Measuring Success at De Poortere Frères

Belgian fabric manufacturer discusses its success in using enterprise resource planning to support end-to-end manufacturing

Belgium July 20, 2005 De Poortere Frères (DPF), headquartered in Belgium, is one of the leading manufacturers of double velvet and flat woven fabrics for the upholstery market. Its strength comes from an optimal mix of product, price, quality and service. But it has been a long road to the top.

The company's roots can be traced back to 1859, when it was launched as a family-owned operation run by Arthur, Camille and Henri De Poortere. In recent history, the company experienced strong competition from the Turkish velvets market in the United Kingdom. In response, shareholders decided to invest in DPF redefining its strategy, emphasizing on piece-dyed fabrics. In May 1996 the company began the successful production of polyester fabrics. Moreover it was decided to adapt the dyeing department to piece dyeing, while the weaving capacity had to be increased, too.

De Poortere Frères is now the market leader in all European countries, and it is currently developing a presence in the U.S. and Canadian markets. Its goal is to be the lowest-cost producer in piece-dyed upholstery fabrics.

In an interview with Guy Gyselinck, manager of DPF's information technology (IT) department, we learned what role supply chain technology took in supporting the company's new, successful direction.

Q: What is the main application supporting your plant activities?

A: De Poortere Frères implemented the Datatex solution TIM, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that is tailored for the textile industry, a few years ago to support end-to-end manufacturing. [Datatex is a provider of manufacturing solutions for the textile and apparel industry.] All the process steps are supported by the implemented solution: purchasing, customer order entry, order confirmation, commercial planning (via warehouse availability) and production control (from warp, through greige fabric to finished dyed fabric).

The Datatex solution also allows standard cost calculations for all articles (individual as well as per family groups of articles) calculating contribution margins and indicating the production mix required maximizing profitability.

Q: What are some of the benefits of using the ERP system?

A: The main support to the company goals comes from the integration of information between the commercial and the production department. This drives a significant improvement in the customer service while keeping the inventories at a profitable level. Moreover with our ERP we could implement a just-in-time (JIT) approach along the whole supply chain, starting from the yarn.

Most of the data is extracted in the data warehouse application Board that is a fine tool for statistics and decision support for the managers

Q: And the Internet? Do you use it?

A: We have recently implemented the B2B module e@cho, which was developed by Datatex using Object Oriented programming.

Our goal is to further enhance customer service. And one of the key points of the customer satisfaction is to provide them with timely information.

The application allows De Poortere Frères agents and customers to query on open orders, query on closed orders (order history), report on open and closed orders, and view shipping reports.

Our agents and customers can access the latest available data processed by our ERP. We believe that when the customer is correctly informed, our relationship with that customer is closer and better. Moreover, DPF's sales department is not involved anymore in giving this information and can instead focus on management of more critical situations.

The next planned step is order entry using the Internet. It will not be a very big saving in terms of workload for us, but it will be a further improvement in terms of customer satisfaction and independence. Agents and customers will be able to enter their orders when and where they want, and will have a direct control over the keyed data.

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