People always appreciate a scenario when all the daily essentials are delivered to their doorstep with prompt service. To make a timely delivery at each house every day requires precise planning, organization, and teamwork while accounting for any obstacle that may arrive in the way. The journey of daily essentials from the factory to the home table is such that no two days will be the same.
This exact nature of the logistical challenge is what drew Darija Pizent to the supply chain field. As someone passionate about mechanics, organization, and logic, Darija thrived in the dynamic nature of the job, making constant improvements, and working with a small army of people, even successfully leading a team of more than 300 personnel.
Darija is an experienced Director of Supply Chain Management at Atlanta Grupa with a two-decade history of working in the supply chain field in sectors like the consumer goods and automotive industry. She is skilled in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Organization and Management, Logistics Management, Communication, and Project Management.
Darija is a strong business development professional with organizational and project planning skills, numerous project implementations that focuses on change management, engages in optimization of processes, and delivers great value to employees and clients.
In the course of 12 years, she has nurtured team relationships and implemented a culture of constant improvements with a customer-oriented approach. CIOLook brings to you the journey of Darija Pizent, in her own words, from finding her passion to becoming one of the most influential leaders in the Supply Chain industry today.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Please enlighten our readers about Atlantic Grupa, highlighting its significance in the supply chain management industry.
Atlantic Grupa is a Croatian multinational company with firms and representative offices in 8 countries. It exports its products to more than 40 markets worldwide. After Croatia, the most important markets are Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Macedonia.
Atlantic Grupa has developed partnerships with regional and national distributors. At the same time, all the logistics and distribution of its own and principals’ brands takes place through Atlantic distribution centres and network that is supported with advanced technology and know-how. At Atlantic Grupa, we share an equal passion for assortment, business processes, and culture.
Darija, please tell us about yourself and shed some light on your professional tenure so far in the industry.
I started my professional journey some 20 years ago. I didn’t know much about logistics at that time, but it was a love at first sight. I always had passion for holistic approach to any challenge – specially to bind organization, logic and common sense. On personal note I love all kinds of vehicles – from fork-lifts, to speedboats and motorcycles. That help a lot in the Operations.
My beginnings in logistics were tough, but looking back, I consider myself lucky to start working with the region’s biggest retailer at that time. I was learning from the best, working with the latest technologies, and building my leadership skills through various educations and real-life operational challenges. I was slightly changing industries but staying in the Logistics, Operations and Supply Chain field, where I gained expertise. The most important thing on my journey was recognition and the environment supporting new ideas and changes. That has kept me at Atlantic Grupa for the last ten years.
What inspired you to venture into the supply chain management niche?
Well, at first, it was the nature of the job, its dynamics, and waking up each day with a new challenge. So many possibilities to improve, to change, to influence. But also, I have to say the people—variety and structure of a small army where everybody is different, and everyone is essential. With the right team approach, endless and constant improvements can leave a mark and contribute to overall success. And that is what gives me a sense of importance and fulfilment.
What were the initial challenges that you faced while venturing into this niche, and looking at the current scenario, what are the challenges now?
I can name one personal and initial challenge: being a woman in a predominantly or typically male world. There is still some wrong perception of that, but I stayed focused on my capabilities and knowledge and pushed through.
The other challenge is that most Operations were or still are perceived mainly through the cost, like a weight that holds the business down.
Some five years ago, Atlantic Grupa started using a customer-centric approach to all Supply Chain and Logistics metrics and project justifications and focused more on the service level. That approach opened up a new set of opportunities and investments needed to mitigate challenges like lack of labour and the cost of delivery in the Operations segment. And Covid pandemic, in some way, helped us with the challenge of having more open and transparent relationships throughout the whole supply chain, from customers, suppliers, producers, and distributors.
What services and solutions does Atlantic Grupa provide to its clients?
Atlantic Grupa is the leading distributor of fast-moving consumer goods in the region of South East Europe; with 17 distribution centres, over a thousand vehicles, and direct access to over 70 thousand sales points, we offer highly developed know-how in key account management, category management, logistics, and trade marketing. Our experienced management and distribution operations are matched with excellent service, relationship management, and market expertise.
What are the immersive benefits of the services that Atlantic Grupa provides to its clients?
There is a strong and long-term partnership and a total portfolio making Atlantic Grupa among the TOP three suppliers in the region.
