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Welkoop is a garden and retail animal organization with 149 retail outlets, a webshop, and some 1,500 employees. The organization initially served an agricultural customer base but now deals primarily with consumers. The head office and franchisees’ distribution center is in Ede in the Netherlands. It also houses the IT department responsible for all branches and the webshop. Welkoop has worked closely alongside FlowFabric/Mansystems for years to automate its promotional process. This unique collaboration led to the development of the FlowFabric/Mansystems Promotion Manager in 2011.
Optimizing brochure process
Carel van Rijsewijk, Manager ICT at Welkoop, first encountered the founders of FlowFabric Kjeld Cornelissen and René Tusveld back in 2010. At the time, Welkoop needed to optimize its brochure process. Van Rijsewijk: “FlowFabric/Mansystems had just begun as a Mendix partner, and we got in touch through mutual contacts. Our brochure process wasn’t running optimally, partly because it involved many disciplines and partly because the data needed wasn’t available centrally. It was also a manual process, making it error-prone. A workflow had to be created, and enough data had to be available to produce a good-quality brochure.
“Because I foresaw a future in development based on low code, the challenge I set for FlowFabric/Mansystems was to solve our problem within two months. This produced the first version of the Promotion Manager! We developed that application together based on FlowFabric/Mansystems’s application expertise and our business knowledge. It’s great to see how this has helped other retail organizations in recent years.”
“We keep each other on our toes. FlowFabric/Mansystems showed right from the start of our collaboration that they could achieve this transition, which created immediate trust. Now FlowFabric/Mansystems has also built lots of retail market knowledge, from which we also benefit.”
Optimizing and automating - Scope for innovation
FlowFabric/Mansystems and Welkoop are still working together several years on. Welkoop’s IT department has seven staff, focusing mainly on functional management, translating business to IT, and design and direction for the partners. “We began the change from operational to tactical and strategic in 2006,” notes Van Rijsewijk. “Internally, our main focus is on optimizing the business, so that we’ve outsourced the operational work as much as possible. So managing Promotion Manager resides entirely with FlowFabric/Mansystems. We’re currently working on a major project which will let IT provide better support for our business processes, with the first step being the phased implementation of a new ERP system. All processes will steadily be optimized and automated in this project, from purchase to sales in the stores. This also means that in our preparations, we want to switch to the latest version of Promotion Manager, so that once again it will connect seamlessly to the new ERP system and the business processes.”
Insight into promotional data
Minor changes to Promotion Manager have been implemented regularly over recent years in response to business requests, with someone from FlowFabric/Mansystems on hand in the Welkoop head office every month. Explains Hanno van Harn, Project Manager IT at Welkoop: “We regard it as an important part of the collaboration that we develop side by side. We see each project as a common goal and a team effort. And that’s how it was when implementing the new Promotion Manager. The promotion process involves many departments, from marketing to category management and promotion managers. We automated as many communication systems as possible to reduce any susceptibility to errors even further. Promotions now proceed automatically from Promotion Manager to the ERP system, the cash-register system, and the webshop. The Demand Planning department also works from Promotion Manager, to ensure that the right products are in the store at the right time.”
“Another improvement we achieved is an insight into the promotional data. With all data now centralized, it’s easier for us to assess better what we need to do in the future based on past results. Clear visuals help us to gain this insight.” Alongside centralizing the data, Welkoop now also has a digital marketing calendar. “From planning through to the result, the entire process is now centrally transparent,” notes Van Harn.
“Finally, supplier management is also automated. No more arrangements in Excel or manual invoicing; everything is recorded centrally in Promotion Manager.”
“What lies behind the success of the collaboration is that we can convert the needs of the business into attractive IT solutions, based on our combined knowledge,” says Van Rijsewijk. “We keep each other on our toes. FlowFabric/Mansystems showed right from the start of our collaboration that they could achieve this transition, which created immediate trust. Now FlowFabric/Mansystems has also built lots of retail market knowledge, from which we also benefit. The Mendix developers are also highly skilled; we don’t have this expertise in-house. You can’t hang back in a partnership as a customer; it does require a team effort to achieve success. FlowFabric/Mansystems shares our vision, resulting in a successful and sustainable partnership.”