Up Close & Personal

As long as everything is running smoothly, no one notices the logistics.

Bösch Boden Spies has moved 112,000 tons of fruit ingredients and nuts worldwide over the past 12 months. An enormous challenge for our top-notch logistics teams. Team leader Bettina Otto and Logistics Manager Timo von Frieling provide insights into a business that runs in the background.

Place of birth: Hamburg. Place of work: Hamburg. Place of residence: Hamburg. Bettina Otto and Timo von Frieling already have these aspects in common. And both are logistics specialists, heart and soul. Timo von Frieling joined the Bösch Boden Spies team in September 2013 as Logistics Manager. The 31-year-old’s protégés: cranberries and walnuts.

Bettina Otto has been Head of Logistics since the beginning of the year. The 39-year-old first joined the company in 2003 as an account manager for frozen and concentrated items, and later handled cranberry processing. She has since become Team Manager Logistics of our 22-strong department, which ensures the procurement, storage and transport of goods for 26 producers from 5 continents from Hamburg.


Ms. Otto, you worked in the day-to-day business for years – now Mr. von Frieling and his colleagues take care of it. What is the focus of your work now?

Bettina Otto:

Instead of looking after customers and suppliers, I’m now in charge of all the logistics teams. If there are any questions or uncertainties, the staff come to me and we look for solutions together. If necessary, I’ll help put them into action, or put employees in touch with the right contact person. I ensure that the in-house interfaces work well – within the department and with all the other areas of the company. My job is to also to further develop my colleagues’ professional skills as needed. This new role is a wonderful challenge.


Are logistics specialists a company’s problem solvers?

Bettina Otto:
Not in general. There are times we tend to be the problem preventers instead. Essentially our goal is to ensure that no problems or hitches occur in the supply chain, so that things go smoothly. We have 22 logistics specialists in our department. Each of whom deals with specific products, processes and partners. That means it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open in order to benefit from each other, and also to copy your coworkers’ solutions sometimes. It’s important to network and talk with each other. Ideally, this will ensure that problems don’t arise in the first place, or remain minor.

Timo von Frieling:
We have a lot of colleagues with enormous expertise, and we coordinate with a wide variety of departments: Key Account Managers Supply, Sales, Quality Assurance, and of course Logistics. We get everyone involved to find the best solution. Of course we’re not happy at the time a challenge arises, but finding the right solution does give you a sense of accomplishment.


What are the tough nuts to crack in ensuring that goods arrive on time?

Timo von Frieling:
Well, first of all, Mother Nature decides when and how much merchandise is available. That’s very hard to plan. If, for example, the walnut harvest is delayed, we look for an alternative way to ship them from the West Coast of the U.S. to get the goods to Europe on time, we coordinate with the supplier and check whether a rail shipment via Canada or a truck transport across the U.S. to the East Coast is the right choice. The ships’ crossing times from there are considerably shorter, but the long journey to the East Coast also carries the risk of delays, which cancel out the time advantage.

Bettina Otto:
Often it’s not about cracking big, tough nuts, but lots of small ones. Just as often, the hitch lies in the service rather than the transport route. When I was starting out, for example, a customer had changed their invoicing system, and it no longer matched the supplier’s system. He couldn’t adapt it, but we could. Sometimes the problems that we solve – and often at short notice – are rather mundane.


Merchandise logistics usually happens in the background. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage?

Bettina Otto:
Neither. But the work involved is often greatly underestimated. Each team member is an expert in a specific field: customs, documents, exports to third countries, etc. This management of expertise, strong coordination, agreements, jointly devised solutions to bring customers and suppliers, and sometimes our service partners, onto the same level, often remain invisible.

Timo von Frieling:
As long as everything is running smoothly, no one notices logistics. It’s only when something doesn’t work that you start to pay attention.


What does it take to be a good logistics specialist?

Bettina Otto:
In our wholesale and foreign trade apprentices, we primarily look at how interested they are in internationality, in other cultures and markets. It’s also important to be able to organize and structure yourself well and to keep track of everything, even when things get stressful. Communication skills, numeracy, flexibility and creativity are essential. Of course not every apprentice goes on to become a logistics specialist, but many of these traits are important for this field.

Timo von Frieling:
Above all, it’s important to be able to think out of the box and work in a solution-oriented manner.


Do you handle your family’s logistics at home, too?

Bettina Otto:
Mostly I don’t have a chance to take over the acute logistics: My husband is a taxi driver. But I do love to plan our trips – with my husband.

Timo von Frieling:
I’m responsible for travel and accommodation, while my girlfriend takes care of the rest of the travel planning.


How do you switch off from work?

Timo von Frieling:
Vacations in nature or short trips to explore different cities are just the right thing for me. At home I relax by reading or sitting with my family under our apple tree.

Bettina Otto:
Traveling is also one of my biggest hobbies. My colleagues can see where I’ve been by looking at my screensaver: To the U.S., especially for hiking. Nature is a great relaxation factor for me. I also love walking for two hours through a Walmart to see what they have that we don’t. And I relax when I’m cooking and baking – soon I’ll be making jam again.