"A genuine partner, not just a supplier"

Eurogentec, an internationally active SME from Liège, commissioned IT service provider NRB to install SAP at its US branch Anaspec. The idea was to work more efficiently and harmonised at both sides of the Atlantic ocean. The project was completed in nine months’ time, costed less than one percent of the group’s annual turnover, and the investment soon turned out to be returning a profit, according to Diego Cutaia, the ICT & Process Improvement Manager at Eurogentec.

Laboratories use Eurogentec’s products and services for research and development purposes in biotechnology, pharmacy and diagnostics. The company has its headquarters in Seraing, near Liège, and has its own commercial representations in the Netherlands, France, UK, Germany and Switzerland. In the rest of Europe, the organisation relies on distributors. Eurogentec employs 220 people in Europe.

Use of SAP facilitated

Diego Cutaia
Diego Cutaia

Eurogentec has been using SAP business software since 2002 for its order entry, stock management and accounting. The production planning is supported by a system that was developed in house. NRB became Eurogentec’s SAP partner in September 2013, following a call for tender. “We are very happy with the improvements they have made to around 30 functionalities. It has made it a lot easier to work with SAP now.”

In 2009, Eurogentec took over its sector colleague Anaspec in California, an organisation with around 100 employees. This company was using Sage for its accounting and order entry, but Eurogentec decided to replace the Sage ERP package with SAP in order to be able to automate Anaspec’s stock management and to work well aligned on both continents.

A Belgian partner

“We decided not to choose an American partner because they would have had less feeling for our way of working with SAP at Eurogentec,” explains Diego Cutaia. “We wanted to extend our existing methods into our new branch. Of course they were heavily involved in this project, and we took their wishes into account as well. The NRB consultants interviewed our people over there. Another reason for not choosing an American partner was because of the fact that the hardware, the software and the databases related to the SAP solution, were all being hosted in our own data centre in Liège. NRB installed a SAP client on our users’ PCs in the US, and they use the application through an internet connection. Otherwise we would have had to host the hardware, software and SAP database at Anaspec too, which would have resulted in a very complex harmonisation of both environments.”

The fact that NRB does not have a branch in the US was not an insurmountable obstacle. “They had to delve into the details of the state of California’s tax regulations, by consulting specialists over there. NRB also took other differences between Europe and the US into account for the SAP configuration. Data sharing between SAP and US courier services’ applications requires a different interface to the one used by European courier services. And SAP had to be prepared for bank card and cheque payments in the US too. Extra factors that made the project more complex were the different time zones and working hours in San Francisco, the great distance and the difference in languages. In fact Anaspec is not only employing native English speakers, an important number of its employees come from the Chinese community.”

A project driven by team spirit

Eighteen people from Eurogentec, six from Anaspec and five consultants from NRB worked together as a close-knit team and made the project a success. The team consisted of IT specialists, business consultants and managers from the purchase department, stock management, marketing and sales, order registration, finance and dispatching.

People from Eurogentec and NRB flew to the US six times. “For some of them it was the first time they were there,” says Diego Cutaia. The team members from Eurogentec, NRB and Anaspec, all went out for dinner or go bowling together in the evenings after work. “We had a laugh together, enjoying each other’s company and forging friendships. People work better when they feel good. You should not underestimate the human aspect in successful projects.”

“We all worked together as a team to reach the collective goal,” he continues. “What mattered most was the end result. The NRB consultants were like colleagues to us. More than just a supplier, NRB was our partner. In my 30-year long IT career, this is the project that I look back at with most satisfaction.”

Once the draft of the requirements was done, the configuration could start. After successful testing sessions, Anaspec switched over to SAP. There was support on site for a week before the launch, and for two months afterwards, in order to resolve any issues and to answer any questions from users. “Everything ran smoothly,” says Diego Cutaia. “Now there is almost no more support needed, unless for someone who forgot his password or was not able to print .”

On time and in budget

The project started at the beginning of 2014 and Anaspec switched over to SAP at the end of September the same year. The database at Eurogentec stores all the information for the SAP users – a quarter of all personnel, both in Liège and in the US – and controls their business processes. “So we are very happy we did not encounter any problem.”

“The processes of Eurogentec and Anaspec have improved in efficiency. A whole series of manual operational tasks have been automated, which increases our competitiveness and frees up more time for work with greater added value. Thanks to SAP, we can do more work with the same number of people, and we are ready for future growth. Everyone in the company benefits from this SAP project. There is improved access to information and we are faster in reporting to Kaneka, the Japanese group that bought us in 2010 and which employs more than 8,000 people.”

“Another thing that contributed to our successful collaboration is that we agreed a fixed price for the project in advance,” says Diego Cutaia. “This is not always straightforward for a service company, but it prevents any awkward discussions about what was foreseen and what was not, or about extra hours to perform. We paid for all the NRB consultants’ flights and accommodation, so we only had to ask for their time, and we did not determine any penalty clauses. NRB entirely fullfilled its commitments. It is exceptional to be able to realise a common goal with a partner in such an enjoyable way, like we did with NRB.”

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