What does it take to manage a pan-European sales portfolio? A healthy combination of knowledge of the past, and an eye on the future. For 29 years, Robert Rijnsburger has been part of the Aerospace Coatings team at AkzoNobel. He sees the team as a family. “Colleagues in every discipline of our business are very hard working, but also very engaged,” he says. “That makes it fun to come to work every day.”

Robert began his Aerospace career in AkzoNobel’s customer service department. “Working in Customer Service was a great training school. I learned everything about Aerospace customer requirements, specifications, products, production, distribution and logistics,” he says. “But I also met people from different cultures, which expanded my view and showed me how global the Aerospace industry really is.”

After transitioning to Sales, Robert worked for various European regions, before settling into his role as RoE Sales Manager. “The region I manage includes the Benelux, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Turkey, so I have to be flexible and understand the specific needs of a vastly different customers and cultures,” he says. “I also manage a direct report who is responsible for Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Israel. Between the two of us, we cover some serious ground.”

Robert Rijnsburger

A sense of ownership

Robert says the best part of his job is AkzoNobel’s business model. “We develop, manufacture and supply our own products to the industry, which puts us right in the center of all the action,” he explains. “We have direct contact with customers, we have an attractive business to protect, and we service high-value assets. That makes it easy to be proud of the work we do every day.”

Robert and his team connect with players in every aspect of the industry. From the airlines themselves to MROs to General Aviation to military partners. And every customer gets the service they want and expect, despite the challenges of the industry. “Customers are dealing with a lot of regulatory changes, like the REACH legislation in Europe,” Robert says. “But customers are also asking more of us in general. They want special effects colors, new colors, improved appearance, durability and efficiency. They expect more availability. And we need to be there to meet those needs.”

A foundation of knowledge

Experience is perhaps one of Robert’s most useful tools as he serves customer needs. “Aerospace is a relatively small world,” he explains. “So knowledge, experience and reliability are extremely important. By sharing my knowledge with my AkzoNobel colleagues, and sharing my passion for support, I feel like I am contributing to our success as a team.” 

That experience comes from observing the industry from his up-close position. “The industry is very conservative, and change happens slower than in other industries,” he says. “But still, I’ve seen new and lightweight composites introduced to aircraft and I’ve watched the world’s largest passenger aircraft – the A380 – take to the sky. I’ve seen the OEM end-lines completely fill up for the next seven to eight years, and we’ve all witnessed the explosion in air travel since low-cost carriers like Ryanair and Wizzair have grown. I’m very proud that they are both AkzoNobel customers,” Robert says. And he no doubt looks forward to the next major milestone in Aerospace – whenever and wherever it may occur.