People are, and have always been, the main asset and driver of the air cargo industry, says Jean-Claude Delen (JCD), who was inducted into TIACA’s Hall of Fame at the organization’s Executive Summit in Brussels last Tuesday (07NOV23). “I feel like I have received a special blessing,” he commented at the time, stating that loyalty, honesty, transparency and, above all, respect for people is important as “each one of them is important for our industry.” His motto, he revealed, was “Nobody is perfect on his own, but a team can be!” CargoForwarder Global (CFG) met him for a brief interview.
During the induction to the Hall of Fame, TIACA Chair, Steven Polmans also mentioned the personal support he had experienced, working together with Jean-Claud Delen, indicating his welcome role as mentor.
Mr. Delen can look back on a career of over 50 years, which he started at Air Express International in 1965. After several take-overs, he retired as CEO Benelux for Belgium and France of DHL Global Forwarding, in 2014. Ever since then, he has held the position of Senior Adviser to the CEO of Brussels Airport.
Mr. Delen also witnessed the development of Brussels Airport’s cargo community from a modest operation to the ever-developing cargo village of today. On top of this, he held several positions within the forwarding community such as President of the Belgian organization, CEB, the European umbrella, CLECAT, and, from 2009 to 2011, he was President of the worldwide organization, FIATA. He shared some of his views with CargoForwarder Global (CFG) during TIACA’s Executive Summit.
CFG: What is the difference between the air cargo industry as you found it back in 1965 and today’s?
JCD: There is none. Everything has remained the same: daily problems that have to be solved, new challenges to be addressed.
CFG: You have always been a staunch advocate of the valuable role of people within the industry. Has their role changed?
JCD: I think it has. Their jobs have become even more valuable, and they are more open to creativity. A lot of things that we had to do manually on a daily basis have now been digitized.
CFG: Has their profile evolved as well?
JCD: Most certainly. First of all, far more women have entered the industry in key positions, which is a very good evolution. Institutes of higher education and universities have included Transport and Logistics in their curricula, which has led to an upgrade of skills. This was clearly demonstrated during this conference, with all these young people who are great communicators and know what they are talking about. They automatically add a lot of value.
CFG: What is the correct role for technology to play?
JCD: It provides the tools intended to assist people in doing their job, to give them the time to reflect and move on to tasks with a higher value. Fearing it, is wrong. These tools will help you to do your daily job correctly, not to take it away from you.
CFG: Collaboration has been a buzzword for some time now. How do you assess this?
JCD: In this respect, the difference to the old days is great. You mustn’t forget that, today, we are dealing with a lot more mastodont organizations and you cannot expect the top 1, 2 or 3 to collaborate. On the other hand, you see an increasing collaboration within the community in matters that may take the entire industry forward, like sustainability. But overall, this remains an industry of people.
CFG: Jean-Claude, thank you for your time and insights.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
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