How does the Dutch specialist in horticultural solutions ensure that the same high-quality customization is provided worldwide? Codema's COO tries to standardize processes and components as much as possible while remaining room for customization. Though still maintaining people at the centre. In this article, he shares his operational strategy and approach to ensure the quality of Codema’s services while the company is increasingly active internationally.
"An important spearhead of our strategy is that we are close to our customers, we know and speak their language and culture. Starting with providing service to existing customers in that area. We then expand the sales capacity so that we can continue to grow in a region or country. With time we add, for example, an engineer or project leader, so that we carry out projects more and more locally. That's how we do it in China, where we opened a branch in 2019, but also at our office in Belgium.
For me, the trick is to find the balance between standardizing our products or processes on the one hand and meeting the unique needs of customers in a particular region. By standardization, we can use our vast knowledge and expertise worldwide. However, we always adapt the service to the wishes of the customer; we can deliver the right quality over and over again. That's a particular tension."
Antoine Kapteijns: "As operational director, I make sure that we carry out all our processes internally as efficiently as possible while delivering the right quality to all our customers. And quality means something different for a Dutch rose grower than for a Chinese investor. Even growers in Germany and Belgium have different wishes. By setting up our product range and services accordingly, we continue to help all our customers."
Use unique knowledge of cultivation systems worldwide
The Codema branches in Venlo and Bergschenhoek are the knowledge hubs of the organization. Here there are decades of experience with the various disciplines that are at the basis of critical cultivation systems. Venlo has the most substantial part of specialist knowledge in the field of water management, electrical engineering and lighting. In Bergschenhoek experts of logistics, software and construction are located. The project leaders of both sites are happy to use each other's expertise in projects.
"When a project involves several disciplines, we use specialists from both Venlo and Bergschenhoek. We work closely with customers on the realization of complete high-tech cultivation systems where the knowledge of the two Dutch branches is crucial. A good example is our collaboration with the Swiss Gebrüders Meier:
In recent years, we have adapted our working methods accordingly. Where previously each branch took its own approach, we are now drawing this equally over all branches to uniform practices. This means we are constantly exchanging ‘best practices’ so that our way of working is the same everywhere. In this way, we use our specialists more flexibly, regardless of the location of the project. This is ideal for both our people as the customer. We are currently setting out new processes and making the transition to the use of a single central ERP and financial system."
'Configure To Order' cultivation system enables customization
"At the same time, we deliver customized solutions. A customer-specific solution that is tailored to their preferences and cultivation. That seems to be a contradiction, standardized processes and customization, but fortunately, it is not. In the design phase, we work on a modular design, so that from a standardized basis, we build exactly the system that the customer needs. This 'Configure To Order' system makes us deliver customized solutions, but all parts are produced cost-efficiently. That's what the customer sees at the end of the line."
"It all sounds very technical, but my primary role is that of a connector. To uniform processes or to arrive at modular solutions, we need to bring our specialists together. They have the knowledge to determine which process leads to the best result.
The first time we brought people from different locations and disciplines together was a unique experience for them. A water management specialist and an electro-technician suddenly determine how they were going to work on a project together and which route they were going to take on this. Fortunately, they quickly found out that they want the same: the best results for the customer. As a result, they promptly came up with the solutions we are looking for. My role is to encourage and support our managers in breaking stalemates and to keep the pace high. So real human work."
Cross-pollination leads to best practices
"The openness and willingness of our people to change makes me proud. We have recently attracted many people who do not come from the horticultural sector, but rather from completely different sectors. They ask good questions or come up with completely different solutions that our specialists are not used to. That doesn't detract from a 'that's how it works'; on the contrary, everyone is open to new ideas.
When we bring together the new influx with the people who have decades of horticultural experience, a very valuable cross-pollination is created that our customers will benefit from now and in the future."
Antoine Kapteijns – COO Codema
"My wife said, "You're enjoying yourself at Codema. You always talk enthusiastically about it.” She noticed that," says Antoine Kapteijns, COO of Codema. "Then I started thinking, what makes me excited about Codema? I realized that I work with enthusiasm at Codema for two reasons: the click and cooperation within the management team and Codema’s ambition to take a global position and with that, play a role in the field of sustainability."
Kapteijns has been working at Codema since 2018. In first instance as ad interim Branch Manager Venlo, but soon Marcel Koolen (CEO Codema) asked him to join the management team. His relationship with Koolen goes back years, but it is the dynamic within the entire management team that is most important to him:
"We are hugely versatile. Everyone has their expertise, and we give each other the confidence that we will do it together. We can lean on each other and therefore together we work towards our shared ambition. Each has an important role in the strategy."