EPIC Spotlight: Remko van Hoek

Remko van Hoek has always been fascinated by supply chains. What’s the story behind a product on a store’s shelf? What journey did it take before it got there?

The answer, of course, can be complex – and something many consumers don’t think about.

“It’s almost like it’s behind the curtain,” van Hoek says. “You don’t realize it.”

That curiosity about how materials are gathered to make a product that then may travel thousands of miles before landing on Aisle 3, for example, has evolved into an interesting career for van Hoek. Besides teaching at three European universities early in his career, it has included procuring movie sets and cruise ships for the Walt Disney Co., chairing the world’s leading supply chain management professional organization and writing a best-selling textbook that has been translated into seven different languages.

Yet there was something he wasn’t doing. Something he dreamed about was returning to academia. His wife, Maryl, had heard him talk about it countless times.

Van Hoek had continued to teach and research in the United Kingdom as a visiting professor while he was in industry. He realized, however, that he wanted to make teaching, researching and advising companies the No. 1 priority again.

The idea of working with students studying supply chain management and procurement, a field still young in the business world, was more than alluring. He loved the idea of helping develop the leaders of the future and assisting companies to make meaningful progress in advancing and innovating practice in their organizations.

“When are you going to do that?” Maryl finally asked him.

With her encouragement, he reached out to academic friends at the Top 5 university choices in the field, the University of Arkansas being one of them. He says he wanted to teach most at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “The business relationships here at the college are very deep and very real,” he says, “and with my procurement experience, I have been told I can immediately help deepen the coverage of the supply chain in our research and teaching.”

Van Hoek’s familiarity with the University of Arkansas began when he met Matt Waller, Walton College dean, through the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, where Waller served as editor for its publication, the Journal of Business Logistics. Van Hoek joined the council in 1996 when he was a Ph.D. student at Utrecht University in his home country of the Netherlands and was already gaining accolades for his submissions. He won the association’s Doctoral Dissertation Award two years later.

A mutual admiration between van Hoek and Waller began. When an offer came to teach at Walton, van Hoek took it. In January 2018, he joined the Department of Supply Chain Management as clinical full professor. He teaches Supply Chain Management in Global Business for Walton’s Executive Education program and is also developing an online course for undergraduates. “It’s a real privilege to be able to teach them,” he says of his students.

Before van Hoek came to Walton, he was Global Procurement Director for PwC, Interim Director of Supply Chain Improvement for Nike’s European headquarters and Senior Vice President of Sourcing and Procurement for the Walt Disney Co. He also is a visiting professor with the Cranfield School of Management in Cranfield, England, serves as chairman of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Board of Directors and performs advisory work for several companies around the world.

Van Hoek’s research includes procurement strategy with a focus on supplier-centered innovation, relationships between buyers and their suppliers and, of course, the development of procurement and supply chain leaders of today and tomorrow. His work has been published in the Journal of Business Logistics, International Journal of Logistics Management and Harvard Business Review. He also co-authored the textbook, Logistics Management and Strategy, with Pearson Education, which is in its fifth edition and has been translated into seven different languages.

Van Hoek is falling in love with Northwest Arkansas.

“I feel like the area is one of the best kept secrets,” he says. “We’re so thrilled to be here.”

He says he and his family are so pleased with the incredible schools and impressed with the area’s culture, including arts and entertainment.

And, of course, Northwest Arkansas is a supply chain rich business area, van Hoek adds.

New to the college, van Hoek says he’s “still walking the hallways,” meeting people and learning as much as he can about the Walton College.

“I hope to learn additional ways in which I can contribute,” he says.

Always looking beyond the horizon, van Hoek is anxious to see how faculty and students at the University of Arkansas can help shape the direction of supply chain management.

“It’s connecting the dots,” he says. “It’s connecting the world.”