The implementation of Reflex 3000 at Schietse has meant that the ERP provider of the same name has completed a somewhat ‘different’ project. For years, this wholesaler of European specialities has been working with a self-written application in Cobol. Converting this function was no easy task and the combination of thousands of customer, supplier and product information made this an extraordinary challenge.
Schietse is a name that has a ring of excellence about it in the food industry. For three generations, it is the company of choice for everyone who is looking for European delicatessens (traditional and artisanal charcuterie, cheese and delicatessens). Whatever product you can think of, Schietse has it in stock. “Our assortment consists of about 4,000 products. Many of these are available in various forms, as a result of which the counter now stands at more than 8,000. Our most important customers are the wholesale distributors and wholesalers in Belgium, but we also export within Europe and Africa. We currently work with approximately 50 full-time equivalents. However, given that we have just moved and have more storage capacity we estimate that we will experience a significant growth in the coming years.
Challenging IT revitalisation
It comes as no surprise that conducting business with so many references (that often do not have long-term sustainability and are introduced from all over Europe) is no easy task. However, Schietse succeeded in this thanks to a self-developed software package. Bénédicte Schietse explains, “When the first computers came on the market, my uncle Walter got involved and ordered a computer from the U.S. Single-handedly, he wrote an administration tool and was the first in Belgium with such an application. Over the course of the years, he refined the package and, as a result, Schietse has always worked with a programme that perfectly anticipates its needs. It was also a cheaper solution because we didn’t have any licence fees. When my uncle left the company, we had to find someone who was fluent in the old Cobol language in order to maintain and update the application. However, this was no easy task. The generation that worked with this software has now largely retired. This is why we decided to implement a revitalisation in IT and purchase a standard ERP package. The search was not easy and it proved difficult for the providers to tailor the functionality of the solution perfectly to our needs and provide the necessary support. So we continued working with the Cobol package. However, this has recently changed because ReflexSystems has succeeded where other ERP providers have failed: integrating the functionality of our current solution in a contemporary package and providing an ERP application that, by and large, anticipates our need and requirements.”
Logical approach is the deciding factor
Schietse made the decision to choose the ERP software after careful deliberation. A functional analysis was set up with a detail description of the requirements that the new ERP package had to meet. This gave the ReflexSystems team a clear idea of the expectations. After a couple of presentations of Reflex 3000 and an explanation of the work philosophy, the decision was made to join forces with ReflexSystems. Bénédicte Schietse: “My father asked questions and the answers sounded so logical that he quickly came to a decision. The deciding factor for me was that the provider was prepared to carry out the required custom work and seemed competent to do so. No ERP package is entirely compatible with your activity. In our case, it was more of a requirement to create an extensive register system with which the transactions were forwarded automatically to the accounts. This way, everyone could monitor outstanding balances, sums paid in advance, etc. directly.”
ReflexSystems does not shy away from such custom work in itself. However, according to Manager Jan Ickx, this project was unconventional and a huge challenge in particular. “On the whole, a new customer fits fairly easily into the Reflex way of working. However, because of the Schietse’s specific software programme this was not so straightforward. In addition, we had to clean up and transfer data from thirty years ago. Schietse also has many different suppliers. Because, the aim was to use scanners in the reception and in picking, we had to contact many parties to get the necessary barcodes on the products. On the one hand, it has been an enormous task setting up the databases. On the other hand, it was a great challenge to be able to automate a company as Schietse. On top of this, we came under an enormous time pressure because Schietse wanted to use only Reflex 3000 in its new premises. Therefore, we only had a limited number of months to prepare. And the implementation of the modules had to be ready in time for the move. Everything had to be transferred to the new premises in just one weekend. ReflexSystems is not one to shy away from a challenge, as this is the only way to grow as an ERP provider. And we are proud that we succeeded in our mission at Schietse. The thorough approach and intensive training provided by the internal project managers and the ReflexSystems consultant were the keys to success.”
A look at the implementation process
Setting up the database and the integration of the function of the old software to Reflex 3000 took more than a year to complete. Jan Ickx: “Together with Schietse we decided to start the purchase and sales modules in the old premises. We automated the reception of goods, the picking and the warehouse management in time for the move in March of this year. And the third phase, which was the installation of the invoicing module, was complete in May. This summer we worked on the web module so that the customers could place and manage their orders online. The aim is to fine tune dispatch in the autumn and introduce wrist scanners in the picking. The latter was worked out to the last detail last year. However, the implementation was put on hold largely due to lack of time (the focus was on the administration first) and a minor adjustment that was required for scanning ITF-14 barcodes.”
A satisfied customer
Everyone was aware that it would not be a simple implementation. “Not that everything was plain sailing,” explained Bénédicte Schietse. “But ReflexSystems has always displayed the professionalism and expertise required to overcome all the challenges. We are also fully aware of the complexity of our activities plus the fact that Reflex 3000 is really an ERP package for production companies. Clearly, there were unforeseen problems and compromises had to be made at times. We can certainly not complain about the collaboration with this provider. Quite the opposite. And the package exceeds our expectations as well. Although I haven’t yet found the time to try out all the functions, I can already see a marked progress in the error rate in orders, deliveries and payments. In addition, Reflex 3000 is an extremely useful package to create various KPI reports. And that is a very real necessity in a business like ours: customer, supplier and article analyses are a daily must. A major advantage is also the CRM module, which manages all the customer relation data centrally. Furthermore, the link of relations to the order picking and reception also has significant benefit. The use of the Flex screens and the scanners has enhanced cost-effectiveness and control. And of course, Reflex 3000 ensures a watertight traceability system. To sum up: thanks to Reflex 3000, we have more control over our business. Only now do we realise that our own system was adequate but its functionality had not developed quickly enough to cope with an increasingly complex business. Which is why we are very pleased that we eventually switched to a modern ERP package that is perfectly tailored to a food production company and exceeds the expectations of a distribution company as well.”