As a leading and stock-keeping specialist in pipes and pipe and tube applications, we constantly invest in the optimal design of our warehouses and distribution processes. Supply reliability is a key concept in this respect. Our improvement strategy rests on five pillars: efficiency, footprint, transport, service and integration & cooperation. In 2019, we once again made significant strides forward.
In 2019, we expanded our footprint in Europe in one fell swoop with the acquisition of Benteler Distribution, creating a broad network with extensive coverage. By combining knowledge, skills and capacities we are able to even better respond to customer needs. This includes geographical coverage, a product portfolio and treatment options.
Van Leeuwen’s improvement strategy continues to rest on the same five pillars as before. We focus on efficiency, footprint, transport, service and integration & cooperation. The plans for the branch in the Czech Republic have been deferred to ensure that its layout and capacity are based on the new post-acquisition reality. Plans for other branches have been developed as well, in order to realize a more efficient operation with an emphasis on speed, efficiency and quality.
Because the demand for custom work is increasing, we are constantly expanding our services. We do this for treatments such as cutting, as well as for marking and packaging materials, and conducting inspections or tests. In all of these ways, we offer our customers added value. The integration & cooperation pillar influences all of the other four components of our improvement strategy. We also ensure that the performance of our treatment facilities improves and is up to par with the current state of the art. This is why we once again modified our cutting fleet and invested in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Precision, efficiency and flexibility are a priority in our choice of facilities. Where we can optimize processes through means of robotization, we do that as well. A good example of this is the installation of a welding robot.
With the acquisition of Benteler Distribution, the in-house options Van Leeuwen is able to offer customers were significantly expanded. Knowledge, capacity and flexibility are being elevated to an even higher level.
In 2019, the digitalization of processes and communications continued to be pursued with excellent results. To be able to communicate more efficiently and effectively, a platform was developed that enables us to communicate with all parties in the supply chain through means of EDI. This enables us to receive customer orders, send out confirmations, supply delivery information in real time, as well as make certificates and invoices available. In addition, we have developed integration with other supply chain partners, such as suppliers and carriers. On delivery, signed packing slips are supplied via EDI by our carriers and these are immediately available in our SAP system. To be flexible in the future, these functionalities are available for our existing ECC system, as well as for the new SAP HANA system.
To make information available in real time and standardize processes, all SAP ECC & HANA companies have switched over to scanning, whereby all logistics processes are supported by RF scanning. In 2019, this process was completed for France, the United Kingdom and for Teuling Staal in the Netherlands. As a result, real-time insight into processes is now available and errors are minimized.
Transport is custom work
Transport is an important factor in the distribution of pipes and tubes. This involves the services we are able to provide, the speed and quality, as well as costs. An efficient and excellent transport network is an important factor in distribution. In many cases we work together with permanent carriers that supply reliable services. By constantly analyzing the logistics flows, we are aiming for an affordable solution with excellent delivery frequencies and the right speed. By segmenting flows and applying different logistics concepts, we are able to customize our services. A 2-kilogram package is very different from a 12-meter pipe, a delivery for a scheduled production order requires a different response from the logistics network than a component for a breakdown with production stoppage in case of untimely delivery. We regularly analyze the flows and the performance of our service providers.