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CASE Apr 15, 2021

Co-creation with Gumption Group smooths the way to the future for pgb-Europe

Wim Nelissen

pgb-Europe has resolutely opted for the digital future. The fasteners and fixings company invested in a fully automated warehouse, advanced webshop and a brand-new ERP as the basis for its business operations. Five Gumption companies help to realise the company´s vision of the future.

The investments demonstrate the company´s ambition to play an important role in the smart industry of the future. The robot-controlled pallet warehouse in Melle, the size of a football pitch, is designed in accordance with the latest guidelines for inventory management. Three automatically driven vehicles and fully autonomous robots transport the goods without human intervention.

Need for structured processes

“We´ve always been forward-looking”, says Johannes Heye, board member of pgb-Europe. “We´ve been doing e-commerce since 2000. Our warehouse has been paperless since 1997. By the end of the 1980´s we were already working with an ERP on an AS/400 - in the meantime, the dinosaur of ERP systems. For a very long time that worked perfectly for us because we did our own custom programming. But the market evolves, just like our product line. With the automated warehouse, the need for structured processes grew.”

pgb-Europe did not immediately have a new ERP in mind when it began talking with TheValueChain in 2016. In the short term, the company wanted CRM and warehouse management, plus a way to link new systems to the AS/400. The old ERP was a complex tangle of customised code. Adaptations and integrations were time-consuming and delicate. TheValueChain, therefore, proposed a new ERP. And a mental shift: from custom work to standard SAP.

Mediabank pgb Europe

SAP Cloud for Customer

That was one of the biggest adaptations for pgb-Europe. “Everything revolves around master data”, notes Johannes Heye. “We hadn´t been familiar with the concept up to that point, but we saw the interest immediately. If you link several different systems to one another, erroneous master data can quickly disseminate. And that way you get inaccurate reports or disrupted processes. With a great deal of patience and dedication, we digitalised 80,000 products. We converted every plug or bolt into zeroes and ones. It was a huge job.”

Shortly after the switchover to SAP ERP followed CRM with SAP Cloud for Customer. Johannes Heye: “It was a real challenge because the transition came on top of the day-to-day work. The business had to keep running, and precisely the busiest people were the ones most closely involved in the switch. They had the most intimate knowledge of the processes.”

Innovation process

The first six months were difficult, according to Heye. “We got a bit discouraged, even to the point of asking ourselves why we had made the changeover. But today the progress is phenomenal. Getting newcomers up to speed is easy. Our processes are more efficient, and profitability has risen as a result. However good your product might be, these days your processes are every bit as important.”

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However good your product might be, these days your processes are every bit as important.
Johannes Heye

Innovation process

The first six months were difficult, according to Heye. “We got a bit discouraged, even to the point of asking ourselves why we had made the changeover. But today the progress is phenomenal. Getting newcomers up to speed is easy. Our processes are more efficient, and profitability has risen as a result. However good your product might be, these days your processes are every bit as important.”

The employees are also very satisfied, according to Frederik Pennoit, board member of pgb-Europe. “Sometimes, innovation is a difficult process. Yet we want to be progressive in our specialised field. That’s a point of pride with us.”

“I sometimes compare the switchover to a heart transplant”, says Johannes Heye. “When you disconnect the one system, the other one has to take over immediately. And that was successful in our case. The lights didn´t go out, although they did flicker for a moment. Let´s say that the patient, thanks to a bypass, is now in perfect health (laughs).”

Customised solutions of TheValueChain

TheValueChain developed accelerators for typical processes, such as the Advanced Pricing Cockpit and the Smart Material Mass Change Tool. “Our speed is our strength”, says Johannes Heye. “If there’s a need for a new product, we want to ensure that it gets on the market immediately. And with the solutions of TheValueChain, we can make that happen.”

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TheValueChain linked the ERP to the automated warehouse via Dynaman, a solution for warehouse management. SAP ERP communicates with the label printers via the accelerator Smart Bartender Connector. Orders in the webshop pass via SAP Process Orchestration to SAP ERP. With large customers, pgb-Europe handles orders, delivery notes and invoices via EDI.

Co-creation in action

In 2018 pgb-Europe got the webshop up and running. For this, it needed an intermediate layer: a system to enrich and manage the product information from SAP. “Via a product information management system (PIM) you add data to the enormous portfolio in the ERP”, says Derk De Kimpe from Oddball. “For example, in the e-shop, you show a video or add a longer article description. These enriched data make the product more attractive to the customer.”

The PIM system came into being thanks to the efficiently combined know-how of four Gumption companies. Customer experience specialist Oddball developed the system in close collaboration with supply chain architect valueXstream. Brightest tested the functioning and performance. Infrastructure specialist Rank 1 gave support for seamless management in the cloud.

With the new SAP ERP as the basis for its business operations, the Melle-based family business is stepping confidently into the future. “We are already seeing the return from our efforts”, notes Frederik Pennoit. “These innovations are translating themselves into excellent turnover figures and constant growth.”

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ABOUT PGB-EUROPE

pgb-Europe is a total supplier of fasteners and fixings with headquarters in Melle, production sites in Poland and Vietnam, and a sourcing office in Shanghai, China. The product range is specialised and varied, with +80,000 articles - from bolts, nuts and screws to anchors and hand tools under their own brand names. The family business was founded in 1956. Today it is helmed by the third generation, which is focused on modernisation with a new, fully automated picking warehouse, a new ERP and a webshop.

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