With branches in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, bathroom manufacturer Riho has a significant presence in Europe. However, this spread also poses challenges in terms of organisation and logistics. This in turn places important demands on the ICT system that has to support these international operations. And in that area, there was still room for improvement.
"It's actually quite clear," says Guy Claesen. "We had an email server in the Netherlands that supported our operations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. There was a mail server that was only used in the Czech Republic. For Poland and Hungary, we then had another solution. The combination of systems in itself was not ideal. But the e-mail servers didn't always work properly either and sometimes caused problems. Moreover, in Eastern Europe we also had open source software that also served as a firewall at the same time. It was clear that we had to tackle our mail infrastructure thoroughly. It was urgent time to unify."
Email server conversion
The solution was found at Microsoft. "Setting up and arranging such a domain involves a lot. EuroSys helped us very much with that," Guy tells us. "Thanks to EuroSys' help, the switchover took barely a couple of weeks. This was all done from Belgium. The IT group is centralised in Belgium, which of course makes working with EuroSys even easier." Kevin Abraham, ICT employee, picks up on this: "That proximity really is a plus. If there is ever a problem, we can consult quickly and then tackle it together. For some of the challenges, an online meeting is unfortunately not enough."
But Riho saw further optimisation opportunities. For the company was also keen to deploy a Microsoft Azure Virtual Server. Very simply put, users can work with this from their own PC on a central computer. That computer is much more powerful than an ordinary laptop and is ideally suited for tasks that require a lot of memory and processing power. "We work with the software Catlogger, where you can create a catalogue of information and data that is stored centrally," Kevin explains.
"That programme used to be on a local server, so it sometimes took hours for us to export a newly compiled catalogue. Such files are actually far too heavy for a normal computer. So now we work with the computing power of a dedicated computer that can be used virtually by anyone. Formatting programmes like InDesign and Catalogger are now on it. We now export files much faster on that machine. This means that your laptop still works and you can complete other tasks in the meantime. We also recently taught our marketing people how to operate that virtual machine. That's easy because then we no longer have to play middleman."
Smooth and fast service
Riho is satisfied with how the roll-out of these, admittedly radical, ICT changes went. "When you start a project, you know there will always be some problems that will crop up," says Guy. "For the e-mail migration, however, we were sure we would run into problems because we had no idea how the application was initially set up in Eastern Europe. We figured that out together with EuroSys. In all honesty, it was a positive experience because actually everything went very smoothly, and we certainly owe that to EuroSys."
"Currently, our firewall is still managed by another IT partner. EuroSys contacted their colleague and they worked with them very professionally. Yes, here they took a big worry off our hands. We would normally be middlemen. EuroSys provided a direct contact which allowed us to focus on other tasks."
"So we are very satisfied with EuroSys," concludes Guy. "EuroSys' knowledge and experience is a nice addition to the know-how we have in-house. Their view sometimes sheds a completely different light on some things. They regularly come up with proposals that really improve things."
Kevin agrees: "The people at EuroSys don't just do what you ask, but look with you to see what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. They often see other solutions that really work much better or easily. And that's really one of their strengths."
Looking to the future
When asked whether they can already reveal some future plans, the answer is a resounding 'yes': "Now that Riho's ICT backbone has been thoroughly overhauled, we also want to work on optimising our production line. We are now investigating how to integrate robots into our production process. That could greatly reduce the production time of a bath, for instance. But of course, those robots must also connect with the rest of our ICT. So you could say that the story here is not yet fully completed," smiles Guy.
"And more generally, we will continue to automate further. Now a lot of people are busy entering information. That time is better spent on customer contact and checking information. We come from a world where we had an outside and inside sales force. The outside sales force sells and the inside sales force does the handling. This structure is in need of change. Digital technologies enable greater interaction between the two. That is where we are heading. We are convinced that in terms of service to customers and speed in terms of service, we can still make strides. And in the world we are in now - with a shortage of raw materials, long delivery times and high transport costs - this optimisation is really necessary."
Riho is a manufacturer of baths, showers and bathroom furniture with branches in as many as six countries.