Belchim relies on Optimact to further expand rapidly growing business.
Who is Belchim?
Belchim Crop Protection is a Belgian player in the European crop protection market. Founded by late Managing Director Dirk Putteman in 1987 and grown remarkably to its position as a major European player in the crop protection industry today. As a company and an innovative product supplier, it has adapted well to the changes in the industry and the changing regulatory environment. By the late 1990s, he sought and found a strategic partnership with ISK Biosciences, and established an international research and development company. This alliance allowed not only a more specialized product portfolio, but also further expansion into Europe. Alongside an innovative product portfolio, credibility and reputation are strong assets of Belchim Crop Protection. Above all, the ability to market a product from a strong introduction to a good market coverage in a short time. Belchim Crop Protection, managed by its new CEO Johan De Saegher, carries a broad range of state-of-the-art crop protection products but also products for home & garden and amenity use. The recent acquisition of the biological herbicide ‘Katoun Gold’is a good example of sustainable use in a circular economy concept.
Belchim purchases the substances and products from the different industry suppliers and then distributes them throughout Europe, some of its surrounding countries, Canada, US, Asia and Africa.
In 25 years, Belchim Crop Protection, with headquarters in Londerzeel, has grown into a company with a global presence and an annual turnover of 450 million euros. Today, the group employs
around 460 people, of which about one hundred are based at the headquarters.
The company has experienced an enormous growth in a short period of time. There has always been a sales driven focus and culture, but now the growth is so important that the existing system
and processes no longer meet future needs. “Where you used to be able to remember all data by heart or keep track with a spreadsheet, this is no longer possible today”, says Maarten Hentzen, Supply Chain Manager ad interim at Belchim Crop Protection NV. Because large groups of employees need the same data, preferably as quickly as possible, continuing to work with spreadsheets that are often stored locally, was no longer an option. An additional problem is that knowledge often resides with the person himself. Ideally you install an ERP worldwide, but this is not easy. In order to make rapid progress, there was an immediate need for a planning tool, preferably centralized for 35 countries, and an inventory management tool, which was currently scattered across dozens of different databases. Bottleneck here is the master database, because if you just merge everything into one database, you end up with non-valid data. “We are in a seasonal business beginning as plants start to grow and ending with harvesting. Seasonal planning instead of a continuous planning is not obvious for traditional planning software”, adds Maarten Hentzen.
To stabilize these processes in the supply chain, a project approach was chosen. When choosing a solution, the partner had to consider the available budget wasn’t infinite and that costs had to be manageable. Besides that, a trade-off had to be made between IT or process optimization in the current IT support. It is mainly a matter of safeguarding what was existing in order to set the right priorities. Maarten Hentzen: “We had gone through an entire decision-making process before, so we now needed only one option and partner. We opted for Optimact as forecast and MRP calculation indicating which articles should be ordered. Other solutions were not as flexible. Optimact enables a mass update that allows us to easily check each supplier and cost. The graphic display is also a true added value of Optimact.” The implementation went very smoothly. The process from introduction to contract onlytook about two months. Maarten: “This was not only due to the rapid availability of the tools. The guidance, training and customization of the system also contributed to the smooth implementation.” He also stresses the importance of having your own data manager. The added value of partner XELEOS in this project is, among other things, responsiveness. “When we asked for something in a meeting, this was immediately passed on and sometimes we already had a working solution by the end of the meeting. It is very pleasant to work together like this as the team sees that their feedback is addressed quickly.”
The implementation of Optimact provides Belchim with several immediate benefits, according to the supply manager. “We now have a rolling forecast of 12 months; we can make a proper cash planning and Inventory management is also much more efficient. On top of that, reporting is more accurate and we have Urgent Order Detection on a daily basis.” Calculating the direct return on investment is still difficult due to the particular very seasonal demand and supply conditions. Maarten: “Indirectly, you do see results. For example, suppliers now have the opportunity to validate the “rolling forecast” for the next months. And thanks to Optimact, we can detect whether we are missing orders now. In the past, we didn’t know this at all.” The tool also supports the growth of the company. “Internally, employees are better informed, the planning, orders and stock are optimized, enabling us to deliver faster and more accurately to our customers.” Also change management is important to mention as there is a big difference between showing what something can do and effectively working with it. “It is important that the person responsible for supervising this process has a high enough position in the organization. After all, change management requires an investment from people too (a new role or a different way of working). Here it helped that our available data could be used immediately in Optimact. It still takes continuous attention to learn people to spend time to improve masterdata in order to have it available to all planners.” says Maarten.
One of the objectives to install Optimact was to clean up the master data. Maarten: “It used to be almost blind sailing. Cleaning up is a lengthy process and does not happen overnight. We started this project with 50% master names for articles, but we are making a lot of progress today. The ultimate goal is to make all things run smoother, by cleaning everything up in an agile way.” Optimact will help Belchim Crop Protection to prepare for future challenges. “We are an organization in transition. IT is just one project. There are still dozens of change processes underway that all need to be integrated in the organization. The assurance provided by Xeleos offers us greater security to continue change, even with change of actors”, concludes Maarten Hentzen.