Interview with Christian Kempe
Sales Manager of Max Schön GmbH
As a wholesaler for trade and industrial goods in Schleswig-Holstein, Max Schön has been offering its B2B customers a comprehensive range of tools, machines and industrial supplies in the steel and pipe sector since 1920. In order to meet their customers’ requirements optimally, Max Schön has also developed Technology Centers, whose teams advise their customers on special technical issues and offer them modern solution concepts.
Max Schön is one of AlfaPeople GmbH’s younger customers using the support in Germany. Mr. Christian Kempe, commercial manager of Max Schön, kindly answered some questions about their work with AlfaPeople.
Could you introduce Max Schön GmbH briefly in your own words?
Max Schön is one of the largest steel traders in Schleswig-Holstein. In addition to distributing tools, machines and industrial supplies, another focus of ours is StockMaster. StockMaster is a dispensing system primarily used for goods constantly needed by production staff, which analyses the consumption of goods via software and ensures that they are reordered and replenished on time. A sort of automatic machine for goods, similar to a candy machine. As an example: The employee could remove his work gloves directly from the machine, the system analyses the stock and if the stock falls below the minimum, a new order is created directly via Microsoft Dynamics AX. But we have also designed an entire room as a StockMaster for a large company. So, here, a lot of value is placed on individual solutions.
How have your IT landscape and requirements changed over the years?
Microsoft Dynamics AX was introduced to us in 2009. The requirements from that time have largely remained the same over the last few years – however, in the past, we were not so aware of how extensive Microsoft Dynamics AX actually is and which possibilities for process optimization exist through the system. Therefore, there is now a great need to optimize the area of adjustments and parameters (compared to its introduction in 2009). In 2015, however, a major internal restructuring of the company’s own IT began, originally due to performance problems. With the support of local partners and the parent company in Denmark, we moved our data center there – that was in spring 2017. Now we are ready to re-focus on Dynamics AX and optimize the existing system so that we can concentrate on our core business and our customers again.
So you have been working with Dynamics AX for many years. What are the advantages of the solution?
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 is much more comprehensive and powerful than previous systems. In addition, it is also very flexible, which makes our work easier and supports the processes. Furthermore, many inter-operable interfaces enable us to automate processes, in turn enabling us to focus entirely on our customers.
How many users are working with the solution? How about user acceptance?
Currently 75 users are working with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, and the acceptance is extremely high. The employees really enjoy working with the system. Of course, the changeover was difficult in the beginning, but they quickly got used to the new system, especially since working with Dynamics AX is very intuitive if you know the Office applications.
Which benefits in terms of processes, ROI, and interfaces have resulted over time with Dynamics AX?
As already mentioned, the implementation of Dynamics AX made the processes easier and, especially in terms of interfaces, some areas such as orders via StockMaster and refilling could be automated. The next step here will be EDI in order to further optimize the service for our customers in the area of direct delivery by our suppliers. The fully integrated system also means that all the data is in one place so that key indicators can be called up more precisely and controlling, in general, is made easier.
What expectations do you have for customer service or support? What is particularly important for you?
First and foremost, it is very important for us for a support service to be reliable and accessible. In an emergency or in urgent cases, of course, also by telephone so that prompt support is guaranteed. In addition, a functional ticket system makes it easier to set up support queries and always provides an overview of the current cases that are being processed by the support team. A possibility of prioritization, especially considering different reaction times, which are contractually agreed, is a bonus here. Of course, it is important to be able to rely on these agreements.
How would you rate the AlfaPeople support, what is special about it? How was the cooperation with AlfaPeople?
I particularly like the personal contact and the reliability of the support team with the support by AlfaPeople GmbH. Even if communication is primarily via the ticket system, votes and queries also take place via Skype or phone. You also notice that someone is always available and that in urgent cases prompt support is provided, and the flexible working hours of the employees also allow a wide range of support times to be covered. In addition, I am also very satisfied with the ticket system. It is an advantage that we can prioritize tickets we have created ourselves differently, so you know when they will be processed and when you can expect an update on the current processing status.
What does the topic of digital transformation mean to Max Schön?
Digital transformation is, of course, a big topic for us. We are always working on optimizing our processes. This is already evident in many small areas that are taken over by algorithms. Routine administrative tasks that can be automated through digitalization, so that our employees are less concerned with administrative processes and can invest more time in our customers.
How do you deal with future trends and cloud solutions?
You can’t hide from new trends and cloud solutions. Our online shop, for example, is growing in importance every day. The increasing acceptance and the sales figures prove that we have to expand and optimize further here. Last year we switched to Office 365 and user acceptance was very high here. An upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations would also be conceivable or unavoidable here to further optimize our processes.
What is the next step? What are the next milestones?
In the short term, the next step is to optimize Dynamics AX. Now we have finished restructuring our internal IT, we can concentrate on Dynamics AX again. A fundamental prerequisite here is primarily to focus on our processes. Once these have been analyzed, optimized and, above all, documented again, the system will be set up and adapted accordingly. In the long term, an upgrade to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations will certainly follow. Regardless of whichever IT solution is used, it is essential to know the processes in your own company to be able to get the most of a system.