Vredo Dodewaard Ltd. is a perfect example of how a typical Dutch manufacturing business can be successful internationally. Vredo is known for producing self-propelled manure carts, slurry injectors, and overseeders. The MestTracs find a ready market in all of Europe, and the slurry injectors as well as the overseeders are popular not only in Europe, but worldwide. As a result, Vredo manages to supply a staggering 36 countries, all from their base of operations in Dodewaard.
Elfsquad turned out to be the solution, because it contains a knowledge set which practically holds the user’s hand when answering the question of what exactly is needed to fulfill customers’ wishes, and with that explains all of its different options in an infinite amount of languages.
Vredo’s first overseeder was made in the summer of 1976. This was such an extraordinarily dry summer that grassland withered and recovery seemed nigh impossible because of the rock-hard land. Contract worker Ben de Vree from Dodewaard designed the first sowing machine in the world that put seeds into the ground, rather than onto the ground: this was the birth of the world’s first overseeder. “This did not go unnoticed,” says Bouter: when other contract workers showed interest in such a machine, the names De Vree and Dodewaard were forever intertwined, through their new business name: Vredo. “Overseeders are still one of the company’s core activities, and not only for the agricultural sector. The green sector has become extremely important to us.” Anyone who regularly watches a Wimbledon match, or a soccer game in stadiums like Bayern München’s, Ajax’s, or Real Madrid’s, has got to have seen their beautiful grass mats. All of these are made possible by Vredo overseeders.
But that is not all: towards the end of the ‘80s, the Ministry of Agriculture asked for injecting of manure. Vredo managed to put the same techniques to use for a new phenomenon: slurry injectors. Bouter: “By doing this, the loss of nitrogen has been reduced by no less than 70%.” By producing slurry injectors, fertilizer technology became a new market for Vredo. Their product range was made complete when Vredo started producing self-propelled manure carts in 1994. This product became reality because the agricultural market was looking for higher capacity and lower ground pressure during the process of fertilizing ground. These manure carts make for a spectacular view: when driving through the European countryside you could very well run into the gigantic Vredo Trac VT7028. A machine with absurd dimensions, like a length of 11 metres, a volume of 32 cb, and a nearly 700-horsepower engine. A machine which in the sales process is assembled by Elfsquad’s configurator.
Vredo is already market leader in overseeders, and strives to achieve this position for mest techniques as well. Vredo notices a lot of demand for its products, but is forced to halt this growth: “It is very tempting to seize every opportunity in the market, but we need to be careful not to grow too quickly. Our good name is the result of both the reliability of our machinery and our organisation and network of dealers. If we do not give these factors time to grow, it will have a negative impact on our trustworthiness.”
For this very reason stable and healthy growth will be paramount for the coming years: Vredo puts a lot of effort in optimising internal processes, and organising its sales channel. “We make very complex machines. This means we have to rely on a lot of knowledge from our salesmen to correctly configure said machines. Moreover, because of the growth of our dealer network we are subject to “new” people, who have never worked with our machinery before. We have always put a lot of time and energy in training people as complexity increases, but we are noticing we need something smarter.”
We searched for a solution in a configurator. A package was chosen, and tried out. “However, this actually fell short somewhat. The configurator was admittedly harmoniously connected to our ERP, but actually turned out to have little added value to our sales process.” Through ticking and unticking boxes a product could be composed without error, but the salesman was not exactly guided in this process. “Additionally, this configurator was not at all visually oriented, and we were looking for a solution that works with images and CAD-drawings.”
Then we got wind of Elfsquad. Elfsquad and Vredo’s visions were very similar: “Elfsquad turned out to be the solution, because it contains a knowledge set which practically holds the user’s hand when answering the question of what exactly is needed to fulfill customers’ wishes, and with that explains all of its different options in an infinite amount of languages.” In the past some options might not sell often because dealers and/or customers would not understand them fully. In Elfsquad options are guided by text as well as illustrations. Another big benefit was the possibility to upload our existing illustrations from Inventor to the 3D configurator, without tedious extra steps.
Vredo’s wishes all center around optimisation of internal processes as well as their sales channel. Elfsquad’s configurator is the link between sales and production and this pays off for both of these factors. “For us, the biggest pro of the configurator is the clean-order intake.” Orders handled by Elfsquad are not only delivered complete and without error, but also require fewer revisions afterwards because the seller and buyer are handily assisted and guided by the configurator throughout the process. All of the options are specified through clear illustrations, videos, and/or thoroughly descriptive texts. In the past it might occur that when an order was already placed, changes needed to be made because the functions of certain options only were fully understood in hindsight. By already making this clear during the selling process, the production is made much more relaxed.
All options are shown throughout the assembly. Our salesmen simply go through the list of options: this option does this, this option does that.
Our users are very enthusiastic. Where salesmen previously had to go through everything on paper to create an errorless quotation, the configurator now works its magic. By making this process shorter, more time can be made for what is most important: the customer. “All options are shown throughout the assembly. Our salesmen simply go through the list of options: this option does this, this option does that.” At first this was simply too difficult in practice, and you would notice its importance is only secondary. The sales pitch becomes a lot more convincing when you can visually present the customer with every option and product benefit, with a clear summary. This leads to more orders in options, overall.”
Bouter: “What surprised us the most is that we are able to explain such complex machines in such an accessible way.” Another surprise was found when designing and maintaining the configurator. “We went on board with Elfsquad in an early stadium, and the configurator was still being developed then. Because of this, we had a big influence on its development and consequently were able to contribute to Elfsquad with our field experience; if we were of the opinion that a certain function would not be beneficial, it would be immediately processed in the next iteration of the configurator.” According to Bouter this has resulted in an incredibly user-friendly, interactive sales tool. The design and maintenance of the product configurator is handled by Vredo’s own product manager, who manage to flawlessly operate the configurator, even without previous IT-experience.
We knew our own processes, and had already drawn up our product structures completely, which helped a lot with smoothly adding the structures to the configurator. This saved us a lot of time; when we ran the synchronization with Ridder iQ for the first time, we managed to immediately transfer all of our existing commercial texts and images to the configurator!
Vredo’s project group had already done a lot of preparatory work before they chose for Elfsquad. Because of this, Vredo knew exactly what they did and did not look for in a configurator. Additionally, illustrations and descriptions of all of our products were already available in four languages in the ERP system. Because of these preparations, everything could be implemented rather quickly: “We knew our own processes, and had already drawn up our product structures completely, which helped a lot with smoothly adding the structures to the configurator. This saved us a lot of time; when we ran the synchronization with Ridder iQ for the first time, we managed to immediately transfer all of our existing commercial texts and images to the configurator!”