Van den Ban – Taking a ‘Hands Off’ Approach
When Tyres & Accessories last visited Van den Ban Autobanden in April 2008, the company’s new warehouse facility was arising from a 24.000 square metre greenfield site on outskirts of the Dutch town of Hellevoetsluis. Even then the scale of the project, intended to consolidate the wholesaler’s two storage facilities into a single location, was evident. A key component of the project remained under wraps at this time, however, and therefore a second visit to the completed warehouse was necessary. What T&A saw upon its return to Van den Ban in Hellevoetsluis early in 2010 was impressive, to say the least.
The building of a new facility was a necessary measure for two key reasons. Perhaps the most important consideration for Van den Ban was the direction tyre wholesaling has taken in Europe. As Cyril Versteeg, the company’s commercial manager, explains: “Customers increasingly want to maintain their own stocks at a lower level. Therefore it is important for wholesalers such as Van den Ban not only to have the products they need in stock, but also to be able to supply them within a short timeframe using Just in Time delivery techniques.” In order to better meet this need, Versteeg continues, Van den Ban is looking to increase the number of unique articles to improve total availability. Many of these new tyre lines, he adds, will be in less mainstream sizes and dimensions.
The other main factor was that Van den Ban’s continued growth had become constrained by the limitations of its existing warehousing. Nobody who visited the company’s operations in past years could have failed to notice that the warehousing situation was less than optimal. Around a third of all tyres were stored in a warehouse adjacent to the company’s administrative headquarters in a residential area, with the remainder housed some five kilometres away at what Van den Ban’s called its “container terminal”. This labour intensive setup involved the company sending truckloads of tyres across the town throughout the day, an inefficient and time-consuming state of affairs that could obviously not continue indefinitely.
Work on what Van den Ban calls its ‘Logistic Tyre Centre’, located just a few hundred metres from the existing container terminal site, was opened on August 10. For the Dutch wholesaler, the Logistic Tyre Centre’s completion and the delivery of the first tyres to customers represents more than just the move to a new premises – it signifies, comments Versteeg, “our first steps towards the future.” And when the Van den Ban commercial manager makes this statement, he is referring to the project’s previously mentioned ‘under wraps’ component: The high level of automation employed to aid the wholesaler in the JIT delivery of a comprehensive product range.
“For Van den Ban a very important step to improve its efficiency has been the implementation in the new warehouse of an advanced Material Handling System (MHS),” states Versteeg. “With this system the internal transport, sorting process and order picking of the tyres in the warehouse is fully automated and mechanised, whereby less manual handlings are necessary.”
Every other step in the process is handled by the MHS. The warehouse’s administrative system controls instructions to warehouse staff. “With this system VDB justifies the name ‘Logistic Tyre Centre’; the Warehouse Management System controls the instructions to the employees, internal transport and sorting of the tyres, which leave the warehouse by truck from one of the sixteen loading docks,” explains Versteeg. “With this system we improve our professionalism and reduce eventual errors in our deliveries.”
Many aspects of the MHS impressed Tyres & Accessories; indeed, we could talk at length on the impressive systems utilised in the new facility south of Rotterdam, but its cutting edge nature means we are unable to give too many secrets away.
While Van den Ban has not disclosed the Logistic Tyre Centre’s total cost, Versteeg comments readily that “giving our customers logistic and IT solutions is somewhere we are making investments.” The commercial manager adds: “Our two company slogans have been ‘total tyre supplier’ and ‘our tyres travel the world’. We don’t just want these to be catchphrases. Instead, this is our goal and future. We are increasing the availability of products apart from fast moving sizes. We now have and can offer a complete run-flat OE range, and are a specialist in UHP and SUV tyres. We offer our customers a good deal – a combination of availability and competitive conditions.”
With plans in place to increase its product range, growth at Van den Ban is inevitable. The Dutch company supplies a total of thirty brands, including major brands plus private (Blackstone and Novex) and exclusive labels (Sava, Silverstone and Federal) and a wide assortment of budget brands (amongst others BCT and Hifly) (see our private brands feature in March’s Tyres & Accessories for further details) and offering the widest range possible is a key ingredient for the wholesaler’s ongoing success. “Customers are lowering stocks and want quicker supplies, therefore we are optimistic about the future of tyre wholesaling,” says Versteeg. “Economy of scale is required, however. You cannot survive with 500 or 1,000 items today. It is not possible. More and more tyres will come from a single source, and we want to be that source. Investing in logistics and IT solutions – this is the future. Sales are still a highly important factor, but now they are backed up with a good system. Availability and speed of delivery are key decisive factors.”
In conclusion, Cyril Versteeg states: “we are ready for the future.” – and the systems and processes witnessed in operation at the Tyre Logistic Centre indicate the Van den Ban commercial manager has good reason for such confidence. Building work at the new site, incidentally, is still underway, with the company’s new administrative headquarters due to be completed this coming summer.