He tries to standardise processes and components as much as possible while remaining room for customisation.
“An important spearhead of our strategy is that we are close to our customers, we know and speak their language and culture. Starting with providing service to existing customers in that area. We then expand the sales capacity so that we can continue to grow in a region or country. With time we add, for example, an engineer or project leader, so that we carry out projects more and more locally. That's how we do it in China, where we opened a branch in 2019, but also at our office in Belgium.
For me, the trick is to find the balance between standardising our products or processes on the one hand and meeting the unique needs of customers in a particular region. By standardisation, we can use our vast knowledge and expertise worldwide. However, we always adapt the service to the wishes of the customer; we can deliver the right quality over and over again. That's a particular tension.”
Using knowledge of cultivation systems worldwide
The Codema branches in Venlo and Bergschenhoek are the knowledge hubs of the organisation. There are decades of experience with the various disciplines that are at the basis of critical cultivation systems. Venlo has the most substantial part of specialist knowledge in the field of water management, electrical engineering and lighting. In Bergschenhoek experts of logistics, software and construction are located. The project leaders of both sites are happy to use each other's expertise in projects.
“In recent years, we have adapted our working methods accordingly. Where previously each branch took its own approach, we are now drawing this equally over all branches to uniform practices. This means we are constantly exchanging ‘best practices’ so that our way of working is the same everywhere. In this way, we use our specialists more flexibly, regardless of the location of the project. This is ideal for both our people as the customer. We are currently setting out new processes and making the transition to the use of a single central ERP and financial system."
'Configure To Order' cultivation system enables customisation
“A customer-specific solution is tailored to their preferences and cultivation. That seems to be a contradiction, standardised processes and customisation, but fortunately, it is not. In the design phase, we work on a modular design, so that from a standardised basis, we build exactly the system that the customer needs. This 'Configure To Order’ system makes us deliver customised solutions, but all parts are produced cost-efficiently. That’s what the customer sees at the end of the line.”
“It all sounds very technical, but my primary role is that of a connector. To uniform processes or to arrive at modular solutions, we need to bring our specialists together. They have the knowledge to determine which process leads to the best result.
The first time we brought people from different locations and disciplines together was a unique experience for them. A water management specialist and an electro technician suddenly determine how they were going to work on a project together and which route they were going to take on this. Fortunately, they quickly found out that they want the same: the best results for the customer. As a result, they promptly came up with the solutions we are looking for. My role is to encourage and support our managers in breaking stalemates and to keep the pace high.”
Cross-pollination leads to best practices
“The openness and willingness of our people to change makes me proud. We have recently attracted many people who do not come from the horticultural sector, but rather from completely different sectors. They ask good questions or come up with completely different solutions that our specialists are not used to. That doesn't detract from a 'that's how it works'; on the contrary, everyone is open to new ideas.
When we bring together the new influx with the people who have decades of horticultural experience, a very valuable cross-pollination is created that our customers will benefit from now and in the future.”