Transport Group Vervaeke Streamlines Data and Applications Through Microsoft Azure Integration Services
To streamline collaboration between departments and become more data-driven, the Vervaeke Group is building an integrated application landscape. Microsoft Azure ensures the flawless operation of this new architecture.
- Solutions in this case
Family business Vervaeke is a leading provider of integrated logistics solutions for the chemical and oil industries in the European market. To better streamline the various software applications that support its operations, Vervaeke Group chose Microsoft Azure as its integration platform.
The Vervaeke Group has been in business for more than a century, expanding through organic growth and acquisitions. Those acquisitions added to the Belgian Vervaeke include Van der Lee (branches in the Netherlands and Germany) and Jan Dohmen (the Netherlands). The transport sector is extremely competitive and with margins under pressure, both internal and external efficiency are becoming increasingly important. In addition, the sector, like many others, is struggling with staff shortages. That is why integration and automation are key concepts at Vervaeke.
Over the years, Vervaeke’s application landscape has grown into a collection of self-developed software and purchased packages. This made exchanging data particularly complex and prone to error. Moreover, some solutions proved unsuitable for deployment across the entire Vervaeke Group.
Consequently, Vervaeke Group decided to replace the patchwork of applications with two core applications, supplemented by several smaller applications. The core applications are Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 ERP and Ixolution’s transport management solution, IXSuite. All applications must cooperate and exchange data smoothly both among themselves, and with external applications from customers and governments. To ensure a smooth integration, Microsoft Azure was chosen as the platform.
The Vervaeke Group’s requirements for the integration platform were not minor. For example, the platform had to support all existing complex flows, as well as the new flows that the ERP and the TMS brought along. It also had to be future-proof and offer standard support without too much additional development. An unambiguous view of the flows and data through overarching monitoring was also important for Vervaeke Group.
Codit thinks along with us to find the right solutions. They take questions we ask to a higher level, giving us a broader picture. That ensures that the solution is always future-proof. ”
Vervaeke Group investigated several integration platforms and finally chose Microsoft Azure. “We already have internal knowledge of .net and C#,” says Yannick Beheyt, IT Project Manager at Vervaeke Group. “That ensures that we are already fairly familiar with the Microsoft environment. In choosing it, we also took into account how maintenance-intensive the environment was and how quickly you can develop in it.” To validate the project team’s choice, Codit was called in. “They once again laid out all the options side by side and drew out the entire architecture, based on Azure Integration Services.”
The first integration that happened focused on the Belgian division of Vervaeke and, more specifically, on the implementation of the Transport Management System IXSuite. “On the one hand, that was a practical consideration,” says Sandra Peeters, Head of IT & Project Management at Vervaeke Group. “The core team works in Belgium, so we could monitor everything closely. On the other hand, we also had the most complex application landscape here.” Codit worked out the entire architecture, whilst also mapping all existing interfaces. By laying a ‛to be‘ picture on top of that, it was possible to see which applications and integrations needed to be done per phase. “This is how we move forward step by step,” said Beheyt. “We make sure that all data are migrated and gradually old applications disappear from our landscape. Few of the existing interfaces will remain. At least 90% of the flows will go entirely through Microsoft Azure as an integration platform.”
Proper master data management is one of the crucial elements in the new environment. “Dynamics 365 is leading for the master data. From there, all data goes to other applications,” said Beheyt. “Not only to the TMS IXSuite but also, for example, to the on-board computers and other systems. For example, if a new driver is created in Dynamics 365, that person must immediately be known in all other applications as well.”
Other operational interfaces are equally important. For example, data is exchanged with governments and customers. Just think of electronic documents around driver certificates and the cleaning of tanks containing hazardous materials.
Codit’s expertise was indispensable in setting up Microsoft Azure. “We are not integration specialists,” said Beheyt. “But, thanks to Codit, we have already been able to make great strides here. Codit provides knowledge transfer in various ways, so we can start doing more ourselves.” “We need internal knowledge to be able to act swiftly,” Peeters added. “But a developer or an infrastructure specialist cannot have all the knowledge. That’s why we will always call on Codit’s knowledge.”
For the implementation, Codit uses both the various PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) applications within Azure Integration Services and Codit’s own framework Invictus. Invictus consists of components and best practices that Codit developed itself to complement the existing components of Microsoft Azure. Thanks to the Invictus methodology and reusable code, Vervaeke was able to take quick steps in integration and achieve results faster. At the same time, the Invictus dashboard provides Vervaeke with immediate insight into how the implementation is going.
Gradually, the first results of the full integration project are becoming clear. For example, electronic invoices are already fully automated from the transport management system to other platforms. This not only makes the entire flow faster but there is also less chance of human error.
Thanks to Vervaeke Group’s use of the Invictus dashboard, even non-IT specialists can view and solve certain functional problems. This relieves the pressure on the IT department.
Once the integration is fully completed in 2023-2024, the different entities within the Vervaeke Group will be able to work together much more smoothly. Moreover, it will be a lot easier to analyze data and calculate exactly how much a truck ride costs, what the ride yields, and how the freight can be optimized. That way, decisions can be made based on concrete data.
A word from the client
“Collaboration with partners hinges on collaboration with people. Codit sets the bar very high in that respect, both in terms of the overarching architecture and in its implementation and development.”
Yannick Beheyt IT Project Manager, Vervaeke Group
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