“We are still a customer oriented company, but we work a bit more thought through now than we used to.”
New ERP-system maintains short communication/management lines at garden furniture specialist.
In a small company managing is often based on gut-feel., but as an organisation grows, this changes. Distances increase – sometimes literally – and as a result the importance of information systems increase too. A good example is Kees Smit Garden Furniture. The family business, originally from Almelo, The Neherlands, has now built up a national reputation as the pre-eminent specialist in garden furniture.
The largest offering, the lowest price and the best service. These three factors explain the development of Kees Smit Garden Furniture from a regional player to national A-brand. Especially since the opening of a second showroom (in Amersfoort) and the decision to focus more on online sales, about five years ago, things are moving fast. The garden furniture specialist proves that growth does not have to be at the expense of customer focus. On the independent platform for webshops Kiyoh, almost 12.000 consumers rate Kees Smit with an average score of 9,3.
Old system inhibits growth
The challenge was to find a system that would allow the entire process, from sales to invoicing and service, to run paperless. A supplier was found for this. It also became clear that an intensive implementation process was risky in view of time pressure and would require a great deal from the organisation. Therefore it was decided to call in Skopos. “A choice we would have preferred to have made earlier”, says Smit. “Because then we would have been in discussions at an earlier stage and with the help of Skopos we could have made more watertight contractual agreements with suppliers.” The plan was therefore to first make, the sometimes vague, paragraphs in the contract more specific and then to implement the system properly.
Race against the clock
In the end, it was possible within a few months to complete the implementation. Although it became a bit tense for a while. “In December we faced a choice: to postpone the implementation for a month or to run the old system for another year. We opted for the short delay in implementation ERP-system, because otherwise everyone would be working with the old ERP system for another year, and we would have to resume the process in September with a hundred new wishes.
New system is a change in working methods
For Kees Smit Garden Furniture the new ERP-system includes a change in working methods. “It has been a stressful year and we have asked quite a lot of our employees. We now have to record much more in our systems, but that was also necessary. We do not want to go back either. For example, the sales department now works with an app instead of handwritten receipts. In the past, another department had to process all these documents manually in the system, with all the error sensitivities involved. Now things are going well at the first time .” The customers also benefit, thinks Smit. “Although sometimes they have to wait at the desk until the right data has been entered correctly, this also means we are better able to help them with their next order, or if problems arise with a product later on. We are still a customer-oriented company, but it is all just a bit more thought through, than it used to be.”
As a real family business, “togetherness” always has been important at Kees Smit Garden Furniture. In the past a lot was done based on feelings. “That was also possible, because we were aware of everything. For example, all salesmen and planners worked at one location. Now that we are bigger – over two hundred employees in the summer – and work at different locations, that is no longer possible. Therefore we have to manage based on facts and figures more, without completely eliminating our feelings, by the way. And the information for this needs to come from our automation system. Skopos has helped us greatly with that. They are an expert party for guidance during the implementation of ERP software, where they think with us in a down-to-earth way. That is where we find each other.” After the implementation of the new ERP software, it is now time to optimize.
Smit looks forward with confidence. “We now enter the second phase. I hope that the ERP system is a stable factor for the coming years, but as company under development I believe that an information system must be tested annually and that we must remain critical. If you do that, you can keep improving yourself and organize processes more efficiently.”