Meet Henk de Vos, Critical Input Senior Consultant + WA Business Manager

Throughout his 30-year career, Critical Input Senior Consultant and WA Business Manager Henk de Vos has worked for some of Australia’s leading companies in both domestic and global supply chain roles. Equipped with an MBA, Henk has successfully designed and delivered strategic transformational projects across multiple business sectors including: resources, engineering, construction, aviation, utilities, light and heavy manufacturing and defence and financial services. His work has seen him achieve a dynamic balance between sustainable cost-savings and process improvements across supply chain and broader business functions.

What led you into this type of work? I enjoy the challenge of improving the company’s bottom line by continually challenging processes, systems and cost controls.

 What do you bring to Critical Input that is unique and beneficial to clients? I’d say hands-on experience in designing and delivering optimising projects across a raft of industry sectors including resources, engineering, financial services, manufacturing, defence and aviation.

 Do you have a particular career highlight? I successfully established a Group Supply Chain function for two leading Australian companies that operated independent business units. Through consolidated procurement, both companies were able to realise economies of scale to reduce purchasing costs. 

 Is there a particular type of work that you enjoy the most? I gain immense satisfaction assisting companies to develop and implement business strategies for required projects and programs of works.

 What are some of the most common mistakes you see clients make when it comes to people and processes? I’ve seen clients rely on their own team to manage both the project and their day-to-day duties. This ultimately leads to the sacrifice of the success of one or both outcomes.

 How do you know when you’ve done a good job or when a project has been a success? When the customer is happy and business impact is positive.

 If there was one thing you could change about the world, what would it be? Stop relying on past laurels, and instead maintain focus on driving continuous improvement. 

From Critical Input Senior Consultant’s Tim Garland’s bunker…

With employers all around the world extending work from home arrangements, here at Critical Input, we feel fortunate that we were pre-adapted for COVID-19 remote working. In fact, for Critical Input Senior Consultant Tim Garland, who canceled his gym membership pre-Covid, on a day-to-day basis, not much has changed at all. We caught up with him at his Brisbane bunker to chat about his current projects.

“Right now I’m working with Queensland-based mining company New Hope Group. It’s been a long time coming, but we’re hoping to soon secure approval for Stage 3 of the New Acland Mine Project in western Queensland.

I’m researching potential vendors and assisting with procurement, policies, procedures and expressions of interest for tenders. We’ve already awarded the design contract for a creek crossing, which is currently in the design phase. We want to be ready to hit the ground running the moment we get final approvals. We can’t turn dirt until then. Hopefully, it’ll come through soon as it’ll support 761 direct jobs and inject $7 billion into the Queensland economy, which is much-needed given the impact of Covid-19.

New Hope treats me as part of the team, rather than a contractor so we’re in constant contact. The CEO is very hands-on and the core team has worked in the company for 10-20 years. I can always access the decision-makers and experts with extensive corporate knowledge, which makes getting the job done more efficiently.

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Since Covid-19, face-to-face meetings have been replaced with video-conferencing and phone calls. I also have weekly catch-ups with Tim Griffiths where we discuss projects. At the moment, the mine site has restricted visitors. I will need to visit as part of the tendering process, but will be able to manage with social distancing restrictions.  

New Hope moved its offices from Brookwater, which was a five-minute commute from me, to the Brisbane CBD. As a consequence of the Covid-19 restrictions, I’ve not worked from the new digs yet! Remote working suits me. There are fewer interruptions, so I find it more productive. I also eat healthier lunches (and less take-out) and use less petrol. Life hasn’t changed substantially for me these past few months – I quit the gym before Covid-19!”

Part 2: Top tips for mentor-mentee success

In Part 2 of this two-part series, Critical Input Senior Consultant Chris Bevin delves into the mentor-mentee relationship and how to form one, and why you should.

Chris has been a mentor through the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) for two years, and offers these top five tips for mentor-mentee relationships:

1.     Set goals. Have some plan on what you’re hoping to achieve through the mentoring program, and to get out of each mentoring session. It’s important to communicate a broad agenda or framework ahead of each appointment.

2.     Have clear rules and guidelines. Understand the time commitment, responsibility for setting up sessions, means of communication – are you meeting face-to-face (following social distancing guidelines)? Using Skype? Talking over the phone? Is the mentor is available for unscheduled sessions?

