Vander Zijpen

Vander Zijpen

Implementing an ERP package? Take your time.

Implementing an ERP package takes time. Especially if you want to activate all the functionality at the same time. Doing business with an ERP supplier who does not have your best interests at heart can be an awful experience. Vander Zijpen is one of the many companies that fell into this trap. With all the associated consequences. A few months after implementing their first ERP system, the fruit and vegetable wholesaler saw no other option than to start over from scratch. They chose “LISA” from Claerhout Computer Engineering. This company actually took the time to carry out the project properly. And the result is impressive. Not only did the start-up go smoothly. The ERP package is doing exactly what was expected of it. And much more to boot.

Gebouw met vrachtwagens

Michel Vander Zijpen is a man with ambition, courage and vision. When he took over his father’s fruit and vegetable shop in 1990, it was clear to him that he needed to spice things up a little. “Spending his days as a small trader was definitely not what Michel wanted for his future,” says CFO Chris Demey. “He wanted to do business in the truest sense of the word, and as quickly as possible. This is why he immediately took steps to turn the store into a wholesaler. He initially supplied the catering industry in Jette and the surrounding area, but he soon expanded his field of operations. Continuing to do business from his shop became infeasible. So, in 2000, Michel put everything on the line: he bought a 1,500 m² building next to the Veiling in Asse, and extended it by 2,000 m² in 2010 to support the rapid growth.”


This strategic move did no harm to Michel Vander Zijpen: he was soon supplying the catering industry nationwide. After a few years, he also got a foothold in the food service sector. In 2005, he founded a second company, Food Shakers, which focuses on the chopping of fruit and vegetables. “Michel has a nose for evolutions in the market, and the opportunities that open up as a result,” says Chris Demey. “And he has the courage to respond to these trends. For example, with Food Shakers, we now offer fruit salads and salad mixes according to the customer’s wishes, and we process them in an ultra-modern production unit. Our entire range focuses on ‘local’ products. The only things we import are things not available in Belgium; and then preferably from within Europe. We also promote ‘seasonal’ cooking. In other words, we consistently follow the idea of sustainability. Vander Zijpen was also one of the first wholesalers in our industry to immediately respond to Sodexo’s demand for platform delivery. This was the main reason we implemented an ERP package at the beginning of 2011.”


Michel Vander Zijpen’s vision has proven successful because, in just 25 years, the company has grown into one of the most important Belgian wholesalers of fruit and vegetables. The turnover of Food Shakers is €25 million, average annual growth is 10%, the workforce is made up of 75 permanent employees, and the range counts 2,000 references (1,000 fresh products, 700 cut products, and then frozen foods and by-products such as nuts, dairy, etc.). Despite the wide variety of references, the company operated without an integrated ERP system until early 2011. Chris Demey: “We had one package for accounting, another for price management, order input and invoicing, and a third for goods receipt and order picking. All the data was linked together via interfaces. It wasn’t the best way to work, but it worked. It was really a well-established habit, so the thought of implementing a true ERP solution never really came to mind. But that changed radically when Sodexo asked us for delivery via a platform.”

Band met producten


Traditionally, orders at Vander Zijpen were placed before 1:00 AM and the goods delivered from 5:00 AM. As a result, picking started from 6:00 PM. However, the platform requires delivery from 6:00 PM, which meant day picking had to be organised from 8:00 AM. The production times of the cutting plant also had to be revised to make fresh products available for picking during the day. Chris Demey: “In other words, we had to integrate an extra ‘flow’ into our activity. But that was not all. The processing of orders also had to change. Normally customers would order a crate of rough apples, and the calibre and volume per crate would be subordinate criteria. However, the platform works with boxes that must always contain the same content; for example, apples of a fixed calibre, and in a fixed volume per box. Sometimes a request comes in for the products to come from a regular supplier. All the crates must bear an SSCC crate label so they will be separately traceable throughout the entire chain. For each ‘item’, we have to work with ‘assembly boxes’ for the article lines, and with an SSCC label that can trace the contents of the box down to the individual product. In addition, Sodexo requested EDI for order receipt, delivery notes and invoicing, something our existing applications could not handle. There was only one solution: the implementation of an integrated ERP package. That in itself was not an insurmountable problem, were it not for the fact that Sodexo gave us barely three months to get the job done.”


