"We've grown by 15 percent over the last seven years - while keeping the number of employees steady. It is Dynamics 365 and Cosmo Consult that are responsible for our continuing productivity gains."
Olaf Schneider, Managing Director of Hans-Joachim Schneider GmbH
Hans-Joachim Schneider GmbH from Blankenfelde-Mahlow is actually a family business from Berlin. It was not until after the fall of the Berlin wall, when things started getting tight for medium-sized commercial enterprises in the capital city itself, that the company moved into Berlin’s affluent suburbs. The one thing the expanding wholesale business for dry-cleaners and laundries need above all else was this: space. Since the move, the number of items it sells has grown from 1,800 to more than 35,000. Almost its entire revenue of 8.5 million euros is generated in the mail order business by its approximately 50 employees. In-store sales are the exception. The focal point of the sales strategy is mailings, which are mostly delivered via the postal service. Each month, employees send out around 11,000 pieces of mail on their own. "Because of the changing of the guard in terms of generations, internet business is growing, but most customers still order by fax or telephone," emphasizes Managing Director Olaf Schneider.
Every day, the company delivers between 600 and 800 packages. Its customer file includes about 9,500 entries from 67 countries, of which about 7,000 order regularly. After Germany, the most important sales markets are France, Russia, and the Netherlands. The amount of exports is around 45 percent. An important factor for the company’s economic success is its constant readiness to deliver. Accordingly, it carries extensive stock: In addition to a very tall paternoster, a vertical carousel elevator, for small items, the warehouse has around 1,300 linear meters of shelving and 1,800 spaces for pallets. If they still encounter difficulties, they sometimes resort to unorthodox methods: Because there where sometimes temporary delivery problems with wire hangers, the disposable hangers on which cleaning companies deliver their clothes, the Hans-Joachim Schneider GmbH now produces part of what it requires on its own. What guarantees fast delivery for the customers is an efficient storage and dispatch system, in which the enterprise software Microsoft Dynamics 365 (formerly Dynamics NAV) plays a large role.
The wholesaler has been using the ERP system since the turn of the century, and since 2006 it has done so in close cooperation with the Cosmo Consult Group, Europe's leading Microsoft Dynamics partner. Currently, 27 workstations are in use at the two locations in Blankenfelde-Mahlow and Osnabrück. "We were looking for a partner that was at our level to implement new ideas and meet new requirements in areas such as the DATEV interface and payment transactions. After we issued a call for tenders, we settled on Cosmo Consult - and have been continuing to develop our Dynamics 365 solution together with them since then," says the company’s leader Schneider. Just recently, the wholesaler migrated to the latest version of the program. "On the one hand, we had to adapt to changes in legislation and, on the other, we wanted to make use of the opportunity to revamp the entire IT infrastructure," explains Schneider. Because Dynamics 365 is constantly being updated, the migration helped reduce the number of individual solutions and made more use of the program standard. This will simplify future updates.
One focus of the project was system integration. With the integration solution cc|data integration suite, the project team was able to link the enterprise software with the OXID web shop. The company’s online assortment now includes 7,000 items - and that number is rising. The two systems exchange data bidirectionally. Incoming orders land directly in the inbox of Dynamics 365. It therefore does not take much more than a quick check by the sales staff to process the order. Invoice and shipping documents are created by the ERP system on the basis of the transmitted data itself. In the opposite direction, changes in inventory, new articles, articles that have been changed, and text modules appear directly in the online shop. Customers ordering online benefit from the same price scales and quantity discounts.
Further improvements were made in logistics. Today, employees are shown which orders need to be processed. Label printers and hand-held scanners ensure efficiency in order picking and shipping. For example, the paternoster is controlled by a barcode printed on the picking list: It goes exactly to the box with the required item. "You just have to reach in and get it," says Schneider. Control mechanisms make sure that the contents of the package match the order. The software electronically notifies the respective shipping service provider of packed consignments when they are ready via the Comsol MultiShip add-on module. Another advantage is the improved communication with Microsoft Office: Today, it takes just the press of a button to email business documents from Dynamics 365 via Microsoft Outlook.
The migration to the latest program version was accomplished within the planned time frame. At the same time, the project team remained below budgeted costs. Today, Schneider GmbH benefits from significantly faster processes in key areas. "We've grown by 15 percent over the last seven years - while keeping the number of employees steady. It is Dynamics 365 and Cosmo Consult that are responsible for our continuing productivity gains,” says the managing director. For him, however, something else is the most important thing: The flexibility and technical openness of the enterprise software. "We work with different business models. Our target groups include both retailers and end customers. With Dynamics 365 we can handle both cases in one system," he adds.
The company is using the extended technical possibilities for targeted system expansion. For example, in the future shipping cartons will be manufactured individually for each consignment. To accomplish this, the storage space required is recorded in the article data, then added up and converted to optimal package sizes. "This way, we can pick directly into the box. The intermediate step at the shipping station has been eliminated," explains Olaf Schneider. Currently, the company is introducing order suggestions, which are determined on the basis of a customer’s dynamically determined average consumption of goods. Dynamics 365 is already diligently gathering data to provide employees with precise suggestions in live operations later. The software cc|workflow, which can automate workflows in Dynamics 365 to a large extent, has already been licensed, but is not yet in use.