I was born in Antwerp, having lived my life in the northern Antwerp suburbs, and still do, now together with my wife and two teenagers. After secondary school, I wanted to pursue a career as a pilot. I therefore studied Mathematics and Science at the University of Brussels, followed by Industrial Engineering studies in Antwerp. Later, my passion for aeroplanes transferred into one for vessels. Hence why I joined the family business Blommaert Aluminium Constructions in 1996, founded by my father Philippe, where I took over the helm in 2005.
What strikes me after all these years working for and being the CEO of Blommaert, is that innovation used to be predominantly driven by economic factors, commercial and financial. Innovation was mainly a matter of ‘wanting’. However, today the environment is a much more important driver, and innovation has become a matter of ‘having to’.
Governments are rightly obliging us to adapt transport modes, products, energy sources, factories, etc. in order to improve our environment. I believe that companies knowing how to respond to changes by being flexible and progressive, will be the leaders of tomorrow. This is a reality every business leader must face. Antwerp, with its industrial base, good training centres, support for innovation, with medium-sized to very large companies and its immense harbour, is in a privileged position to take a leading role in this transformation.
In Blommaert’s main sectors, shipping, storage and logistics, rational use of materials and energy are extremely important. Our customers’ ships are increasingly powered by greener energy, meaning far fewer emissions of harmful substances. We are trying to respond to their needs by building solar cells onto our aluminium hatch covers. This generated energy can significantly reduce running time of generator sets, and lower emissions. In time, this energy can also be used to produce hydrogen for propulsion.
Every day, there is a possibility that a certain raw material can’t be used any longer, that a specific production method is no longer justified or permitted, or that a product can’t be sold anymore. And in uncertain times, such as those we are facing now with the Covid-19 pandemic, the courage to continue investing in people, machines and infrastructure is sometimes a hurdle difficult to overcome. Therefore, a company must reinvent itself nowadays more than ever.