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How can mobile technology, such as tablets and Google Glass, transform an entire company? You’ll find the perfect example at Eosol, a Belgian manufacturer of fly screens. "Mobility gives us a competitive advantage. It improves the relationship with our client," says CEO Joris Meeussen.
Belgian SME transforms complete business model
At Eosol, an SME with approximately twenty employees, it is remarkable how strategy and technology intertwine. Strategic decisions impact the ICT infrastructure, which then go on to influence company processes and even the business model.
The organisation of products was such a strategic decision. "For years in our sector, robotics ha" been standard for automating production. It had never been an option for us,’ says Meeussen. "Our products are customised and high-quality. I have always chosen to give our production team everything they need to work to the highest error-free standards possible."
Two elements are central to the company: digitalisation and mobility. At Eosol, where as much as possible is automated, there are no paper production orders any more. ‘We have an Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP) that checks whether orders have come in, via the website, via our salespeople or via external partners. It then decides when these orders go into production.’
Eosol believes in "mobile first": the entire ERP system is based around mobile use. In the company, all production workers use a simple tablet. "Even when salespeople make measurements, they use a tablet which sends the order through to our system before the salesperson is back from the appointment," says Meeussen. And to keep employees’ hands free and to provide extra information during the processing of the fly screens, Eosol is experimenting with Google Glass, the famous cyber glasses from Google. "Using the glasses, you see information about what you’re currently working on. It gives a gigantic boost to efficiency," says Sander Goossens from Endare, the IT company that is providing guidance. "The test project has been evaluated positively. But until Google Glass really comes onto the market in Belgium, we will have to sit tight and wait."
Digitalisation and mobility as spearheads
The whole project, with digitalisation and mobility as spearheads, reduced the supply time for Eosol from an original six weeks down to two weeks. "You bring an end to the paperwork. But the most important thing is that the error margin lies significantly lower. Details need to be entered just one time," explains Meeussen. "Errors slow down processes. If you need to reapply lacquer to your window profiles because of errors, it costs you a lot of money just to start your paint shop up again."
Another benefit is in the improved communication. "It runs a lot more quickly and transparently between the departments. Everyone is better informed about what everyone else is doing."
All this data is within the organisation on a so-called "private cloud" that is only able to be consulted by people with the appropriate clearance.
It’s not limited to just improving the company processes, but, at the same time, the entire business model. "We see the relation with our client changing. We are not there yet, but the intention is that the client can follow up on the entire supply process via the Internet. In this way, the client stays much better informed about everything," says Sander Goossens from Endare. "The manufacture of windows is a production process that demands a great deal of time, where the client is basically in the dark. This way, we can bridge the time with accurate information," says Meeussen.
The CEO of Eosol sees this project as a future means of working in his sector and in the economy as a whole: faster and with fewer errors. "I certainly consider it to be a competitive advantage. It has taught our whole organisation to transform. And the key is in our "mobile first" approach. We do the work, such as the orders, that needs to be done," says Meeussen, who highly recommends the approach. "If you see how a lot of construction companies work and communicate, it is often extremely arduous. They don’t know what they’re missing."
A refined business model
Eosol serves as an example of how mobility can also transform a typical Belgian SME. "A lot of well-known examples of apps have an initial impact on the consumer market," according to Sander Goossens. "In companies, like Eosol, the added value is more on the level of the company processes. But from that, your business model and customer relations are sharpened. And that is all thanks to mobile technology."