Meet Wilbert de Smit

I’m the head of Contract Manufacturing for the Benelux region, which means that I oversee production for brands - some household names, and some promising startups.

This morning from my office, I can see a line of trucks outside the factory waiting to take a shipment of beer from the production line away for distribution. This never ceases to make me proud: it’s unusual in manufacturing to see so many products lines through from start to finish.

When I started here, for example, one of the first customers I signed was a soft-drinks start-up. By taking on the production, we helped take these guys from a tiny operation to a really well-known, well-distributed player within their sector. Although our part in this company’s growth isn’t obvious from the outside, we know that we’ve played our part, and we’ve been able to do so because we’re set up to move quickly, decisively and effectively.

We’re organized into business units, and decisions are taken within those units, so we don’t need twenty signatures to get something done. We don’t have to sit through countless conference calls. We sit down with a few people and act, fast.

Instead of producing the same product every day, we produce hundreds of different products for all kinds of customers. Right now we’re bottling beer. Soon it might be spirits or tonic water. It’s one thing to have motivational posters stating your company values, but we live ours. When we say we’re agile, we mean it and you don’t have to look far to find the evidence. It’s like changing the tires on your car. Done by yourself, at home, with the tools you stow in the trunk of your car, it’s likely to take a while. We’re the guys in the pits in Formula One. We’re set up to do it in seconds.

"It’s one thing to have motivational posters stating your company values, but we live ours."

- Wilbert de Smit. Head of Contract Manufacturing, Refresco Benelux

I feel a great deal of responsibility for what we do, and it’s difficult to hide if we aren’t performing at our best. I can trace a line between my contribution and the finished product so I can see exactly what value I’m bringing to the company. Some might find that kind of pressure scary, but if you find it motivating, it’s a really rewarding way to work.

That said, it’s pretty flexible. We don’t clock watch, we just get the work done. If you perform well, there’s room for flexibility. I travel for my job - not as much as I once did, but fairly regularly - and if I come off a plane at 3pm, I’m not necessarily expected to go back to the office. I’ll do what I need to do at home. I have four children, so it’s good to know that I can balance the long hours I’ll work when I’m on a deadline with earlier finishes, so I’m not a stranger at the dinner table at home.

I think most people want to feel that what they do matters and has an impact, whatever sector and whatever role they’re in. On days like today, when we’re watching a shipment come off the line, loaded up and driven away, I can really see how my contribution as Commercial Manager translates into results.