Helping to Transform the Project Cargo Industry from Erhardt Projects: We had the chance to interview Igor Muñiz, General Manager of ERHARDT PROJECTS & CEO of MEATI–APAC (Middle East, Africa, Turkey, India, and Asia Pacific). He is an inspirational leader with a track record in the industry dating back over 25 years. In this interview we learnt some valuable facts about his company, his career journey and a lot more. Let’s get to it.
Starting the Journey
Q.- Tell us something about your career journey. Do you have any advice for people just starting out?
A.- “I started my career journey 25 years ago. I have a background in business administration and finance. Additionally, I have a Master’s degree in Law, Marketing, and Communications. I joined Marmedsa Noatum Maritime as the Shipping Lines Manager in 1998 and stayed with them till 2003. After that, I joined Berge Maritima S.L as Business Development Manager & Port Operations Manager. I continued with different roles in different companies and finally landed in Erhardt Projects as General Manager; and my journey still continues.
I have a long history in the cargo and logistics industry. We need to see the bigger picture when we talk about our industry. You won’t learn about cargo just by reading books. Experience, expertise, networking, communication, and flexibility are also significant. Every project and operation is unique, and I can’t think of a day when I didn’t learn something new or do something different.
My advice for newcomers is to work hard, put in the effort and push beyond your limits. In addition, you must have passion for what you’re doing. Almost every job has challenges, and you won’t be mentally or physically ready if you are not passionate or competent about it. To youngsters, I would say that building a strong career is fun and can help you build a good life for yourself and your family. You should get to know people because, for me personally, getting to know people from multiple backgrounds is the best part of my career”.
Revolutionizing the Cargo Industry Globally
Q.- What is the idea behind your company?
A.- “The idea behind Erhardt Projects is to revolutionize the design and execution of maritime and/or multimodal transport operations of on/offshore modular cargoes and/or oversized and super-heavy parts on a global level, by providing the different agents involved (ship-owners, stevedores, surveyors, forwarders, special carriers, manufacturers, specifiers and end customers) with:
- A collaborative space that facilitates the contracting and coordination of each operation,
- A new operational standard to streamline and enhance the efficiency of execution of this special type of operation, eliminating waste, reducing risks, optimizing execution times, minimizing costs, and ensuring continuous traceability throughout the chain.
- A high-performance dynamic based on a methodology with teams of highly qualified professionals capable of generating added value in today’s uncertain situation.
- Intelligent data to facilitate continuous evolution of operations.
The ultimate purpose is to facilitate the cultural and operational transformation of the project cargo sector, helping to adapt it to the current environment and to new ways of doing and generating business, and creating environmental and social value.”
Tolerance & Respect
Q.- How would you describe your leadership style?
A.- “I am flexible and adaptable. Two words that describe my leadership style are tolerance and respect.
To manage things, we need tolerance and respect. I put trust in people and give them ownership. Further, my people are the key. They take our company and me to the next level.
Hence, I want to bring in the best in class and hire, promote, and hold on to talent as a leader. It’s not easy. But as I said, tolerance and respect help a lot. Trust building is also crucial.
We shouldn’t forget that we are human beings and our people also have personal lives. So it’s important to support them.” .
Q.- What are the objectives of your company?
A.- “To help our customers generate more value for their own customers through our solutions and services, and to help them digitalize their supply chain for their project cargo logistics through our NETERH platform, thus helping them to stand out in their markets.
To that end, we launched on the global market in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic,, with a repositioning as a “niche business” supported by a “boutique & unique” strategy that combines 4 main assets:
- Our own Transportation Engineering Department, which is highly specialized in customized, all-round solutions for complex operations;
- Our Chartering Division to act as independent specialists in the global maritime market;
- Our Integrated Logistics Department to cover turnkey projects; and
- Our Digital Solutions Area to digitize the end-to-end supply chain and enhance customers’ experience with the company, providing new services to customers through disruptive technologies that drastically change the way the project cargo sector operates.”
