By investing in digitization, automation, process improvements and in people, we further enhance the services we offer our customers. Besides, this also increases our supply reliability and enables us to even better comply with the strict requirements our customers demand from us.
Optimal operational, logistical and IT processes are indispensable for us to be able to deliver our products safely to our customers on time. This is why we are continuously modernizing our systems, processes and data management to achieve higher operational and transactional efficiency.
The investments in our global network of stock locations and service and treatment centers are producing good results. The expansion of capacity, robotization and the acquisition of high-quality cutting machines enable Van Leeuwen to deliver faster and with greater precision. At various branches we are implementing a flexible, modular system with modern crane and storage technology, that ensures high efficiency and greater safety. In 2018, we achieved significantly higher output in the Czech Republic through the Exactcut cutting line and the new robot that first cleans the treated products produced by the cutting machine and then packages them in accordance with the customer’s specifications.
Various investments in plant and machinery make it possible to expand our value-added services, such as customer-specific treatments. As specialist we continue to respond to market demand this way. Combined with our customer dedicated stocks this enables us to provide the customer with a product that can be directly processed, while enabling the customer to maintain low stock levels. Last year further investment plans were prepared for an additional four robots and two cutting lines for branches in the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
The customer-specific delivery of goods must also ensure that all relevant information is accessible and transparent for the customer. The implementation of a new SAP S/4 HANA system, which we are
implementing in all branches, supports us in this endeavor. We are creating EDI interfaces between our systems and those of our suppliers. This enables us to acquire faster insight into product availability and delivery lead times. The digital EDI connections with our customers enable them to minimize transactional costs and enable us to minimize the chance of errors.
Our customers are confronted with increasingly stricter requirements relating to quality, safety and sustainability. These are areas to which Van Leeuwen devotes constant attention as well. Every year we set high quality standards for ourselves that are translated into objectives. We regularly monitor progress on the basis of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and internal audits. Quality awareness has a long history at Van Leeuwen. We have been working in accordance with ISO standards for decades. In 2015, Van Leeuwen was the first European company certified by LRQA in accordance with the new ISO 9001:2015 standard. The three-year recertification process was successfully completed in 2018. Safety awareness among Van Leeuwen employees further increased this past year. We use a combination of safety surveillance rounds, life saving rules, toolbox meetings and safety alerts for this purpose. Because of the powerful effect of repetition, we regularly draw attention to the toolbox meetings and life saving rules. Our health and safety system, which is based on the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series standard (OHSAS 18001) and our active safety policy are producing good results.
We consider the well-being of employees and the sustainable development of the environment in which we work an ongoing responsibility. Van Leeuwen uses having certified quality and environmental and safety management systems as a criterion in its supplier selection process. To increase efficiency and to unburden the environment, we carefully reviewed our transport activities in 2018. We analyzed the routing and the load factors. In 2018, we achieved our first major successes by combining our cargo with the loads of other companies. In 2019, we are foreseeing a further reduction in the number of kilometers of transport required for our operations. In addition, we are investigating the possibility of transporting our products more often by ship or train, as a way of reducing our CO2 footprint.