After an intensive period of implementations, it was time for IJssel Technologie & Elfsquad to put their heads together to discuss the next steps, and to reflect on their collaboration. During which the enthusiasm about the configurator was confirmed once more. We sat down with Annemiek Gerritsen (Head Engineering) and Paul Kok (Sr. Business Development Manager).
The configurator reinforces our competitive position, and our customers are experiencing the same problems during the pre-production process. We see a future for our customers in the configurator. Because profits for manufacturing businesses are often reduced by the costs of spillage. By eliminating every possible error in the pre-production process, you are able to regain a big portion of this profit.
With a vast amount of 500 employees from 8 different locations, all of IJssel’s business activities are rolled out towards different industries, leading IJssel to be active in both the food- and processing industry. However, its roots lie in the production industry, where the goal of making production businesses more competitive originated. IJssel, loosely translated from the Latin word Isla, represents “flow”. And flow is exactly that which describes IJssel’s main distinguishing trait. IJssel specializes in everything to do with process optimization. Where the focus lies on reducing waste, the search for trustworthy processes, and stimulating people to a reach a visible outcome. That is not all: the term ‘technology’ has not acquired a place in IJssel Technologie’s business name for naught: “We consider technology to be the bridge between engineering and craftsmanship, and a managerial goal.”, Paul Kok clarifies.
IJssel’s business activities take place on three fronts, each of which have to do with reinforcing its customers’ competitive advantage: product optimization, maintenance optimization, and optimization of knowledge for both employees and employers. On this front, IJssel visibly distinguishes itself from its competitors. IJssel provides an integrated approach to optimizing business processes for moving towards Smart Industries, but does not cold-shoulder the inseparable human aspect of this process. And according to Paul Kok, this is absolutely necessary: “Our customers feel the pressure of Smart Industries, and because of this they often long for more customization. This pressure may lead to suboptimal choices, due to lack of expertise. By sharing our insights and knowledge with customers’ employees, this pressure can be turned into a drive instead.” By sharing the same notions and vision of the future, this drive creates a good fit between IJssel and its customers. Based on the so-called ‘IJssel model’, IJssel has created a standard approach to realizing innovation towards Smart Industries: “We do not only look at the big picture, but zoom in on the customer’s specific case and consequently search for the best approach according to the IJssel model. This model gives form to an integrated approach for all of the customer’s future business processes. It is an endless process of standardization, optimization, and innovation, and helps our customers adjust to all of the developments in the industry.”, Kok comments.1,3mln
The collaboration of IJssel and Elfsquad proves that even for the pioneers of digitalization, there is still room for improvement within the pre-production process. At first, IJssel saw possibilities to optimize its own pre-production process of reaction arms, which are produced in Zwolle, among other places. Kok: “Passion for improvement is absolutely present within IJssel, but optimization on the sales side of things has been neglected for a while. In Elfsquad, we saw an opportunity to optimize our own sales processes.”
The complexity of reaction arms is enormous: What type of rail is the best choice? What is the distance between the traverse and the heart of the line? What type of tooling should be delivered with it? How should the reaction arm be positioned? And that is just the tip of the iceberg. On top of that is the fact that IJssel also provides a matching maintenance contract. When summing up all these possibilities, it is very clear that it is nigh impossible to keep up with the necessary product knowledge: just one reaction arm has approximately 1,3 million different compositions. All in all it is a massive task to quickly create an invoice and at the same time deliver quickly, with as little dissipation as possible.
Second of all, it is not just IJssel’s internal processes where Elfsquad is going to have a role: “The configurator not only enhances our competitive position, our customers are also experiencing problems in the pre-production process. As such, we envision a future on this front as well. The reason being that there is often an opportunity to acquire a better margin by cutting wastage costs. By eliminating every possible error in pre-production, a bigger portion of this margin will be attained.”
Every reaction arm is custom-made, as every production hall needs ever so slightly different applications and proportions. Additionally, invoices will be rolled out much quicker, resulting in a smoother and errorless succession of the reaction arms’ production process. This is mostly noticed in the shift of focus for the engineers, who are still involved in IJssel’s pre-production process. Elfsquad allows IJssel to take the modular part of their product away from the engineers, giving them more room to work on other tasks. By integrating Elfsquad with the Autodesk Inventor, big steps are made. Parametric CAD models make for errorless CAD schematics, in other words: errorless production orders. Gerritsen: “The engineers’ focus shifts from realising compositions to more Research & Development. Which is one of the most important aspects in our branch, because if we get behind in R&D, so will our customers.”
The implementation of the configurator forces both us and our customers to take a critical look at product structures, and these are often more modular than thought. Which in turn leads to standardisation of product range.
The benefits for production are clear; eliminating production errors and a drastic reduction of waste. And the commerce aspect too, is taking big steps forward. Guided selling not only assists the salesmen, but is also a great tool for customers themselves: “Anyone can use this tool, because both the salesmen’s and the engineers’ knowledge are integrated into it. Customer wishes and specifications of the production location are easily summarized, and more time is made available to focus on customization, should a standard solution not suffice.”, says Gerritsen. Besides, utilizing a configurator contributes to enhancing IJssel’s cooperation with its customers: “We will always keep customer intimacy in mind, because successful cooperation is not temporary, it should last. When we are able to demonstrate every possibility to our customer, using convincing software, we are letting them know that the best decisions are being made, and that we will continue to do so.”
Internal usage of the configurator to compose reaction arms motivates IJssel to roll out the configurator to both existing and new customers: “The things our customers run into; pressure of delivery times, maintenance, customer-specific production, it all comes down to standardisation. Standardisation of sales, to standardisation of maintenance. Without standardisation it becomes impossible to eventually start innovating.” And Elfsquad aligns with this perfectly: “The implementation of the configurator forces both us and our customers to take a critical look at product structures, and these are often more modular than thought. Which in turn leads to standardisation of product range.
Production companies should be included in the shift towards the inevitable Smart Industries, Paul Kok agrees: “Smart Industries are often a topic of conversation, but often businesses do not know where to begin. Which is why we deliver a full-service package, of not only Smart Production and Smart Maintenance, but also the knowledge aspect of the employees. The reasoning being that even when provided with the correct tools, growth will still be hindered if they do not know how to make the correct decisions.” But IJssel too, is now fortified by the collaboration with Elfsquad: “Elfsquad offers us the tools that combine the knowledge of engineering and sales, and works as a catalyst in our pre-production process.”