Q.- We would like to know your opinions on your team. What makes the team successful, in your opinion?
“In my opinion there are six key points that make the team successful:
The first requirement for a team to work is for there to be trust between its members. This is the only way to create an environment in which everyone feels comfortable and free to express their thoughts, feelings, and fears.
2.- Sense of Belonging
Very much in line with the previous point, it is crucial for team members to feel part of the team and of the project. Only if they feel they are part of something in common will the necessary motivation for success be achieved.
3.- Good Communication and Transparency
Evidently, for there to be a healthy and enriching environment, it is necessary not only to clearly communicate the strategy and objectives that the company is pursuing but also to open up appropriate channels so that team members make an effort to listen to each other, understand each other and empathize in order to achieve results.
4.- Common Interests and Common Decisions
Although hierarchies are inevitable, the existence of shared emotions and feelings and the fact that all team members can participate in decision-making will make them feel integrated, listened to and more committed to the project, feeling it as their own.
5.- Shared Responsibility – Divided Tasks
Being part of a team means working towards a common goal. Successes and failures are shared. It is essential for the tasks of each member to be clear and for them to know exactly what they have to do if internal tensions are to be avoided. But it must also be made clear that although each member performs different tasks, all are essential to achieving the desired result.
Only a team made up of members with heterogeneous profiles will generate different points of view when it comes to providing original and enriching solutions to problems.”
Q.- “How important are employee energy levels for your company’s success?”
A.- “I honestly believe that employee ENERGY is the magic ingredient for success. Energy changes everything. It drives us to strive to do things better every day, to excel, to face unforeseen events, to turn problems into opportunities, and to compete and WIN in the market.
The key is to ensure that the ENERGY is maintained sustainably and that our teams want to put their heart and soul into everything they do every day. There is no magic recipe for this, but they need to be provided with security and confidence, making them feel that they are important and necessary and can achieve what they set out to do, and transmitting to them what one feels as a leader with all sincerity and transparency.
Undoubtedly, recognition also plays an essential role in energy levels. Recognizing an achievement is like what happens when you start a car: You start the engine, and once it is going the battery recharges itself. When you, as a leader, value people’s work, you recharge their batteries. Their energy goes up. They feel satisfied, motivated, and ultimately happier.
Our teams work with enthusiasm and energy, which is a clear sign of commitment that undoubtedly contributes to the company’s success.”
Q.- How do you plan to motivate your team to go further?
A.- “The combination that has given me the best results throughout my professional career includes the following ingredients:
- Encourage innovation and creativity.
As a leader, it is necessary to create spaces, moments, and channels and to provide tools for teams to “think outside the box”, to question what they do and how they do it, to enrich their work and generate ideas and proposals that increase the value of the solutions and services we offer to customers and differentiate us from the competition. It is essential to LISTEN ACTIVELY.
- Encourage continuous self-learning.
Generating an environment that arouses curiosity and encourages natural learning related to our mission and/or what we are passionate about that can be applied in the workplace is the easiest, most effective way to make our teams step outside their comfort zone, go the extra step in their daily work, and get a feeling of usefulness and growth.
- Intensify empowerment
Delegating and trusting the people in the team and making them feel that they own their own work is fundamental for companies to gain the agility and flexibility required in today’s environment.
Delegating and providing progressive autonomy develops new leaders within the team, fosters team productivity, improves results and the work environment, and increases the sense of belonging. Empowerment is the “push” to get people to give their best, go beyond their work and be more motivated and committed to the project.
- Practice Recognition
Words are carried away by the wind, but actions remain. It is not enough to say to the people in our team “you can do it. I trust you”. We have to demonstrate it with our behavior. This generates a powerful, passive recognition that inspires and motivates.
Recognition must be authentic, spontaneous, unconditional, timely, and unique to motivate the team to move forward and transform their work and environment.”
Focusing on the Challenges
Q.- What keeps your company moving forward even during challenges?
