Developments within the organization
To achieve our strategic objectives we rely on a large team of professional and motivated employees, a high number with many years of experience and others with a youthful spirit and innovative strength. With their knowledge, experience and dedication our employees enable Van Leeuwen to provide added value in various ways throughout the entire process, from tube and pipe to final construction.
The acquisition of Benteler Distribution has more than doubled the number of employees, and has increased the number of countries in which we operate. Our presence in 33 countries, with 84 branches and 55 different nationalities, illustrates our international scope. The Van Leeuwen Pipe and Tube Group's total workforce currently consists of 2,619 employees. Women comprise 30% of the total workforce, men comprise 70%.
The bond among sister companies and the mutual exchange of knowledge and experience result in a joint effort that reaches beyond the individual operating company. Our organization is proud of the level of experience brought to the table by colleagues who have been part of the Van Leeuwen Pipe and Tube Group for many years. We continue to invest in a substantive personnel policy focused on training, development and committing and captivating our employees.
Apart from its care for customers, Van Leeuwen also demonstrates its corporate social responsibility by supporting various regional and local sports, cultural and charitable projects, and education.
In 2019, we took major steps in the further rollout of our new ERP system S/4 HANA. Key preparations for the Dutch branches in Deventer and Beesd were completed, with implementation to follow in 2020. This expansion represents another important step in the innovation of our European IT backbone. In the meantime further improvements were made in 2019, such as the implementation of barcode scanning at the branches in the United Kingdom and France.
Important steps were also made in the automated processing of orders, deliveries and invoices for customers, suppliers and carriers. These steps respond to the increasing demand by our partners to exchange data with Van Leeuwen through means of EDI. By settling on standardized solutions we are able to quickly scale up, and the automated processing of data reduces the chance of errors.
Cybersecurity was and continues to be a key area of attention. Unfortunately, throughout the world there are more and more harmful attacks on computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks and data. IT security consequently is an important area of attention. There is a constant focus on various security aspects, including anti-virus solutions, screening of incoming e-mail, and monitoring wide area network traffic. In addition, employee awareness is an important component in reducing risks.
An important project in 2020 is the integration of the former Benteler Distribution companies into the Van Leeuwen network. All branches will be migrated and brought up to the Van Leeuwen standard. This IT integration within Van Leeuwen lays the basis for further cooperation within Europe and beyond.
To be able to further expand the services we provide to customers, Van Leeuwen is continuously developing its global network of stock locations, and service and treatment centers. We continuously invest in plant and machinery in support of our value added services. The optimization of stock management systems, customized services and logistics concepts helps us reach our customers faster and with a broader and better product portfolio.
To be able to effectively track developments relating to digitization and Industry 4.0 and to apply these to our logistics processes, we created a team of experts in the areas of operations research, logistics and digitization. This team is constantly busy identifying new possibilities and how these can be integrated into our operations.
A new logistics facility was commissioned at Van Leeuwen Zwijndrecht, the Netherlands, which makes the handling of incoming and outgoing flows far more efficient. A next step is to invest in the further optimization and automation of order processing.
To create space for expanding our product portfolio, as well as increase our dedicated customer inventories, warehouse space is being expanded at various locations throughout the world. An additional 2,000 m2 warehouse was constructed in Sydney, Australia. This new facility will enable us to significantly expand our fittings and flanges product range. With this facility we will have warehouses in all five major cities in Australia, with a strong hub in Sydney.
Quality, safety and sustainability
Our customers are confronted with increasingly stricter requirements relating to quality, safety and sustainability. These are areas to which Van Leeuwen devotes constant attention. 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 the ISO standards for many years.
Benteler Distribution also uses an extensive, professional quality management system. In 2019, the ISO 9001:2015 recertification was successfully completed for 38 branches. In 2020, the ISO 9001:2015 certificates will first be migrated to a single certifying organization (LRQA). The two systems will then be integrated and combined into a single system based on the best practices of the two separate systems. The expansion to include the IATF certification, the quality standard for the automotive sector, in Slovakia demonstrates that the quality management system is adjusted to match the customer’s needs.
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. To bring training and knowledge to an even higher level, an e-learning pilot was started that is now being rolled out in the first branches. 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 are also focusing on our environment. Following the acquisition of Benteler Distribution, we now have ten branches that are ISO 14001 certified. In 2020, with this environmental management standard within our company, we investigate how to further roll out this standard to other branches. We are also working on measures for our daily processes to reduce our impact on the environment. This involves measures such as minimizing the number of kilometers driven, investing in sustainable equipment and reducing energy consumption.
We devote a great deal of attention to complying with the increasingly wide-ranging domestic and international regulations. Compliance is a high priority for Van Leeuwen. Laws and regulations, such as competition law, privacy legislation, international sanctions, and import and other constraining measures: all applicable regulations are closely monitored, evaluated and applied within the organization. Internal procedures, training and auditing are key areas for attention in this respect.
Our Code of Conduct clearly sets out our principles relating to the attitude and behavior of our employees. This information is provided and explained to each employee on joining the company. In November 2019, a renewed version of the Code of Conduct was introduced at Van Leeuwen. This Code was also made available to and brought to the attention of new Benteler Distribution colleagues via the intranet. Last year, no code of conduct incidents were reported to the Code of Conduct Compliance Committee.
Van Leeuwen’s strategy is focused on expanding and improving its market position in various market segments and countries through acquisitions and autonomous growth. The addition of Benteler Distribution to the Van Leeuwen Pipe and Tube Group strengthens Van Leeuwen’s distribution network in Europe with a broader product range and a larger offer of value added services and treatments for customers. The integration of Van Leeuwen and Benteler Distribution facilitates the further development of innovative solutions for customers, such as optimized and specialized stocks close to the customer, investments in IT supported customer interfaces and effective distribution solutions.
Over the coming years our attention will be focused on innovative solutions for our customers and on storage, distribution and logistics. In addition to the further optimization of our handling systems in our warehouses and production facilities, our attention especially will focus on the ease of doing business with Van Leeuwen. Key in this respect is the integration of our systems with the systems of our customers and suppliers, for example through the further application of EDI. Optimizing the connection and cooperation among different branches in our network is a focal point in this regard. A strong and integrated network offers our customers even greater proximity and a broader package of products and services.
Comprehensive solutions, including custom treatments according to the customer's wishes, are expected to play an important role in the industry market. In the energy market, our globally operating acquisition and implementation teams are an important means of offering customers our extensive knowledge of procurement, project management, project storage and treatments.