Hans de Croon
Director Business Development and Marketing at Van Egmond Groep
Van Egmond Group exists for more than 80 years and is one of the oldest electrotechnical wholesalers in our country. The company supplies components for industrial automation and drive technology. With the parts and semi-finished products of Van Egmond Group, OEMs and manufacturing industry can assemble machines. Prefabricated parts, where part of the assembly is already provided for the customer, are possible. Van Egmond Group distinguishes itself from other wholesalers by actively thinking about process improvements with machine builders.
At the time of this writing, the atmosphere at Van Egmond is festive. Only a few days earlier, the company was chosen as the best suppliers during the presentation of the DISCA awards. In the ‘Best logistics supplier’ category, the company finished in second place.
Hans emphasizes that Van Egmond makes the difference in logistic-technical added value for their customers. Hans: “As a wholesaler we carry brands such as Danfoss, Siemens, Omron and Eaton. We therefore have a lot of knowledge of the materials that we sell. That is why we are able to supply a complete kit at a specific location, at a specific time in the customer’s production process. Nowadays, machine factories are focused on having as little handling as possible when booking materials. In the past this was really different: for a machine to be produced, all materials were purchased simultaneously. We could then deliver that in one order and in one shipment. Now it is often divided into different construction phases or different locations.”
Delivery per production phase means more order handling
How does this work with spare parts and parts? “In the past, machine builders put large numbers in stock for their own central warehouse. That meant far fewer order lines for us. We notice that machine factories are increasingly assembling instead of building. We are expected to deliver each phase. This means that the number of order lines increases proportionately. The delivery per phase therefore yields more operational handling for us. Internally this causes an increase in the administrative burden, as a result of which these people are less likely to actively think about process improvements. That is unfortunate because we want these regular contacts to be busy with the excesses and deviations for our customers. That is why we have been working with our relations in mechanical engineering for some time to look at possibilities to digitize the order process and invoicing”, says Hans.
Different IT connections
Van Egmond Group has been operating several traditional EDI connections since the 1990s, both on the purchase and the sales side. Hans tells about his experiences: “We have experience with various links, EDIFACT, but also XML and OCI variants. As a flexible shell, this is linked to our ERP system. We now also work with CRM, WMS and BI and now also with Tradecloud that is linked to the ERP system via an API. In my opinion, the big difference between EDI and the Tradecloud platform is that you can identify possible deviations in the connection. If there is a point or comma error in EDI you immediately get an error message. There are too few situational steps in which you can have a follow-up step or an alert. Something is refused and you have to do it again. All in all, EDI often depends on system administrators to make it work properly. For sellers it is not always easy to understand. The insights from the cockpit in Tradecloud make the difference for the people who work with it.”
Synchronized work for a fast and efficient cooperation with the customer
According to Hans, they know to a certain extent what the machine builders are going to buy. “The articles and prices are well-coded and harmonized. That is also a condition to make the electronic link a success. Tradecloud forces you to a synchronized way of working but rewards you with a fast and efficient collaboration with the customer.”
A large part of the operational order handling can now be digitized through the use of Tradecloud. “Operational tasks around entering and confirming orders have disappeared. For example, there is no longer any need to email about order details, because customer and supplier see the same information in the portal. The advantage is that we now focus on the deviations in the order process. We see a deviation, such as a delay in a delivery time, so that we can take immediate action.”
Software actually solves an organizational problem
“Our team regularly discusses with our relations in machine building how we can make things easier and better for them. One of our relations was already working with Tradecloud and had good experiences with it. We see the 1-on-1 principle as a good basis for establishing more relationships in the future. This is in contrast to EDI connections, which are conventional 1-to-1 connections without a management layer or improvement potential. Relations in mechanical engineering are also looking for universal solutions and are not inclined to develop 1-to-1 links. Our experience with Tradecloud is that the software actually solves an organizational problem. The emphasis is not on the software development costs and ICT as such is not the revenue model. Of course, there are always customers who want to order in a conventional way and we naturally fulfill that wish. But for customers where you achieve large order values and want to save time together, the use of these kinds of smart links is appropriate.”
Retaining and captivating staff
Then what happens to the time that is released in the sales team? Hans: “At Van Egmond Groep we want to bind and fascinate people by giving them challenging work. Working with Tradecloud fits in with that aim. We want to release people for their added value for the organization and the customer. Every A customer has a permanent contact person with us. We can now use these colleagues proactively with Tradecloud to manage (imminent) deviations. I believe you should deploy people for things that computers cannot do, for which insight or a commercial sense is required.”
Hans indicates that he wants to integrate more relations via Tradecloud soon. “We focus on the manufacturing industry and Tradecloud fits in perfectly as a tailor-made e-commerce solution. Van Egmond Groep has developed an e-commerce strategy that states that we mainly want to offer our customers convenience. That is why we always check what kind of link the customer prefers or what he could (latent) need. My colleague Patrick Tijssen (Coordinator Content Management & E-Commerce) discusses the possibilities with customers and then we also support them in the implementation.”
Customers want to better control their processes
In the conversations that Hans has with his customers, it is noticeable that not only materials or prices are decisive to talk about, but more often a (latent) problem or challenge in the control of processes. Hans explains: “This can be cost-technical but also organizational in nature. We see that the pressure on people on the purchasing side of companies is increasing considerably. They have to do more with fewer people, so they are looking for solutions. We think along by offering an e-commerce solution with fast integration. In practice, this mainly means a lot of attention for the coordination of article data and prices. Once that has been properly completed, you no longer have to worry about the ordering process. This creates a universal way of ordering and confirming in which the deviations will automatically emerge. We can now focus our attention on the customer and the exceptions in the process.”
Hans states that this new way of working took some getting used to for his commercial colleagues. “It is an extra form of service that makes ‘selling without selling’ possible. In this way, Tradecloud becomes a means for us that we can use to avoid immediately wanting to sell something. The added value for our customers is much more in offering help or convenience. ”
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