became more substantial, and we slowly built trust in our brand. When such a large, billion-dollar company chooses a 3PL partner, it first checks its credibility and quality. Choosing a partner in this business is like getting married. After all, contracts are signed for years.
Joanna: For several years, step by step, you got to know your abilities and expectations, establishing closer professional relationships.
Tomasz: Exactly, until at some point, doTERRA opened up to new markets: Romania, Lithuania, and Latvia. In amongst the projects we handled for doTERRA, the Romanian market proved particularly receptive, quickly becoming one of their key markets in Europe. Following this they decided that they needed a new 3PL partner located in the centre of Europe, trustworthy, flexible, and fast-acting. We signed a permanent cooperation agreement in August 2019.
Joanna: Entering new markets increased sales and thus the number of orders fulfilled. How did you prepare for this?
Tomasz: We had to analyse the new situation jointly and very carefully. Please remember that in e-commerce, the quality of service and same-day shipping are crucial. Delays cannot happen here. If doTERRA’s end-customers stopped receiving their orders on time, or if they were incorrectly assembled, they would leave. This would be lethal for the brand. The client invited us to develop a strategic plan for servicing their European markets together. This is how we created the business case. It showed that to maintain the quality of order fulfilment at the assumed sales growth, it was necessary to introduce automation.
Joanna: The warehouse automation market is dynamic and constantly evolving. It offers many diverse solutions tailored to different needs and requirements. How did you know which solution would be the best?
Tomasz: We considered many factors, including product analyses, the end customer profile, and long and short-term trends. It turned out that the best solution, in terms of speed and quality of order fulfilment and costs, would be the Knapp A-frame automation and pick-to-light system, which our client was already using in the United States. This solution allows for doubling same-day shipping. In the e-commerce industry, this is very important because the number of orders is different every day. Automation handles these fluctuations excellently and greatly facilitates handling various sales peaks.
Joanna: Introducing automation was another essential pillar of cooperation with doTERRA. It was a massive project that required collaboration with several subcontractors.
Tomasz: We started discussing implementing automation at the beginning of 2021, and by the end of the year we had secured three major contracts. We worked with Knapp, an automation manufacturer, Manhattan, a software provider for supply chain management, and MLP Group, with whom we built a new warehouse in Brwinów near Warsaw. In January 2022, we began the implementation of this project. The automation went live on December 5, 2022, and we started processing the first orders. Everything went according to plan and budget, which is rare in our industry. doTERRA closed other warehouses and created an exclusive partnership with us. We invested in this project and, in return, signed a long-term contract.
Joanna: Such an investment from a 3PL partner is probably rare in the industry, isn’t it?
Tomasz: That’s correct. Most logistics operators wouldn’t be interested in investing such a significant amount of money. However, we are different. In fact, we want to invest. Thanks to bpost, our powerful parent company, we have the financial capabilities to do this. bpost is a fully transparent, publicly traded company that acquired Radial in 2017. We specialise in the e-commerce industry, from which we originated. Over 25 years ago, we were the logistics arm of eBay, one of the first online trading platforms in the world.
Joanna: How did you translate that experience into today’s offering?
Tomasz: We offer personalised, tailor-made fulfilment solutions for e-commerce companies. Everything we do and offer, from each of our warehouses to our IT systems and employees, is highly specialised in e-commerce. We are a flexible organisation that is easy to work with. Thanks to our flat organisational structure, we make operational decisions quickly and implement them just as fast. When automation is needed, we deploy it. A new warehouse? We build it. We don’t feel constrained. It was the case with doTERRA as well as another client, for whom we opened two warehouses in different locations in Germany. This year, we’ve opened a super-modern, fully automated warehouse in Groningen, the Netherlands, where we use Quicktron robotics tailored to the fashion industry’s requirements. We do what our clients need. We don’t have rigid boundaries.
Joanna: Let’s return to the company’s main client in Poland. How did the cooperation with doTERRA impact the development of Radial Poland?
Tomasz: We demonstrated that the Polish team can successfully complete a complex project with demanding partners, on time, within budget, and while maintaining customer satisfaction with ongoing support. Our offering in Poland has also expanded. Previously, we were only a manual warehouse, but now we can offer clients complex automated and tele-informatics systems. The profile of our warehouse employees has also changed. We currently employ a blend of engineers and fulfilment colleagues.
Joanna: Is there anything unique about working with this client?
Tomasz: Our cooperation is going very well. They are a very thorough but reasonable partner. We have a healthy, collaborative relationship. We trust each other, and you could say we have become friends. Additionally, we communicate openly and honestly, frequently meet in person, and feel this good, close connection. That dramatically helps, especially in problem-solving.
Joanna: There are many 3PL companies in the European market. How does Radial stand out among them?
Tomasz: Our key strengths are an experienced, pan-European team, the best IT systems in the logistics and transportation industry, and most importantly, our focus on and alignment with the requirements of e-commerce. Unlike many other fulfilment providers, we have an excellent transportation team that manages our clients’ entire transport and carrier relationships. We can deliver packages to most locations worldwide. We also have robust technology behind us, not just Knapp automation but also the Manhattan system, which has long been considered the best warehouse management system in the world and an in-house built client portal that provides our partners with end-2-end supply chain visibility. Our system infrastructure is highly advanced. We have also proven ourselves on the battlefield when it comes to seasonal sales peaks. No Black Friday or Cyber Monday intimidates us!
Joanna: Tomasz, it was a great conversation. I know our readers will find your journey as captivating as I have. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences and insights – it’s been an absolute pleasure!
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Tomasz Okowiak is a highly experienced operations professional and an inspirational executive with over 20 years of experience in the logistics industry. He has an extensive background in the EU market, operations, transport, budgeting, and OPS projects. In December 2006, Tomasz founded a logistics company in Poland, demonstrating his entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to the industry. He is client-oriented, strategic-thinking, and always committed to delivering the best possible results for his clients.
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