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Anita Van Looveren nominated for the 37th Trends Manager of the Year Award

November 17, 2021

Translated interview from Trends magazine (in Dutch) with Anita Van Looveren, CEO OMP, for her Manager of the Year nomination.

Who will be the 37th Trends manager of the year?

On January 12, Trends announces the 37th Manager of the Year. It is the most prestigious distinction for a business leader in Belgium. The laureate follows in the footsteps of Dirk Coorevits, CEO of specialty building materials company Soudal. The five nominees for Manager of the Year, an initiative of Trends in cooperation with Kanaal Z, are presented in Trends, on www.trends.be, and on Kanaal Z. Every week a new nominee will be presented with a portrait.

Anita Van Looveren has been the CEO of software company OMP for over 25 years. She has played a key role in the expansion of the Antwerp-based company into a world player in software solutions for companies that want to optimize their supply chain. “With a motivated and cooperative team that focuses on satisfied customers, profitability follows naturally.”


The person

Solving practical problems by using mathematics runs like a thread through Anita Van Looveren’s career. She chose quantitative economics during her studies in commercial engineering. She later also obtained an MBA. Her career began in the academic world. “After I graduated, I was a research assistant at the University of Antwerp’s Faculty of Engineering, in the Department of Industrial Management. I supervised thesis students who were concentrating on planning issues in production or logistics. I found these optimization techniques extremely fascinating and that’s why later I started working at OMP. The relatively new company was focused on that niche.”

"Our software runs in the background, but ensures that products like the COVID vaccines are delivered on time."

“In the beginning it really was pioneering. When I joined, the company consisted of Manager-founder Georges Schepens and Software Engineer Bart De Decker. I was the first consultant and was responsible for taking the first version of the software to customers. One of my most important tasks was listening closely and getting a good overview of the issues customers were facing."

"Those were very intense collaborations, but, in retrospect, relatively small projects. Now OMP is involved in much larger projects because customers – often very large multinationals – want to manage their supply chains on a global scale. 20 to 30 of our consultants can easily work on one such project, plus the customer’s employees and possibly also external ICT service providers. The software is so much more advanced now, in part through the extensive use of artificial intelligence.”

Who will be the 37th Trends manager of the year?Meanwhile, Anita Van Looveren has been the CEO of the company for more than 25 years. “It’s all happened gradually,” she explains. “I’ve been the Managing Director since 1992. When we got American customers, we started using the term ‘CEO’. After the millennium, we had about a hundred employees, this year we’re heading towards a thousand. The company changes constantly and my job evolves with it. That keeps it very interesting and gives me a lot of satisfaction. Our software runs in the background but ensures that products like the COVID vaccines are delivered on time, or that consumer goods hit the supermarkets when needed. My colleagues and I constantly find such examples in our daily lives.”


The manager

“Finding new talent is one of our greatest challenges”, says Van Looveren. “Fortunately, we can recruit more broadly, as we are now active on several continents. Our main language is English, even in our head office in Wommelgem (BE). To make such a diverse team work well together, we always pay a lot of attention to internal communication. I believe participation is very important. We work together with highly-educated knowledge workers, who you can’t put in a strong hierarchy. They only stay motivated and develop themselves if you give them sufficient freedom."

"I focus on the personal development of our people. We want to create an environment where everyone can be themselves and, at the same time, can rise above themselves.”

Contrary to a lot of other tech companies, OMP has consciously waited to attract external investments. It wasn’t until 2020 that Van Looveren and co. signed an agreement with Ackermans & van Haaren. You may take ‘Van Looveren and co.’ quite literally as the company is still largely in the hands of its employees, including Van Looveren herself. “This was the way we always stayed focused on the long term. Ackermans & van Haaren have a similar philosophy which was very important for us. We strive for healthy growth – the annual growth rate is now 15 percent – and profitability."

"Our main focus isn’t growth but providing a good solution for our customers. With a motivated and cooperative team that focuses on satisfied customers, profitability follows naturally. Of course, things are going well at the moment. Because of supply disruptions, we no longer have to explain to potential customers the advantages of integrated planning. We describe that as unison planning: all the links in the chain should be perfectly aligned. This is only feasible by overseeing the entire chain and identifying changes or disruptions in each link as soon as possible.”


The company

OMP, or Operations Management Partners as it was called when it was founded in 1985, is a pioneer and world player in software that optimizes supply chains. Anita Van Looveren has led the company since the nineties. She and her team have grown the company, by expanding the customer portfolio with international customers such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. In addition to its head office in Wommelgem, the company has eight offices around the world. In the COVID year 2020, turnover rose from 85 to 96 million euros. Net profit amounts to no less than €17.7 million. In addition to the holding company, Ackermans & van Haaren, most shareholders are employees of OMP. In recent years most of the profits were invested back into the company.


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Trends voting procedure

The finalists for this year’s edition are selected by an independent jury led by Bart De Smet, the chairman of Ageas. The jury chose from a longlist, drawn up by Trends’ editorial staff/editors.

The finalists have all distinguished themselves in a positive and relevant way. As inspirational business leaders, they have presented sustainable and remarkable results and made outstanding management decisions that have stimulated innovation and growth.

As a Trends’ reader, you have a say. From Monday, November 22 until Wednesday, December 8, you can vote online for your favorite nominees. Not only the jury looks different, but the voting procedure has also changed. From now on, the previous Trends Managers of the Year will cast their vote, as well as students from Flemish management schools, and the general public. The results are submitted to the jury which represents half of the votes. The nominee with the most votes among the three audiences and the jury is the winner. The winner will be announced during a gala evening at Brussels Expo.

About OMP

OMP helps companies facing complex planning challenges to excel, grow and thrive by offering the best digitized supply chain planning solution on the market. Hundreds of customers in a wide range of industries - spanning consumer goods, life sciences, chemicals, metals, paper and packaging - benefit from using OMP’s unique Unison Planning™.