27 Oct 21

“There’s no university for this job”

Jorge Fernandez, Global Category Manager - Fleet, at Roche Farma in Madrid, won the Global Fleet Manager of the Year award in 2019. Global Fleet caught up with him to ask how things have been since winning the award and during one of the most challenging periods in the fleet sector's history.

Before we continue, check out "The World in 2022, a fascinating snapshot", which is taking place at the Global Fleet Conference on 2nd December 2021. It’s a virtual conference – 4 hours - you can register here.

How has the Global Fleet Manager of the Year Award supported you in your role?

Well, firstly, it’s the assessment of your own strategy. Participation means your ideas are reinforced and it increases your confidence and that of your stakeholders. Externally, the award helps you build connections who are willing to share ideas with you as you grow.

Expanding and learning in this job is key to success. There’s no university in which you can learn this profession. See, in this job, you need to build customised solutions that don’t fit everyone. It’s important to double-check and connect with your peers. If you are participating in an award you have a lot of experienced people around you with whom you can exchange ideas.

What are you focusing on in 2022?

We’re looking at iMobility, currently. Many fleets are focused on electrification but we are thinking holistically, not just about introducing electric vehicles but looking at it from an end-to-end perspective and asking questions such as where does the electricity come from? How is it produced? We’re thinking about the whole sustainability process, not just with Roche, but in every portion of the supply chain.

Our goal is to move to a fully electric fleet within 10 years. We’re making good progress in some countries, such as the Netherlands and Germany but the chip shortage is having an impact on our ability to acquire EVs in many countries.

In terms of technology, we’re looking at automation and connectivity and currently, the focus is on vendor integration.

What lessons came forward for fleet managers during the pandemic?

The pandemic forced us to learn quickly about how to improve our capabilities in connecting. When you’re isolated you have to find new ways of connecting and keeping those connections in place. It saved a lot of money on travel. This way of establishing and consolidating connections has worked well.

The next important lesson is data analytics, which is new to fleet management. Once you open the window to receiving data, you realise just how much there is and making sense of that is important to figure out.

The next lesson from the pandemic is learning how to influence from a computer screen. It’s more difficult to be influential from a tiny screen unless you’re a real subject matter expert and keep increasing that expertise as much as possible.


We’ve stopped talking about pricing as much and are focused on other things, such as what are your plans to evolve with the car makers? How are you planning to move ahead, from one shift in the past to three shifts? And they ask us about our plans to grow or decrease our fleets. In the end, there’s a positive exchange of information, which didn’t occur in the past.

This interaction is especially useful for OEMs. In the past, it has been difficult to commit to manufacturing volumes and deliver the volumes demanded by the market. I think everyone is moving to another level of partnership instead of the typical RFPs or RFQs.

What is the best strategy to perform to overcome or endure the chip shortages?

Well, there’s no quick fix and I’m reading and hearing from peers that it may go on until 2023. The only thing you can do is try to find the right balance between altering and forecasting what you may need in the future. If you’re in a business that continually transforms and changes, that’s difficult. Extending contracts is one solution.

What is the most challenging region to manage and why?

Definitely APAC. There’s a lack of harmonisation in the region, every country is different. In LATAM, every country is different too but they are more harmonised. APAC is not. In addition, there’s a lack of international vendors. There are international vendors that are in several APAC countries but they lack international governance. It’s difficult to connect with one vendor and cascade down to affiliates in other countries. You end up working with a lot of vendors in different countries. This needs to change and I think we are influencing the markets, or trying to. We talk to vendors there and coach them into how to build international contracts. Sooner or later, someone in the region will recognise this as a business opportunity.

What is your main tip in terms of global supplier management?

You have to be open to analysing the requirements and needs within every sub-region and find common ground for al of those regions without aiming to create a global solution for everything. This doesn’t exist, it’s impossible. There needs to be a balance between global mandate and local or regional flexibility. It’s a matter of making use of your analytical and listening skills.

To conclude the interview, Fernadez’s single most important piece of advice is to recognise that no one in this business has all the answers and that discussing and exchanging ideas, with peers, customers and vendors, at every opportunity is well worth it.

Image of Jorge Fernandez, Global Category Manager - Fleet, at Roche Farma, courtesy of Nexus Communications

Authored by: Alison Pittaway