“Effective leadership based on 4 pillars:
- Having a Clear Strategy
It is very important to have a clear strategy and roadmap suited to the challenges of the current environment, the challenges of the markets in which we operate, and the changing needs of our customers. This enables us to stay focused and continue to move forward as planned, and to cope with those unforeseen events that arise on a day-to-day basis, which are key to our evolution as a company, as contemplated in the strategy.
- Flexibility and Agility
Equally critical is the ability to continually adapt processes and work teams so as to provide an agile, personalized response to the needs of our customers any time and anywhere. Our market has become spot on. Urgency has become a regular event and demand is immediate. Flexibility and agility are a MUST in our business.
- Team Involvement
Without a team, it is not possible to move forward in any way. People are the cornerstone of our business. Without their knowledge, experience, performance, and commitment there is NO BUSINESS. Therefore they must be fully involved in the project, and my work as a leader is to inspire and support them to achieve their goals, which, added together, will achieve the expected results and assure further progress in the consolidation and growth of the company.
- Transformational Leadership
In the current environment, in which the only constant is change and flexibility and agility are MUSTs, the leadership style must encourage change, the creativity of individuals and teams, and continuous improvement as keys for adapting and surviving among the competition.
Under this style, teams need to be guided with inspiration and motivation, their intellect and development must be developed, and they must be allowed to take risks even if they make mistakes. Above all, everyone feels listened to, respected, valued and supported.”
Technology and Digitalization
Q.- How do you think technology is bringing about changes in companies? Do you think it is helping your company to grow?
A.- “Technology is a powerful driver of transformation. Depending on what it is used for and where it is used, it can transform the value chain of companies, their value proposition or both, thus causing a profound change in their business model. Technology is not a TREND. Nor should it be implemented for its own sake. It must be an instrument at the service of the company’s strategy.
This is how we see it. In our case, it enables us to have end-to-end traceability of our value chain, providing it with the efficiency, flexibility, and agility we need and completing our value proposition with digital solutions and services that provide our clients with real-time traceability of all the critical processes involved in their project cargo logistics.
Undoubtedly, technology is contributing directly to our growth in the market and accelerating our current internationalization by helping to standardize processes and provide smart data use so that key information is available in real time to make agile, safe decisions from the strategic, commercial, and operational viewpoints.”
Q.- How is your company adapting to digitalization?
A.- “As I mentioned earlier, digitalization is one of the pillars of our strategy and is in the team’s DNA. We digitize to adapt more easily to the current environment, to give immediate responses to our customers, and to provide them with more value.
I am fortunate to have a restless, aligned, dynamic, proactive team who are and/or feel digital. Their lives are digital, so they cannot conceive that their work should not be digital too.
We are also a young company under construction, a spin-off of the business group to which we belong. We are creating a culture adapted to these times, combining different generations to add the good things from each one to the mix and taking advantage of the simplicity of the current tools for the management of the company.”
Pathway to Innovation
Q.- Do you use innovative ideas to be unique?
A.- “Our strategy is “boutique & unique” because that’s who we are. We explore, research, connect internal and external knowledge, devise, and try to respond to our clients with innovative solutions and services differently from how our competitors would do it.”
Q.- We have noticed that several companies in the logistics industry encounter complications with paperwork and other issues with transferring cargo from one place to another. Do you also face such challenges?
A.- I have been in this industry for the past 25 years, and I can tell you that we have been managing the same way for the last 0-45 years.
Since I joined Erhardt three and a half years ago, we have designed and built a platform with different digital solutions to transform how cargo is handled in our company and the industry globally.
In our logistics operations there is a lot of paperwork, but also a great deal of email traffic between all the agents involved in the operations and in the commercial activity. This makes it difficult to filter ”
Q.- Lastly, would you like to say anything else to our viewers?
A.- “We have had the opportunity to develop our company in an amazing region. I think it’s an honor to be in this industry. We aim to be a company that does things uniquely. We also want to take the heavy cargo industry to the next level. If anyone needs any support or guidance in this niche, we are here for them.”
Connect with Igor Muñiz on LinkedIn
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