Supply Chain Director at Alfen
Alfen is in the middle of a perfect storm. Since 2018, the turnover of the company that supplies charging stations, transformer stations and energy storage systems has quadrupled. Despite the challenges in the supply chain, the company is performing well. René Hooijsma, supply chain director: “That is precisely why we invest in systems such as Tradecloud. This way we ensure a smoothly operating chain.”
The perfect storm for Alfen takes place in no less than three sectors. The company has grown with the development of transformer stations, but now sees the charging stations and energy storage business booming.
‘Strong growth requires a grip on the chain’
The company positions itself as a specialist in turnkey solutions for EV chargers, energy storage and smart grid solutions. Alfen designs, assembles, maintains and manages the transport.
Hooijsma: “We expect to continue to grow strongly and must therefore have and maintain a grip on the entire chain. Designs must arrive in good condition at suppliers and we want to see and process changes in the planning quickly. After all, the availability of materials determines whether or not we can make something.”
‘It is up to us to provide chain transparency’
Having a grip on the chain is therefore what it is all about for the company.
“That is only possible if we take a few important steps. On the one hand, we want to be a reliable partner towards customers, but at the same time it is necessary to switch up and down the supply chain evenly. Everyone must be able to see as quickly as possible whether activities in the chain are running as expected. It is up to us, partly through the purchasing portal Tradecloud, to provide transparency to our own organization and chain partners.”
From customization to standardized Tradecloud
Standardization, automation and insight are central to the steps that Alfen is taking and to which Hooijsma is referring.
“You can no longer enter everything manually in terms of orders. There is no time for that and the chance of making mistakes is too great.”
Alfen has seen the added value of a purchasing portal for some time, and even developed it in the past, but has now said goodbye to this customized portal.
“As soon as we have processed the forecasting aspect in Tradecloud, we say goodbye to the old system. Integrations between Tradecloud and our largest suppliers have already been created. The platform is user-friendly. And: the more companies and users connect to it, the greater the insight and efficiency gain. There will also be better delivery reliability from suppliers.”
Removing surprises from the supply chain
“Nobody is going to pay more for retyping data. Moreover, if there is a problem in the chain, we as Alfen want to know about it immediately. With Tradecloud we link chain partners according to a standard, then we also communicate orders with suppliers via that standard. This set-up gives us the opportunity to discuss overall performance with these partners and only take action based on exceptions. The chain is ‘aligned and balanced’, which also prevents a problem from occurring in the warehouse. There is always insight into the status of the deliveries, which leads to fewer disruptions in production.”
Alfen is busy linking the stock forecast to Tradecloud, so that both the stock forecast/prognosis and the specifications/drawings for both Alfen and suppliers no longer have any surprises.
Data automatically flows through the system
A large proportion of all suppliers have now switched to working with the Tradecloud purchasing platform.
Hooijsma: “This is extremely important, especially for the charging station business. A customer orders something in the webshop and the data then flows through the entire system. We are working towards an automated process, with integration on the sales side and Tradecloud on the back to the suppliers. Important here is a strong focus on correct processes throughout the entire supply chain and unambiguous master data via, for example, the 2BA data pool.”
“It’s all about adding value and reducing failure costs”
According to Hooijsma, Alfen is transforming into a ‘network’, a company that works with standards and provides transparency in the chain.
“Every day you can gain in your processes is important. Everything revolves around adding value and reducing failure costs. That is only possible with a clear understanding of the current situation. We now have everything about one supplier at hand. We and our suppliers look at the same delivery overview.”
The supply chain director states that these advantages also mean that the business case of an investment should be less focused on numbers. “As long as it ultimately yields benefits, a smooth interaction with chain partners.”
No extra pressure was needed to get suppliers to use the Tradecloud platform, Hooijsma indicates: “We provided insight into what we wanted to achieve and got the impression that almost everyone sees the added value. Now we include that working method in the set of agreements in the supply chain.”
“Put a goal on the horizon, don’t wait”
Although not every company is growing as fast as Alfen, Hooijsma would like to emphasize the importance of standardization for any company that wants to accelerate and better integrate a chain.
“It is essential that you know how data travels through both the internal and the entire supply chain. In addition, you have to have a long breath and want to work closely together, something that is not always easy. Sometimes you shouldn’t do something, because a structural solution offers more benefits in the longer term. There are enough bottlenecks to be defined in the chain, but waiting is not an option. Set a goal on the horizon, make sure your integrations with partners are in order and keep it that way.”
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