The product may look like a solid gray mass, but Lars Wiking knows the concrete industry is a veritable kaleidoscope of materials and relationships. Wiking is IT manager for Färdig Betong, Sweden’s leading concrete supplier, with headquarters in Gothenburg and sales heading toward the billion kronor mark.
Färdig Betong partnered with Omnilog to develop an unrivalled business solution for managing complex business conditions within the concrete industry.
The BUSINESS SYSTEM IS THE BACKBONE
Färdig Betong wanted to run its business from the marketing department, which needed to have central information—but concrete is always mixed locally at batch plants near the customer. Jeeves ERP became the backbone of the new system that takes care of customer information and configuration. The system enables Färdig Betong to deliver the right kind of concrete, in the right amount, at the right place and time from any of almost 40 batch plants the company runs throughout Sweden.
CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT MADE EASY
“Customer management is critical, simply because we have so many customers,” said Wiking. ”We assure customer-database quality by retrieving most data from Upplysningscentralen (UC), a business and credit information agency. We can quickly register new customers and maintain high database quality.” Naturally, credit ratings are also checked when customers order concrete from Färdig Betong. If the credit check gives reason for caution with a new customer, the system indicates procedures that should be followed. This is done centrally within Jeeves ERP. Later, when an order is going to be mixed out at one of the batch plants, the customer’s credit rating is automatically checked against the central database, which guarantees that no orders are filled for customers who cannot pay.
Like the entire construction sector, the concrete industry is highly decentralized, with many suppliers. Why? Because buildings are constructed where they are needed, not in permanent factories. By necessity, every new construction project involves a new combination of suppliers, individuals, and customers. Demands for availability are very high. Shipments of concrete to a major bridge construction project, for example, cannot be interrupted because the system is down or communications between batch plants and the central system were interrupted.
MEETING REGULATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS
A new EU directive also requires traceability of shipments to the batch plant that mixed a particular batch and that the company can certify exactly which concrete mix was used. ”Our system has given us the capacity to meet all these requirements, even when the workload is as high as one concrete load every three minutes,” said Wiking. ”We can mix a full load in 90 seconds, and the concrete mix can be varied according to hundreds of formulas.”
The new system has rapidly become a key competitive factor for Färdig Betong, which has been using Jeeves ERP since 1997. According to Wiking, Jeeves ERP and its complementary IT solutions are major components in Färdig Betong’s highly efficient business processes. The company is running a vigorously growing business that has gone from annual sales of about 250 million SEK to nearly four times that in less than 10 years, with no increase in administrative staff. Färdig Betong has also successfully cut the administrative cost for a cubic meter of concrete by 16 SEK, equal to a lower cost of two absolute percent in relation to the average composition of the concrete.
UPGRADING AND DECISION SUPPORT
“With Omnilog, we have spent between 8 to 10 years developing this solution,” Wiking said. ”We get constant validation that Jeeves ERP is stable, flexible, and developable. Integrating external modules with Jeeves ERP is never a problem due to the open architecture. The heart of the system is actually a message broker that coordinates information between Jeeves ERP’s central databases and the local systems. And the simplicity of upgrades enabled by the Jeeves architecture is an incredible asset. We’ve upgraded the systems six times and have rarely had to spend more than 30 hours on an upgrade.”
Wiking also regards Jeeves as a vital management tool: “Executive management makes decisions based on information in Jeeves ERP. We can rapidly generate reports and identify opportunities and bottlenecks. Our focus right now is on streamlining administration and improving customer database management and production control, but I believe the decision support we get from Jeeves ERP is going to be even more useful.”
Färdig Betong also plans to make its system the hub of an international expansion. The company is already part of the Swedish Thomas Concrete Group AB, with subsidiaries in Germany, Poland, and the US. Altogether, there are about 300 batch plants that generate a combined annual sales of about 3.5 billion SEK. ”We essentially have a custom-made system now,” said Wiking. ”Can it get any better?”