“With FreshPortal I get 6 times as much out of my day”
Floriculture entrepreneur Rene Schoenmaker of African Flower Growers Worldwide from South Africa has been a FreshPortal client since the beginning. Schoenmaker is briefly visiting The Netherlands for business, and we used this opportunity to hear about his experience using FreshPortal. AFG Worldwide is located in Johannesburg and Cape Town. From there they manage all their import and export activities to no fewer than 53 countries around the world. Schoenmaker has been successfully at the company’s helm since 2011. That year everything fell into place at AFG Worldwide. We obviously wanted to know more about their growth from Rene Schoenmaker and how that was achieved in part thanks to FreshPortal’s software solutions. He tells us enthusiastically.
Chasing the figures “Whenever sales had to be changed in the past, we needed to make sure the adjustments were made everywhere in the system, down to the individual stem. If we didn’t, our inventory wouldn’t add up and negatively affect other systems and lists. The problem was that much of the data also had to be processed manually, and that resulted in mistakes. Everyone at our company was using many different systems by that point. I often found that I needed to put more people on administration and sales to continue growing, but I wasn’t selling anything more from it. It effectively meant that we were wasting valuable time, people and investments with no results to show for it,” Schoenmaker says.
Best practice in digitalization A number of floriculture companies are working hard to identify ways of commanding a changing industry, while also benefiting from globalization. In our eyes, AFG Worldwide is a best practice that other companies can learn from. We ask Schoenmaker how he went about this. “My goal was to achieve higher returns with the same number of people. Hiring even more people for administration and sales was out of the question. We had to look elsewhere. ICT had become an indispensable part of our company but also a costly never ending story. We felt that restructuring this – making it more efficient for both us and our clients – had great potential. At that same time, I came in contact with FreshPortal who approach floriculture software very differently. Namely, all the tools you need are in the cloud. It’s scalable, always accessible and completely free of maintenance for the entrepreneur. Those benefits appealed to me tremendously.”
Russian women’s day Everything needs to be faster, more efficient, productive. Does that also apply to AFG Worldwide? Schoenmaker: “It’s remarkable but thanks to the software an eight-hour work day now yields a multitude of those eight hours. If I had to give a number, it would come down to at least six times as much. That’s really extraordinary. On top of that, what I now spend on software is a fraction of the maintenance, servers and investments I made in the past. For me personally it means that I gained a lot in convenience. With the press of a button I get served a diagram with data that explains peak sales to Russia because it was national women’s day, or what the prices did. Those aren’t the type of things you have at the ready with everything else that goes on in a day or a week. This business characterizes itself as very lively and fickle. I remember a great deal, sometimes I’m like an elephant, but it is quite a lot of data and information these days. A system you can trust with complete confidence is absolutely crucial. And it’s a win-win situation for our customers as well, because they now get significantly faster and reliable deliveries.”
Rene Schoenmaker, AFG Worldwide
“Quality is always our first priority”
Dümmen Orange is a sizable floriculture company. Over 8.500 employees are spread across locations and farms in The Netherlands, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ecuador and Colombia. Just about everything that can happen in floriculture happens at Dümmen Orange. They are breeders, importers and exporters of roses. Once breeders of five different rose varieties, they have grown to over seventy-five varieties. They are one of FreshPortal’s first clients. FreshPortal is incredibly proud of that and we have learned a lot from each other along the way.
First priority Wout Oor is a veteran in the floriculture industry and he has seen Dümmen Orange grow and expand into the company it is today. He works as sales manager of cut flowers at their De Kwakel location, where distribution, import and trade operations take place. Throughout this location, a colorful palette of diverse rose varieties can be seen, which are flown in daily from their farms. The roses are sorted, bunched and evaluated here, and subsequently processed in lots to be sent to the auction and buyers in short succession. Delivering roses in superb condition is their first priority by far. As evidenced by the whole production line, at which employees diligently work with the roses.
Early adaptor In 2005, Oor – then working at Olij Rozen – was already flirting heavily with automation. Given his mechanical engineering background that didn’t come as much of a surprise. It was simply a part of him early. While everyone else was still walking around with handwritten notes, Oor was the only one with a computer at the auction clock in Aalsmeer. “During breaks everything could just keep running,” Oor says and continues: “And these days the same is possible with the 24-hour availability of FreshPortal. Back then we worked with various software systems. When we heard Robin Jongkind had started making similar software, we entered into a dialog with him. We grew together with the development, as it were.” How would you characterize your experience with FreshPortal? “The big advantage of FreshPortal compared to all other software, is that it is so easy to use. That makes it incredibly convenient for everyone in the company to work with. Everything we need is in there. There are no redundant features that make it unnecessarily complicated. That is important to us. We can also give feedback at any time. Whenever we need something, such as a new connection, it gets arranged immediately. That is possible at any time via their support team.”
Everything can be done with one system What has the software contributed to your business operations and growth? “We no longer have to worry about complex digitalization and automation challenges. FreshPortal takes care of all that for us. Whenever there is an update or change in the market, FreshPortal completely adapts for us. We don’t need expensive hardware or servers because everything is in the cloud. But the by far the biggest advantage has to be that we now manage everything with one system.”
From EAB to webshop What are some of the processes that are being managed by the software? Oor summarizes: “That is, for example, creating and sending an Electronic Supply Form (Elektronische Aanvoer Brief; EAB). On top of that, fine-tuning all business processes from stock to webshop is a delicate operation. We don’t want to be stuck with excess inventory, and we certainly don’t want to turn customers away or double sell. That definitely used to happen on occasion. With FreshPortal’s software that is now a thing of the past. Our whole company operates and flourishes with FreshPortal’s software. That just feels good, because now we can focus all our attention on the superb quality of our roses. Or enjoy moments such as when Princess Charlotte of England was recently photographed with our yellow roses and ignited a real craze.”