At the end of 2019, we completed the acquisition of Benteler Distribution, an international distribution company that, just like Van Leeuwen, offers a wide range of carbon steel and stainless steel pipes and tubes and services. This strategic acquisition gave Van Leeuwen access to additional key markets and strengthened our position as a leading distributor of pipe and tube materials. The acquisition doubled the company’s total sales volume and assets. The scale of the combined companies facilitates the further development of innovative solutions for our customers. In addition, the acquisition also facilitates the further optimization of stocks in the proximity of customers and further investments can now be made in automated customer interfaces and effective distribution. The acquisition further expanded the global presence of our company, especially in Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Central Europe.
In 2020, we took important steps in integrating the Benteler Distribution and Van Leeuwen organizations. Under the slogan making more together we welcomed our new colleagues into the Van Leeuwen family. Their expertise, market knowledge and commitment are invaluable. The integration process was started up with professionals and teams from both companies. Knowledge and ideas were exchanged about doing business, products, solutions for customers, added value services, logistics solutions, project management and international distribution.
The integration plans were expeditiously and efficiently implemented during 2020. We were however soon confronted with travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, with the help of available digital communication and other resources, and the necessary creativity, we made major steps and by year-end 2020 all objectives set for Integration Phase 1 were achieved.
An important first step in the integration process was aligning financial reporting and controlling. Major progress was immediately made in this area. As of the beginning of 2020, all reports are produced by a single system and new authorization procedures were implemented. This proved to be of major benefit during the year.
Consolidating the procurement organizations was another important integration step. The combined knowledge of global sourcing further enhances Van Leeuwen’s status as a high-ranking expert in materials, products, qualities and mills. This knowledge, combined with the doubled purchasing volume, produces a decisive, broadly oriented procurement organization that is able to optimally leverage our buying power and able to even more intensively and better work together with our suppliers in relation to customer and market-specific product development, and logistics and stock-keeping concepts.
All former Benteler Distribution companies were renamed and rebranded during the year. Aside from the statutory company names, also documentation, logos and façade lettering were adjusted. Presently, all companies now operate under the Van Leeuwen name and flag. Exceptions to this are the companies in Scandinavia, which will continue to operate under the name Heléns, and the company Kindlimann in Switzerland. Both are strong names and brands that will continue to be active under these names in their own markets, but that will operate under the Van Leeuwen flag and will fully benefit from the power of Van Leeuwen’s global network, knowledge and reputation.
The Van Leeuwen and Benteler Distribution organizations have been integrated in a number of countries and regions, such as the United Kingdom, Central Europe and Southeast Asia. Teams, warehouses and stocks have been integrated, the organization is in place and customer contact persons have been identified. In a large number of countries there was little overlap of activities and the integration therefore limited in scope.
In 2020, a lot of effort was also devoted to IT disentanglement, with the objective of migrating Benteler Distribution’s entire existing IT infrastructure, including its ERP and other systems and applications to, and embedding them into, Van Leeuwen’s systems and infrastructure. A key milestone was achieved halfway through the year when Benteler’s ERP systems were successfully migrated to the new Van Leeuwen ERP datacenter. In addition, the former Benteler Distribution locations were connected to our own Wide Area Network and all email addresses were migrated to Van Leeuwen.
The integration process was completed expeditiously and according to schedule despite limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a major accomplishment on the part of our teams. We are now able to operate as a global and interconnected organization. Employees and teams know each other and together feel part of the Van Leeuwen community. Even more than before we are now able to establish a connection with our customers. A next step is to further align activities and processes and to further exchange knowledge and skills. This makes it possible for us to offer a broader range of products and services and thus provide increased added value.