3.     Communication needs to be honest. Everybody communicates differently and has different expectations. These need to be agreed upon and understood at the outset to remove confusion. It’s critical that both mentee and mentor feel they can communicate openly and honestly.

4.     Mentoring relationships need to be confidential. It’s important for the mentee to feel secure knowing the mentor will maintain confidentiality (unless agreed otherwise).

5.     Be present. When you’re in a mentoring conversation, switch off phones and remove distractions. It’s tempting to multi-task especially during a Skype or phone meeting, but it’s important that both the mentor and mentee are committed to their time together. Come prepared and be truly present.

When seeking a mentor, Chris advises looking for someone with the skills, attributes or capabilities you’d like to build and emulate.

“A number of professional organisations, such as the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), run structured out-of-house mentoring programs that can be invaluable in locating a mentor outside your immediate network,” Chris said.

“A good mentor is willing to provide guidance and support and alternative ways of looking at things, wherever the mentee is at within their own professional journey.”

The mentor doesn’t need to be all things to all people, but should possess capabilities that would benefit you as a mentee.

“That person needs to be willing to guide you and help you gain access to the resources, skills, and competence you’re looking for,” she said.

“Be honest and upfront about what you’re trying to achieve from the relationship, both for yourself and the person you’re approaching for mentoring.”

About Critical Input

Founded in 2005, Critical Input is a consultancy service offering process improvement and supply chain and project-management activities. It works in sectors from water and energy, to mining and heavy industry. At the centre of everything are three principals: Process, because without process, there is no destination; people, because without buy-in, there is no evolution; and principles – because integrity is everything.

Critical Input’s Managing Director Tim Griffiths has handpicked a team that can provide the right resources, the right skill set and the right mindset. Each one is senior in their experience, so they can hit the ground running on clients’ projects. Critical Input takes a simple approach to allow organisational enablers – both people and processes – to improve activities. We see that as critical – hence the business name.

“The name ‘Critical Input’ was inspired by the projects I was working on before forming the company. I’d name those projects ‘critical inputs’ to the business because I was managing, say, a mining activity’s major ‘critical inputs’ – power, water, fuel, tyres. So, the activities we look at around people and process and putting those together, within the supply chain and project management technical activities, form the critical inputs.” -Tim Griffiths

New hope needed for Qld economy

With Queensland’s success at flattening the curve, we need to turn our immediate focus to our state’s recovery. And we need to do this quickly to avoid excessive economic fall-out. While long-term thinking around boosting our manufacturing capability is essential (and this is a much-needed conversation), it’s imperative that we identify the lowest hanging fruit to generate immediate jobs.

A project that I consider an obvious one to back is Stage 3 of New Hope’s New Acland Mine in western Queensland. I’ve had the pleasure of working with New Hope for more than four years through my business consultancy Critical Input. New Hope is a boutique mining group, backed by good, experienced, ethical, and hard-working Queenslanders, some of whom have worked with the company for 10-20 years.

Chief Operating Officer Andrew Boyd is actively involved in every part of the business – he’s a very hands-on leader and this approach permeates through the entire organisation to create a culture that’s all about getting the job done and the job done well.

If approved, the project will generate 187 new jobs within the first six months, while also ensuring 150 existing jobs remain. Within 18 months, there’ll be 487 new jobs or a total of 761 jobs and an injection of $7 billion into the Queensland economy. New Hope’s offer to ramp up jobs at New Acland Mine follows the Queensland Premier’s recent comment that job creation has never been more important.

I am personally very invested in the growth of western Queensland. My wife and I own a few hundred acres in the Darling Downs where we spend weekends and holidays and I believe rural Australia will play a key role in Australia’s future. Critical Input’s charity of choice is Chinchilla-headquartered grassroots charity the Drought Angels. A project like Stage 3 of New Hope’s New Acland Mine will offer so many benefits for the community while building resilience.

My team is part of New Hope’s Project Management and Procurement function which supports 14,000+ workers, equating to $2.5 billion to local suppliers. A project like this provides security for hundreds of local families and businesses. It will literally change lives. Designs have been drawn up and we’ve already helped draft position descriptions and expressions of interest for tenderers. We’re ready to go. We’re just waiting on the green light from the Queensland Government.