A quick survey of the market showed that getting an ERP package up and running within three months was no problem. Chris Demey: “Several suppliers guaranteed us that it was possible in this time frame. To us, it seemed logical to opt for a solution that was specifically aimed at the distribution sector. The intention was that the ERP application would support all our activities: the platform, as well as the cutting plant and direct deliveries. It also had to be able to handle tracing and EDI, as well as goods reception, picking, warehouse management, production, transport planning, purchasing and sales, article and price management, invoicing, accounting, etc. The new package worked quite well for the platform, but when we wanted to use the functionality for the other two streams, we quickly found that this was impossible. The solution was inflexible and not structured well enough to manage three completely different flows at the same time.”


Rather than struggling to straighten things out, Vander Zijpen soon decided to start over from scratch. Chris Demey: “It was clear we wouldn’t get there with the new package. But because it met our needs for deliveries to the platform, we were no longer short of time and we could look for an integrated ERP application at our own pace. After extensive market analysis, we selected two solutions that were evenly matched in terms of functionality and price. In the end, there were several reasons we chose ‘LISA’ from CCE. First and foremost, the application is based on functionality that supports a wide range of sectors. This makes the package ‘rich’ in possibilities, allowing it to respond flexibly to new needs and requirements. This is important: the requirements of large customers are constantly changing. In addition, it is also ideal for accommodating adjustments to the range. This is something that happens a lot in our sector. Consumers want to experience new things, and the market responds to this by developing new varieties or supplying fruit/vegetables from tropical areas. A big plus of ‘LISA’ is the simple item and price management. With 1,400 orders per day, which represent an average of 14,000 product lines, following-up is no easy task. Finally, we were in total agreement with the no-nonsense attitude employed by CCE. Their project engineer does not mince words and says it like it is. Initially it was a bit of a shock, especially when we heard the implementation would take a year. But we now realise that this was exactly what was required to make the project a success. Thorough preparation to scrutinise the processes and adapt them to ‘LISA’, or vice versa, was indispensable for making optimal use of the functionality. And this is essential because an ERP package represents a major investment.”



Normally, “LISA” ERP packages are implemented module by module. But Vander Zijpen wanted everything to be operational at once, which made good preparation even more crucial for a successful start-up. Dieter Rutten, Consultant Software Engineer at CCE: “Although the customer was open to adapting certain processes to ‘LISA’, we still had to adapt the package in various areas to marry up with the way Vander Zijpen and Food Shakers works. An additional challenge was the implementation of scanning in the picking. It took us nine months to translate all the processes into ‘LISA’, to finalise the database, and to complete the full implementation. But it was well worth the effort and time. The start-up went almost flawlessly. This was carried out in three steps at one month intervals: the platform on 1 October 2012, direct deliveries on 1 November, and production on 1 December. Although the modules were all installed at the same time, the excellent preparation meant the customer was able to go ‘live’ after just one day.”


And it’s not only the flawless start-up that means Vander Zijpen is more then satisfied with the collaboration with CCE and “LISA”. Chris Demey: “By using the solution, we are discovering more and more functionality that benefits our operations. For example, we used to have practically no business reporting, but this has now become a daily practice. We also have insight into the profitability per employee and per item sold, which enables us to apply more competitive pricing. Enormous progress has been made in the management and follow-up of empties: something that did not really happen in the past, but cost us a lot of money. In addition, we can now work with a high-performance and precise ‘open book’ system, which has enabled us to further develop an important partnership with a major customer. CCE has now also perfected ‘e-commerce’, so now more than 10% of our customers place their orders via the internet. Perhaps there will be further refinements in the future. After all, an ERP package is a ‘living’ application that continues to evolve with the needs of the company and market, which are also in continuous evolution. And that is the strength of ‘LISA’...”

Pictures Marc Masschelein

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