We have regional negotiation power synergy with a proactive, transparent, and partner approach. The immersive benefit is our high service in execution and the highest level of num/weigh distribution. Coordination and fast implementation of new listings and trade marketing activities is our strong point, together with technology that supports such a complex process throughout all Atlantic Grupa. And not to forget that trust is also made by building 100% safety of our products with full responsibility through the whole supply chain.
We manage our safety policy in accordance with local and European legal regulations, along with market and consumer demands. We ensure product safety through a series of control activities aimed at hazard management in all links of the chain, from the supplier to the consumer.
In your opinion, what qualities and values do you think the clients admire in Atlantic Grupa and you the most?
Definitely tradition, passion, and care. Atlantic Grupa is a company that creates. It creates added value for its shareholders, the economy, and business opportunities and career opportunities for its employees. Passion for change, for continuous improvements, focus on a high service level, and being always straightforward and respectful is what I think have made me successful so far.
Tell us about the vision and mission of Atlantic Grupa, and as an experienced leader, how do you plan to enhance the operations of your company to ensure its progress?
Our vision is to inspire people to add flavour to their everyday moments.
We care about our relationships, are always open to new ideas, and are growth-oriented and passionate. We create brands that people love. Atlantic Grupa is a leader in the food and beverage industry, and the vision is guided by our corporate strategy for the years ahead of us.
Brands from our portfolio have a rich heritage; for many years, they have been a part of life for generations of consumers; because of that and our vision, we want to grow and spread this contentment in the future by introducing flavour and excitement into the everyday life of our present and future consumers, with new tastes, experiences, and on new markets.
By constantly improving the processes, looking for synergies in the system, and being on pace with new trends and new technologies, operations can follow the corporate strategy.
More than ever, it is essential to have a customer-centric approach to mitigate the near and far risks and to ensure that the operations are flexible enough to cover them. All predictive and analytical tools that can help leaders to make faster decisions and technologies for process efficiency will be the key to success.
Share your opinions on how emerging trends of technology are reshaping the future of the supply chain management niche and how Atlantic Grupa is leveraging these emerging trends.
Emerging innovative technology is a significant source of competitive advantage. It changes the way we live, work, produce and consume. Systems and solutions work in a way we couldn’t imagine a decade ago. And now, they are strategic imperative.
It adds value to the bottom line by improving operational efficiency. The staffing will significantly decline, but the human element will not become trivial; it will become more crucial than ever. Robotics will play an essential role in doing manual work. Supply Chain experts work together more closely with tech companies that will offer customized solutions. The network will be more transparent to all the stakeholders involved, with faster and more straightforward access to updated information. Analytics and predictions will allow for better inventory management, prevent recalls, and quicker decision-making.
Early adopters will be the winners, but still, there is a need for a careful approach to the risk associated with each new technology.
In 2017 Atlantic Grupa started its Digital Transformation journey where Logistics operations got a lead. For starters, we teamed up with a small group of specialists in the Supply Chain that can have a much stronger focus on improvements and development and not be weighted with day-to-day operative challenges. We deep-dived into processes and marked the critical ones with the highest gap or opportunity for gaining process efficiency and visibility that can impact service level. Maintaining change management was the most significant imperative for introducing new or innovative technologies and what made this whole journey successful.
In 2020 we partnered with Croatian company Gideon, which developed AI and 3D-vision-based autonomous mobile robots for material handling in supply chain operations. The first goal was to test the safety. After that, we slowly introduced robots to people and into the inbound process.
Atlantic Trade and Atlantic Grupa received an Industrial Research and Innovation (IRI) Grant from the Croatian Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Agency for SMEs, Innovations, and Investments, co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development to work on the implementation of the project “Research and development of an intelligent modular management platform in the logistics process.”
The project started on August 17th, 2020, in cooperation with partners Gideon Brothers, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, and already mentioned Atlantic Grupa in Croatia and will run until August 17th, 2023.
During this period, the project will receive a total contribution of financing from the EU of 2.219.446,17 EUR (16.645.846,33 HRK). Total project value is estimated at 3.590.383,78 EUR (26.927.878,34 HRK).
The project’s general goal is to contribute to developing the logistics industry to enable better business results for people in business and improve the quality of life and availability of products for users around the world. The project’s purpose is to implement research and development activities necessary for developing a modular platform for managing logistics processes. Achieving the goal will also enable the commercialization of the project’s expected results – modules of the mentioned platform and complementary consulting services that the applicant will be able to provide on the global market after implementing the planned activities.