Van Marcke is a specialised wholesaler managing the distribution of bathrooms, kitchens, heating installations, sanitary and installation material, plus sustainable solutions for heat and water. The company is the market leader in Belgium and Luxembourg. The group has around 1,600 employees (of which approximately 1,200 in Belgium), 19 showrooms in Belgium, Luxembourg and France and 132 shops worldwide for professional customers. The company has also invested 75 million euros in a revolutionary new distribution centre of about 90,000 m² at its Kortrijk headquarters.
When it comes to transporting products to and from the shops, Van Marcke uses both external hauliers and its own fleet of lorries and drivers. “Some of our products, such as shower panels, baths and jacuzzis, just don’t fit in a standard lorry,” explains Stijn Hoegaerts, IT Director at Van Marcke, “and that’s why we have our own lorries, which are perfectly equipped to transport all kinds of products.”
Making warehouse management and logistics more predictable and transparent
Until recently, Van Marcke used a system with company-specific software to manage their warehouse and logistics. This environment urgently required an update, in order to respond to today’s needs. “Indeed, we needed to evolve to an environment that could meet our expectations in terms of predictability and transparency. These days, this has just become essential: customers, but also your own employees, expect prompt information regarding availability and delivery, just like in their daily lives,” says Stijn Hoegaerts. Van Marcke chose an SAP environment, offering sufficient open standards and interfaces to provide visibility to the outside world and other systems.
As well as something more open, Van Marcke was also looking for a system that was able to register and process product delivery faster. “In the past, drivers were often required to get delivery notes signed by the customer, which they then had to scan and send to the administration department. However, in doing so, two days could be lost between the actual delivery and processing in the administrative system. That is a huge amount for a company that only invoices once the goods are physically with the customer. Given the many deliveries in a year, this also affected our ‘bottom line’.” Furthermore, it appeared that the technology in the existing system for registering delivered goods was insufficient for the new environment.
That’s why Van Marcke went in urgent search of a solution whereby the delivery receipt was also the immediate trigger to send the invoice, without further processing delays or additional steps. This required an infrastructure that was not only reliable, but also flexible and sufficiently open to connect to the infrastructure of other parties involved. “Besides our own SAP Warehouse there was also PTV to consider, using their software program Smartour to manage transport dispatching based on the products for delivery. And last but not least, the hauliers naturally needed the right technology to combine convenience with reliable and accurate integration.”
“There was already a click during the preparation work”
The fact that Van Marcke had already used PHI DATA for product scanning in the warehouse, to the satisfaction of both parties, meant that a close inspection was made of the latter’s IDdelivery software. “Given our history, we knew we would be able to rely on PHI DATA. Initially, we had only considered them for the hardware, but when they turned out to have the right software to process the scanned data we naturally wished to take a look. And they did not let us down. Even before the contract was signed, they were already actively involved to find the best solution and integrate the environments of the three parties concerned. And not only did they propose alternative hardware that matched our request, it was also cheaper. You naturally have more faith in someone who puts your needs before their own profit.”
While the implementation was being prepared, Van Marcke needed to sit down with four parties: Van Marcke themselves, PHI DATA, PTV and Centiro, as the Swedish logistics partner who decides who will carry out the transport assignment, right down to providing the right labels for the transport chosen. The good collaboration between the four parties was remarkable, continues Stijn Hoegaerts: “There was already a real click during the preparation work, when we discussed the necessary and desired functionality in great detail. We even began to dream of all the possibilities we would achieve by combining our forces. However, at the time, the tight deadline forced to focus on the basic functionality. But the road map for the coming years is already clear.” Meanwhile, the tight deadline was achieved without any particular delay.
95% adoption after hardly a week
And even more remarkable: the solution was almost entirely integrated in the hauliers’ deliveries, says Stijn Hoegaerts: “By week two we had already reached 95% adoption. So almost all hauliers used the solution right from day one. No real training was required. In fact, we called it an acquaintance session, as it was so user friendly and intuitive that little explanation was necessary. A result of 95% after hardly a week is quite exceptional. 100% adoption is normally impossible but, in this case, I would even dare to hope for it.”
Saving time for the haulier and in administration
The way the solution works is simple. All deliveries have a barcode with a unique number. Every driver has a mobile device with a built-in barcode scanner, which is connected to the central database in real time. During loading, it is already possible to check whether there is a 100% match between the scanned goods and the dispatch note, which summarises all the goods to be transported. If there is, then the haulier receives the address of the first customer and the accompanying driving instructions.
Upon arrival at the customer, every delivered article is scanned. The recipient signs for receipt on the screen of the device. If there are any problems with the delivery, these can be indicated, using photos if necessary. After delivery, the details are immediately sent through via the mobile device, allowing the administration to be finalised or for customer service, without the driver having to bring in the paperwork first.
Clear plans for the future
Van Marcke was so delighted with the implementation and result that they are now looking forward to the next phase, with new functions which boost the benefits of the technology even further and make the hauliers’ lives even easier and more pleasant. “For example, I am thinking of the opportunity to adjust the route when the haulier is already out on the road. That used to be out of the question, but thanks to the good integration between the three environments, this is now perfectly possible. For example, if a truck returning from a delivery could pick up a load of goods that have been confirmed as returns during its journey, this could often save two additional trips.” Also, the integration of e-CMR, the electronic version of the accompanying document that hauliers are required to submit to customs is among the next steps.
Last but not least, Van Marcke aims to increase transparency even further, confirms Stijn Hoegaerts: “Not only do we now save lots of time ourselves in the old processing of dispatch notes, we can also inform our customers better and from a central location about where their delivery is, regardless of whether it is being transported by our own transport services or by third-party hauliers. In the future, we will even be able to inform them of progress from the very moment the order is released right up to the moment of delivery.”
The working environment where production, logistics or other core activities take place are the beating heart of a company. That physical chain, within which all processes and movements of goods, assets and people take place, must however be connected to the digital chain of the underlying IT systems and technologies. Our Smart Edge solutions connect those physical and digital chains with each other and optimize the business processes, with the ultimate goal: higher operational efficiency and productivity. – PHI DATA, The Smart Edge