Sweet Temptations

Production at Chocolagendijk Popular promotional items made of chocolate

Traditional craftsmanship combined with modern technology has brought Chocolagendijk to the forefront of the promotional gifts trade. The Dutch company even intends to conquer the Belgian market with its chocolate confections – a rather ambitious objective, given the reputation of the Belgian bonbon makers. But Chocolagendijk is not afraid to push frontiers, because it holds two winning cards: the idea of personal, original promotional gifts and chocolate advertising, and a streamlined administrative-logistic organization. Since November 2007, the company has relied on the flexible ERP support of SAP Business One.

Too big for its shoes

Joop Lagendijk, having gained years of experience in a chocolate factory, established Chocolagendijk in 1994. With personal “choco-communication” – promotional products like chocolate company logos – he wanted to bridge a gap in the market. Chocolagendijk has definitely lived up to these expectations. Having started in a basement with one employee, the company has grown to ten employees and moved to a brand-new building in Oud-Gastel along the motorway to Belgium.

“We are growing too big for our shoes, so in 2007 we started looking for an ERP solution that could meet our ambitious growth plans,” says commercial director Jozua Lagendijk, the son of the founder. Previously, the company used homegrown Excel sheets and a lot of paper for its business processes. “Almost all the critical business information was stored inside the heads of our staff,” he explains. After visiting a customer, he passed the order on paper to the colleagues responsible for production. From that moment, he couldn’t monitor the progress of orders.

“Besides, we would have run great risks in case something would happen to people responsible for the ordering processes. What’s more, it was very tiring for them, because they had to personally keep an eye on all the business processes,” he adds.

Using the “Rolls-Royce of ERP Systems” – no question of costs

„Chocolate greetings“

Lagendijk, who has been working in the IT industry for years, started searching for suitable software to meet the demands of the company: an automated workflow, integration of business processes, and financial overview. On the Internet he discovered that SAP offers ERP solutions for small and midsize businesses and made an appointment with SAP implementation partner Asecom.

He also invited two competitors for a presentation of their respective solutions. “Halfway through the first presentation I decided I had seen enough, because the first competitor only covered the financial administration, while we were looking for much more functionality. The second solution had too many screens and was preconfigured up to 99 percent, whereas I wanted loose components, in order to have the flexibility to set up the system according to our own needs, together with our IT-partner.”

Although it looked like a quick win for SAP and its SME solution SAP Business One, Lagendijk first had to put aside his prejudices. “Initially, I thought that SAP would be far too expensive for us. After all, it’s the Rolls-Royce of ERP systems. But in terms of costs there was hardly any difference between the offers. So we didn’t have to leave it as a test-drive with that Rolls-Royce – we were actually in a position to buy one.”

Company-wide automated workflows

After the short, trouble-free implementation, the solution went live in November 2007. And Lagendijk is still as delighted as little Charlie walking through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in Roald Dahl’s children’s book: “Everything that used to be in the heads of our employees has now been incorporated in SAP Business One, in a structured way.”

The new solution integrates and streamlines stock control, purchasing, financial reports, information flows from and to the sales and production departments, tenders and contracts in PDF format. “It felt great when the first order went through the whole organization using the automated workflow and was delivered in impeccable condition,” Lagendijk remembers.

Also, Chocolagendijk can introduce new products quickly and integrate them in the company-wide workflow during the slow season. This substantially reduces periods of inactivity for the machinery. An example of a successful product introduction has been “a spoonful of chocolate,” a wooden stick with a piece of chocolate that is transformed to a cup of hot chocolate after stirring it in hot milk.

Another example of increased efficiency is the automated mail-reminder process. In the old days, the company often had to send e-mail reminders manually to customers because they needed their logo, Lagendijk explains. Today, Chocolagendijk checks this feature in the system, which will send an automated mail to the customer at a specified point prior to production. “To me, one of the highlights was when a customer called me to say that he had received enough e-mail reminders, and that he would really send us the logo now.”

The recipe for expansion

Chocolagendijk has never been concerned about the return on investment. The company invested in SAP to be able to do more work with the same number of people, without overloading them. “In November and December we do 40 to 50 percent of our annual business. During that sales peak, the new system took a lot of work off our hands. During the stressful Christmas period, we were able to increase our turnover substantially without a delay in our invoicing processes.” Furthermore, the company reduced mistakes in the ordering process by eliminating most manual activities.

No wonder Jozua Lagendijk is looking at the future with great confidence. “We intend to open sales offices in Belgium, Germany, and England. SAP offers multilingual support, so I expect the implementation of the system in foreign countries to be smooth. The multilingualism is beneficial in the factory, too, because our employees come from different countries and speak many languages.”

Another advantage for Lagendijk is the flexibility of the new business software. “It’s much like a Lego set, from which you use only the parts you need. All those possibilities, plus the fact that the critical business knowledge is no longer owned by only a few members of the staff, make me feel that Chocolagendijk’s future is secure.”