Project Description

Pulse supports innovation of a refrigeration specialist from Roermond

Asia prompts KOMA to invest in ERP

Koma_logo

KOMA’s refrigeration systems can be found in bakeries all over the world and the company is booking steady growth. As consumption of bread and bakery products is significantly rising, particularly in America and Asia, the time had come for more rigorous steps. One of these was asking Pulse Business Solutions to roll out the new ERP system: Dynamics AX by Microsoft.

The now deceased Leon Kuipers was not a man to resort to false modesty. “Our refrigeration systems are quite simply the best”, said the quality manager and MT member of the family-run business. “Since the company was founded more than 75 years ago, our goal has always been to leave our competitors standing. We owe our success to continual improvement of our systems. We profile ourselves as the Mercedes of cooling systems. No matter what your personal opinion is of the car, the brand is synonymous with quality and sustainability. Admittedly, it is also more expensive, but that makes it more economical in the long run.” The figures support Kuipers’ words. As well as the headquarters in Roermond, with an extensive R&D department and four production facilities, KOMA has branches and dealers throughout Europe, from Scandinavia to Spain, from Belgium to Russia. The company also has a presence in Japan, China, Singapore, Dubai, the USA, South America and Australia. Countries outside the Netherlands account for 99 percent of the company’s total annual turnover of tens of millions of euros. Around the world, the company employs more than 250 people. Founder M.H.M. Aarts started the company during a very difficult period, just before the outbreak of the World War II. Initially he developed and produced refrigeration systems for beer pumps. Following the liberation, the focus shifted to the baking industry. “A growing demand for dough refrigeration facilities soon emerged, so bakers could prepare dough in advance: these were proofer units, which inhibit the proofing process. That saved precious time during the night when staff had to be paid double time. In fact, it also signalled an international breakthrough, because in Germany the Labour Act imposed restrictions on working at night and suddenly every baker wanted a similar refrigeration unit. Our refrigeration unit, actually. Even back then we concentrated on delivering reliability and quality: extremely important values in Germany. And today still, Germany remains one of our most important export destinations.”

Pulse-Client-Koma

Sensitive

With a second generation Aarts behind the wheel, KOMA is a rock-solid company that enjoys annual growth; the only dip experienced by the company was back in 2007 when a devastating fire paralysed the company for three months. Innovation is the common theme running through the company’s history. “And focus”, Kuipers emphasised. “We have always focussed on bakeries. The refrigeration systems used by butchers are a totally different ball game. Bakery products are very sensitive. The balance of temperature, relative humidity and air during the storage and preservation process ultimately determines the quality of the bread or cake we put on our plates. Good refrigeration and preservation is an art so that is what we focus on. It has always been a rewarding challenge to be the first company to invent improvements and modifications. There were always one or two ‘crazy professors’ at the company with revolutionary ideas. We still have the same characters today, but now they work in R&D. Innovation has helped us become and remain pioneers in our field. It might not sound particularly spectacular now, but we were the first to introduce refrigeration with a timer. This new feature allowed bakers to decide when to heat the room and therefore when the dough would start proofing. So, when the working day started, the dough racks simply had to be pushed into the ovens. What a huge time saving!”

Configurator

Hot on the heels of the timer was the ‘analogue computer’ that controlled the system. This improved the air circulation and humidity level. This was followed by cabinets with various cooling and heating zones. “Refrigeration in all shapes and sizes, basically whatever the customers wanted”, Kuipers continued. “This was one of the reasons we started to consider a new ERP system. We wanted a configurator that customers could use to configure a specific refrigeration system. With or without any features and functionalities they wanted. The SAP system we were using at the time lacked that option in the form we required.” The second reason to modernise the IT environment was the international ambitions. “The world population is growing, and more people means higher consumption of bread; this is a clear trend, particularly in North and South America, the Middle East and even South Africa. Asia will follow, partly because water is becoming scarcer and traditional rice production requires lots of water. People have to adapt their eating habits and that means opportunities for us. We have a good reputation and the necessary capacity; it’s time to exploit those positives. That said, our previous IT environment was unable to cope, it was simply too complex and too slow. Speed of delivery is crucial in our sector. Microsoft Dynamics AX allows potential customers to ultimately compile their own refrigeration systems. We can quote faster and on approval the parts list is available immediately. This means we can order components on time, notify our suppliers earlier and streamline production and assembly. Design modifications are also easier to implement. And finally, the logistics process has improved. All these measures save time and more significantly, pave the way for further international growth. Some years ago we appointed a full-time export manager. He can now continue pioneering.”

“We wanted a configurator customers could use to configure their own refrigeration system.”

Pulse

In the end, KOMA chose Pulse Business Solutions from Venlo to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX. “According to Microsoft, they are the best. And I agree. We have collaborated for many years and we are more than satisfied. The team at Pulse understands and identifies with us, they know what we do here and make sure that it works. It’s never easy switching to a new ERP system, but the transition is almost complete and we are already feeling the benefits. It saves us money, but not in terms of FTE. We can easily accommodate future growth with the current staffing levels.” Music to the ears of a company that excels in innovation and invests heavily in R&D. The latest invention is a refrigeration system that cools using CO2 instead of the controversial freon. “In combination with a thermosiphon”, explains project manager Paul Giesen, who is very closely involved with the latest developments. “The air is circulated in a specific manner, ensuring optimal humidity and temperature and extracting less moisture from the dough for a better rise. This is essential for a good quality end product. This process is completely new and it can also be used in hot countries. Another plus offered by the system is considerably lower energy consumption and reduced CO2 emissions. It fulfils today’s important requirement for sustainable systems.”

Licence to produce

Leon Kuipers agrees. “This underlines our leadership in the sector. We have a trial set-up in our demo facility. The results are astounding both in terms of energy savings and dough quality. We might consider applying for a patent on the design, but that’s difficult to enforce internationally. I see it more as confirmation that we have the ability to, and indeed have to, constantly come up with new solutions. That is our licence to produce.”

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