Onboarding: fine-tuning the perfect collaboration with new customers

21 September 2022

SILS operates worldwide. We cherish strong logistical connections as far as China. Our clients come from all over the world. But of course, we also service Dutch customers, after all, this is where our cradle lies. Striking is the recent addition of two large companies to our customer base from Apeldoorn in the Netherlands: Unlimited Spare Parts and Steinhouwer Lighting. After all, Apeldoorn is also the location of our head office. A ‘home game’ that we are proud of, especially when you consider the size of these two new customers. In addition to the worldwide growth of SILS, we can now say more than ever: our business is also local.

Ongoing with onboarding

Acquiring new customers is an exciting process. But the real work only starts after the honeymoon that marks the mutually intended collaboration. New customers then enter a thoroughly elaborated and prepared process of the so-called onboarding together with SILS. The actual collaboration will start concretely. An intensive period of sometimes months in which the new customer and SILS coordinate all protocols, processes and practical matters. A complex process for which we (usually) appoint one responsible specialist internally from Customer Service, based on a substantive transfer from commerce. This specialist allows the new customer to land seamlessly within SILS and its services on a project basis. working closely in the onboarding team with both the members from the customer and from SILS. This mutual coordination varies from mutual fine-tuning of the IT processes, agreeing service levels and establishing KPI’s to harmonizing the operational processes and communication. And also, the actual physical receipt, storage and reshipment of the customer’s first goods in our warehouse. In short, the intensive sum of both an administrative and logistical process.

Every onboarding process is unique

We recently included two new Apeldoorn clients in our onboarding program: Unlimited Spare Parts and Steinhouwer Lighting. Based on our long experience, this process can be prepared well in advance, but it can never be standardized 100%. After all, every customer is different and brings specific logistical requirements to the brand-new collaboration. Naturally, we adapt our onboarding process flexibly to this situation. Take for instance Unlimited Spare Parts. They supply heavy knives for machines in the food industry, with continuous shipments from our warehouse of new and replacement knives. A logistically refined process because many suppliers play a role in this, resulting in many different small inbounds. In short, high rotation with more emphasis on handling than storage. However, if you look at Steinhauer Lighting, a wholesaler in lighting, the logistical approach is completely different, and with it the process of onboarding. This company is experiencing enormous growth and touches many logistical facets. Such as sea freight from China, regular voluminous storage, for instance a packed floor lamp, and a very large number of orders, many also to consumers. In the process of onboarding alone, transferring Steinhauer Lighting’s current stock from their own warehouse to the SILS warehouse is a physically massive operation. Without their current operation being hindered in any way. For Steinhauer Lighting in particular, this involves a lot of space in our warehouse, while that volume is smaller with Unlimited Spare Parts, but then again with a lot of logistical movements.

Personnel consequences

Yet there is also a striking parallel in a certain process of onboarding for these two new customers. We have taken over their warehouse employees from both Unlimited Spare Parts and Steinhouwer Lighting. After all, we are taking over the warehouse function from both clients, which until recently they had fully managed in-house. This means that our HR department provides its specific expertise in the onboarding process. Such as conducting introductory meetings with the logistics employees and correctly embedding them in the HR processes of SILS. In short, onboarding can affect many business processes.

Looking to the future again

Finally, I would like to give you an insight into our vision for the future. Due to corona, the emphasis within SILS was mainly on responding to all urgent developments. Now that corona seems to be manageable, there is room for new initiatives. We are currently considering the possible expansion of our warehouse capacity, for example with a so-called ADR warehouse for products at risk, such as the storage of batteries and products under pressure like deodorant cans. A still early inventory for which we want to make well-considered decisions. We will of course keep you informed about this and about possible other innovations, for instance via this blog.


I would like to wish you a successful last quarter of 2022!

Willem-Jan Cramer