Easier to do Materials Handling Projects

Repeat custom now accounts for almost two-thirds of the Beumer Group’s business. That’s why the motto of the company’s appearance at LogiMAT was ‘Easy to do business with’. David Priestman reports.

BEUMER Group is a large organisation operating on a global scale, with locations in more than 50 countries, but is determined to avoid organisational complexities and local variations in quality and service. The goal is to always offer the best possible service or product, and the motto of being ‘easy to do business with’ encompasses everything from allocating customers a consistent point of contact from project start to completion to providing data insights via its Customer Diagnostic Centre that enable customers to make better operational and investment decisions.

Brian Hansen (pictured below), Systems and Proposals Director, says: “We talk openly to customers and potential customers and we want to be approachable. Choices are more complicated now. We prefer to discuss products and solutions later down the line after talking through their challenges and requirements.” The company says it recognises the challenges and uncertainties that customers and partners face and does what it can to mitigate them, for example by simplifying the organisational structure and communications. This includes encouraging customers to call the mobile phones of their Beumer contact, at any time.

“If a customer wants to increase optimisation in the warehouse the system will run for 15 or 20 years,” adds Hansen, “so they need to live with it. Brand loyalty and repeat business are fostered by providing the best customer experience and trust, not at the lowest cost.” According to Beumer, it is often the small details that make the biggest difference. For example, one international CEP customer recently benefited from the fact that Beumer does not use internally generated codes on their technical drawings: they are labelled clearly and descriptively to avoid any confusion.
“As a designer, I look at sustainability,” Hansen tells me. “Long term projects that last and work are an inherent good.” Is this ease of doing business good for retaining customers are obtaining new ones? “It’s hard to tell customers to switch materials handling supplier, but we believe in the invite, to give it a try. We don’t know everything but we can find the next steps with customers.”

Dark warehouses?

Despite its global presence, Beumer is still a family-owned business. From the outset, customers are assigned a consistent point of contact so they develop a personal relationship with someone who has the relevant experience and understanding of their business and challenges. This same contact is present during system installation for total continuity.

Brian Hansen

The ’customer first’ philosophy is also evident in the way Beumer conducts itself on site. The way its materials handling systems are packaged and delivered is organised meticulously to minimise the time spent on unpacking and assembly. In addition, all waste is removed from site for recycling or disposal once the installation is completed. The company also prides itself on never letting a customer down: they do not leave the site until the job is finished.

Gregor Baumeister is the Director of Warehousing and Distribution. He says that as AI and robotics advance we are moving towards full automation in the DC. “Market uncertainty and the restriction on brownfield developments means customers must use and maximise the existing space. Unused headroom requires 3D handling systems. We’re not talking about making people redundant,” he asserts, “we’re mitigating risks for customers as they cannot find staff due to demographic ageing.” Goods to person is key in new systems, along with pouch sorting and robotic picking. “Retail verses ecommerce picking in a DC are vastly different quantities,” he points out. “Technology can therefore provide certainty in throughput, for example with a 2 step batch pick-up.”

Diagnostics and maintenance

Providing customers with certainty extends into maintenance and obsolescence management. Beumer offers a minimum of 15 years parts support, simplifying maintenance and giving customers confidence that their material handling system will perform reliably with minimal downtime over its lifetime. Indeed, such is the quality of some automated solutions that they are still maintaining and updating systems that are more than 25 years old.

Christian Buhrmann oversees the company’s customer diagnostic centre, which currently has 60 staff. ‘Improve, Prevent, Ensure’ is his motto in this venture. “We collect so much data,” Buhrmann acknowledges, “we must use it to empower customers. We’re system agnostic.” ‘Improve’ is about taking advantage of data analytics, enabling customers to gain efficiency. ‘Prevent’ is using diagnostic models and cyber security. “We do our utmost to stop problems and breakdowns,” Buhrmann states. ‘Ensure’? “When something goes wrong we utilise our best-in-class hotline to get operations running again. You can get straight through to a systems specialist, not a customer call centre,” he emphasises. That sounds easy.

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