The COVID-19 pandemic gave 'quite the digital boost' to not only consumers' buying habits, but also the buying habits of the B2B horticulture market. Alumat Zeeman's new webshop is visited a lot, tells Bert Strikkers, one of the company's directors.
"It's increasingly normal to purchase items via a webshop, for businesses as well as consumers." The company has to be able to deliver, of course, because in horticulture it's often about big orders that are needed fast. "It's necessary to be able to deliver fast and in large quantities for us, and the production has to be coordinated to the demand, with enough flexibility and capacity."
Next to greenhouse systems (screening and ventilation) and industrial processing, the company focusses on greenhousee parts: parts for greenhouse construction, screening and ventilation parts and more, that are usually sold to greenhouse builders, (screening) installers and maintenance companies. Most products are delivered from stock, but if there's a demand for specific, tailor-made products, these can be produced fast.
‘Cold water effect’
At the end of February and start of March, the company noticed a huge 'cold water effect'. Due to the starting pandemic and the lockdowns, the demand dropped. Especially in ornamentals. Many projects were (temporarily) stopped abruptly. It was less drastic in vegetable cultivation. "We noticed that the demand for parts suddenly dropped. That was mostly the shock effect of the lockdown and the fact that installers weren't allowed to travel anymore. Deliveries were pushed back." Due to this, many mechanics were forced to stay in the Netherlands, and people were 'killing time' with for instance maintenance, so the demand for maintenance parts rose.
"We expect that it will be busy with projects that have been put on hold, but that there will be a 'bang' after that, because decisions for new projects have been postponed due to the Corona crisis insecurity." Because of the support measures that many countries are preparing, Bert expects that the horticultural industry will be supported in a lot of countries. To stimulate the economy, but also to make countries increasingly self sufficient in terms of food production. "That will increase the demand for our products."
That an increasing amount of abroad companies use the services of the webshop, is partly because of the good name that the Netherlands has in the international horticultural industry. It ensures trust to buy from Dutch companies. Bert tells that it often starts with a few small orders, and that once the trust is established, the size of the orders goes up. "We keep away from the private market, and fully focus on the professional B2B market. Not on consumers, that's a totally different kind of market." Most of the people who order are national and international (screening) installers and greenhouse builders, and sometimes very large horticulture businesses with their own technical team or purchasing office.
"Once the order has been done, we have to be able to work quickly." That's why Alumat Zeeman has digitalised the entire process, from the moment the order comes in. "The order is processed digitally via our system, from the commercial department to the company bureau, production, warehouse and logistics. Everyone can see the status of the order."
Digital warehouse management system
The warehouse, too, has been completely digitalised, and the last thing the company bought is an automatic measuring and weighing system, with which they can measure size and weight of, for instance, pallets, and put those in the order automatically. "It's not just about a nice webshop, your whole company and supply chain have to be coordinated to the e-commerce: your stock has to be up to standard, the purchasing process with your suppliers, your production has to be able to shift quickly, and all that has to be digital. The webshop is just one link in that chain. We've been working on this for years, and now we see the positive results."
Digital measuring and weighing system