Hans de Croon
Commercial Director at Van Egmond Groep
Van Egmond Group has existed 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.
Hans de Croon is commercial director and responsible for sales of the four branches. 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.
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.”
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.”
According to Hans, a large part of the operational order handling can now be digitized by the use of Tradecloud. “Operational tasks around the entry and confirmation of orders have disappeared. For example, there is no need to mail more about order details, because the customer and supplier see the same information in the portal. The advantage is that we now focus on the deviations in the order process. A deviation, such as a delay in a delivery time, we see immediately so that we can take action.”
What happens to the time released in the sales team? Hans: “At Van Egmond Group we want to retain and fascinate people by giving them challenging work. Working with Tradecloud fits that goal. We want to give people time for their added value for the organization and the customer. Every A-customer has a permanent contact person. These colleagues can now be proactively deployed with Tradecloud for the management of (possible) deviations. In my opinion, you have to use people for things that computers can not, where insight or commercial sense is needed.”
“From our team we are regularly talking with our relations in machine building how we can make it easier and better for them. One of our clients already worked with Tradecloud and has good experiences with it. We see the 1-on-n principle as a good basis for connecting more relationships in the future. In contrast to EDI connections, these are conventional 1-to-1 connections without management layer or improvement potential. Also relationships in mechanical engineering are 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 software development costs and ICT is not as such the revenue model. There are of course some customers who want to order in a conventional manner and of course we also fulfil that wish. But with customers where you have large order values and want to save time together, the use of this kind of smart links fits well.”
Hans indicates that he wants to integrate more relationships via Tradecloud soon. “We focus on the manufacturing industry and Tradecloud fits perfectly with this as a tailor-made e-commerce solution. Van Egmond Group has created an e-commerce strategy that states that we want to offer our customers convenience. That is why we always consider what kind of link the customer prefers or what (latent) need he of she could have. My colleague Patrick Tijssen discusses the possibilities together with customers and then we also support the implementation.”
In Hans’ conversations with his clients, it is striking that not only are materials or prices decisive to talk but more often a (latent) problem or challenge in the management of processes. Hans explains: “This can be a cost-technical but also an organizational topic. We see that the pressure on people on the purchasing side increases considerably among companies. We see that the pressure on people on the purchasing side increases considerably among companies. They have to do more with fewer people and they are therefore looking for solutions. We think along with it by offering an e-commerce solution with fast integration. In practice, this means a lot of attention to the alignment of article data and prices. Once that has been successfully completed, you no longer have to worry about the ordering process. This creates a universal way of ordering and confirming where the deviations 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 did take some getting used to for his commercial colleagues. “It is an extra way of service that makes ‘selling without selling’ possible. In this way Tradecloud becomes a means that we can use to not want to sell something directly. The added value for our customers in this way focuses more on offering help or convenience.”