Kempen-based Anders Beton makes prefab concrete products for the agricultural market. From its plant on the Albert Canal in Grobbendonk, the family business ships concrete products all over the world. We talked to CEO Dominique van der Velden about the digital future of Anders Beton and its collaboration with Rank 1.
Dominique van der Velden: "Anders Beton is a real family business. I’m part of the “dangerous” third generation, as they say (laughs). In 1964, my grandfather Korneel, a farmer’s son, decided to make concrete stable floors. My father set up a second site and elevated the business to market leader status. In 2017, my sister and I took over the reins. Our biggest challenge is to find new markets and applications and tailor our processes to them."
"Our stable floors are manure and urine draining. They promote the welfare of the animals and reduce emissions. But with the current emission legislation, the government is making it impossible for us to operate. Our revenue in Flanders has been wiped out as a result of the nitrogen policy. Our customers in Belgium and the Netherlands are forced to close and are given subsidies as compensation, which they use to start up again in Eastern Europe. While the emission figures may be correct at a national level, globally, this is not the way to resolve the nitrogen problem. On the contrary."
"Due to this policy, our farmers find themselves in a precarious situation. This has forced us to think about our strategy for the future. As an SME, we can’t afford the ad hoc decisions of governments concerning these issues. We have to carefully consider our future and protect ourselves against random policy changes. To this end, we have drawn up a strategic digitalisation plan with 2023 as our end target. This kicked off last year, and that is the context for the start of our collaboration with Rank 1."
What did this collaboration entail?
"The aim is to make our processes agile. Digitalisation has to ensure that our activities are easily relocatable, along with those of our customers. We chose to install our software in English, given our continuing internationalisation. Today, an Indian company already carries out some of our technical calculations, for instance.
The digital processes make working from home easily implementable in departments where this is possible. This flexible homeworking strategy has given us a head start during the pandemic, but COVID was not our starting point. Our digitalisation plans aim primarily to future-proof our business in terms of diversification and internationalisation. For instance, we have recently become active in hydraulic engineering, where concrete can be part of the solution to improve water infiltration to prevent floods. Our renewed processes make this possible."
Together with Rank 1, we have laid a strong foundation to build our digital future.
How did you go about things?
"Last year, in 2021, we teamed up with Rank 1 to digitalise our business processes. The Rank 1 consultants carried out an analysis of our needs and proposed a plan of action. In concrete terms, they improved our hardware infrastructure by equipping our employees with laptops and docking stations. We installed new servers, firewalls, switches and Office 365 software. The Citrix environment was rolled out and any technical issues were ironed out. It was an investment of roughly 350,000 euros for the 90 employees of our company."
How did you find the collaboration?
"In a project of this size, there can be the occasional glitch, but when things didn’t go too smoothly with a consultant, the management of Rank 1 was very responsive, and soon resolved any problems . That’s why I like doing business with other SMEs; we speak each other’s language. I’m direct in my approach and will point out any issues. At Rank 1, they handle this well. Through confrontations, you reach solutions. With these kinds of projects, that’s crucial. It’s not easy to find IT people, and the search for the right profile is a challenge for everyone."
"I deliberately choose to do business with Belgian companies. Not huge organisations but SMEs where I have direct access to the managers. IT is so complex that there are often differing opinions on what the best solutions are. As an outsider in the field, it’s hard to know whom to believe, and that’s when you need to be able to rely on your partner. Thanks to their open approach, I trust Rank 1."
"In the past, our financial manager was also responsible for IT in the company. But that was no longer sustainable. Now, we call on an external IT consultant two days a week, who coordinates the collaboration with Rank 1. Rank 1 also assists us with our security needs and ensures that systems remain operational. Soon, Rank 1 will train our employees to work as securely as possible, with workshops on how to identify phishing mails, among other things."
What is the next step in your digitalisation plan?
"In 2022, we want to replace our ERP system and move it to the cloud. Thanks to the brand-new environment we set up, we are ready to take this next step. Together with Rank 1, we have laid a strong foundation on which to build our digital future."
Anders Beton was founded in 1964. Today, the reins of the family business are in the hands of the third generation. The team consists of 30 office staff and 60 workers. The steel mill and concrete plant are situated in Grobbendonk, the office in Hoogstraten. Rank 1 brought the hardware up-to-date, installed a new Citrix environment and helps maintain system uptime and security. The collaboration is part of a strategic three-year digitalisation plan aimed at future-proofing the business of Anders Beton.