From 'jungle gym' to logistics

From 'jungle gym' to logistics

05/11/2023 - 13:40

‘I didn’t see myself jump over the buck in a gym until I retire...’ I am talking to Leo Kemps, director of Logistics Community Brabant (LCB) for just a few more months.
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Leo Kemps worked at the Academy for Urban Development, Logistics and Mobility (SLM, now ABEL) for many years, but in a previous job he worked at a totally different academy. ‘Ah, you mean ALO,’  Leo says after some thought. The Academie voor Lichamelijke Opvoeding (college of physical education). ‘You know, I still observe people in a certain way; that’s a quirk of mine. I visited ASML the other day, and I thought: why do you stoop down so funnily? I think I can see it if someone doesn’t feel good; very useful as a manager by the way.’  

Young chap in De Koepel prison 

When Leo, just after graduating from the course in Business Economics, started working as a lecturer at NHTV (now BUas) in 1990, he had been working as a PE teacher for ten years.’ I didn’t see myself jump over the buck until I retire, although it was certainly a Learning Experience,’ laughs Leo. ‘Just after leaving the academy, I managed to land a job as a substitute occupational therapist in this prison. Do you dare to take that job? I was 24 and didn’t have any clue. This is how I ended up at the Koepel. A few years ago, we organised an SLM event about the city of the future there. I thought, how funny, here I’m standing again in De Koepel prison. The circle is round.’  

‘It was quite exciting to be in that Koepel as a young chap; the ‘Two of Breda’ were still walking around there too. I used to pick up the sportsmen at the chief warder’s office, “105 for sport!” he shouted. In the first few days you stood there with your back wet and eyes focusing on the emergency button. I had never seen the fringes of society; I learned to claim the lead there. And believe me, a whistle wasn’t very useful there!’ 

Glitter tracksuit in the staff room 

‘I’ve always been doing sports, mostly water sport recreation,’ Leo continues. A good link with NHTV. ‘That’s right, but that’s sheer coincidence; I’m actually a VAT type of guy (Verkeersakademie Tilburg, Ed.).’ Sport so to speak. ‘Yes, when I was at ALO, I did a work placement in my former secondary school. Just imagine me entering the staff room in a glitter tracksuit. Oh no, this can’t be true, is what you saw them think. I had had many struggles there and had even been expelled from school. I was such a “pain in the ass” type of pupil that was always at loggerheads with teachers.’ 

Fresh Brains 

‘Always going over the line.  And yet, I always kept working in education. That’s the common thread in my life, working with young people, coaching, guiding. We call them Fresh Brains at LCB. I’m so happy they are there. When I was degree programme manager of the Logistics courses of NHTV, it was a totally different picture. We had an enormous influx problem, for Verkeerskunde (transport studies) too, where Johan Copier was the degree programme manager at the time. So we thought up a wonderful new name: the Academy for Urban Development, Logistics and Mobility.’ 

On our bike to Hero 

Aha, so you are actually also to blame for the fact that BUas has academies now? ‘Yes, that’s right actually,’ laughs Leo. ‘Firstly, there were sectors; ours was called VPL (Verkeer, Planologie en  Logistiek, Ed.) but that didn’t sound right. We had already had boards made showing the new name, which already hung on the walls of the lecture hall, but the Executive Board still didn’t know anything. They worked in the Hero building temporarily, so Johan and I jumped on our bikes. It was about time we told them the news.’ 

Academy newspaper 

I remember that we also made a good academy newspaper then. ‘Yes, we had an enrolment team and money was made available for more recruitment. Education = the number of students x tariff. Hans Uijterwijk (former chair of the Executive Board, Ed.) was good at calculations, so that was a strong argument. It was really necessary too. If we don’t grow, we will be eliminated soon, is what I thought all the time. That growth saved us and gave me scope to hire people with different experience and seek more connection with practice. Johan had meanwhile left and I became academy director.’ 

Rainbow class 

‘The autonomy of the academies has always been very big and this was perhaps an obstacle to the organisation’s development. The campus, with everything in one place, is a unique opportunity to go around together. It is very beneficial if you can run things together. I remember that Johan and I came up with the idea of a kind of rainbow class, a first bridge year with all colours of NHTV in it. It was bound to fail! Fortunately, we now have a very different opinion on that.’ 


Five years ago you switched over to LCB, Logistics Community Brabant. ‘I was in paradise, and then I changed over to the following paradise,’ says Leo jokingly. ‘I started out with a ‘blank sheet of paper’ there. I had nobody and I was able to choose the people around me myself. We now have a very solid team. And that’s necessary because we’re facing big challenges.’ 


‘The biggest issue is how we can choose an integrated approach to logistics, spatial planning and mobility again in Brabant. In the last few decades these fields have been fragmented too much. Some people were engaged in zoning plans, others in logistics and still others in mobility. But mind you, there is only one infrastructure. So you must tackle problems together from the several disciplines. We should really deal with the existing space differently; we are now kind of deadlocked.’ 

Six pairs of shoes 

‘Although these are more societal challenges than logistic ones nowadays. Technically speaking, you can do a lot, but human behaviour tends to go the wrong way. Think of  e-commerce; people have no qualms about ordering six pairs of shoes online, of which five colours will be sent back. And then people experience it as if this can be done for nothing! The genie is out of the bottle, and we can’t get it back in. Only regulations will lead to different behaviour if you ask me.’ 

So much to do! 

‘Take the kilometre charge, we’ve talked about it for fifteen years and believe me, the logistics world is really waiting for it. It’s a trigger to start working more sustainably. It takes out the competitive edge or disadvantage. If you as a logistic supplier invest in sustainability now, your customer will go to your neigbour because he can do it for less! Good behaviour is simply punished. And do you know what the best revenue model is in the Netherlands. Sick people, yes really. It’s that bad. In care logistics a lot of gains could still be made in terms of efficiency and sustainability. There’s still so much to do!’ 

After 33 years of VAT, NHTV, BUas and LCB, you have a lot to tell us. Perhaps write a book, Leo? Or make a podcast? Next year you will have loads of time! 

Leo Kemps plans to give a ‘farewell lecture’. If you would like to attend this lecture, please send an email to 


Interview by Maaike Dukker-'t Hart