Whether it’s a vendor or a customer, it’s sometimes hard to see the people who work behind the scenes until you collaborate on a special project. I often envy our solution and implementation experts, who take a deeper dive into our customers’ concerns and show them the opportunities available. It seemed unlikely I would get a peek behind the mask of marketing for a more organic customer experience.
But I recently attended a two-day video shoot to highlight the successes of one of our customers, the Terberg Group. Based in the Netherlands, Terberg is a family-owned vehicle manufacturer—an industry titan with more than 20 companies spanning everything from custom and specialty vehicles to business and consumer car rentals.
Next year, Terberg celebrates 150 years in operation. With that kind of history, success, and business scope, I expected our team to travel to a sprawling corporate compound in or just outside Amsterdam. What I found was very different.
Our first day of filming took place in Benschop, about 55 km south of Amsterdam. It’s a sleepy, idyllic village with plenty of roundabouts and areas where the roads are about one-and-a-half car widths wide. It’s also where Terberg grew from a small family blacksmith shop in 1869 to a still-family-run global company with 2,500 employees.
Plopped into the middle of all this pastoralism sits the Terberg warehouse and production facilities. The fenced plot is bordered on two sides by an even mix of somewhat grand and equally unassuming houses, and two sides where cows dot large farmland fields, unbroken save for a small line of modern windmills.
It was the cows that tipped me off to something special here. When we arrived shortly after 7 am I could hear them but couldn’t see anything through the trees screening the parking lot. However, my attention was quickly drawn to a large lot of brand-new vehicles in a wide hue of colors, shapes and sizes. After a tour of the grounds and a couple of indoor interviews, we made our way to the heart of the action.
Terberg is embracing change on multiple fronts. We started filming the process flow in their new warehouse, which has only been in operation since April. Employees were still acclimating to the new building and process changes but already benefiting from new automation and distribution of tasks.
On either side of us doors the size of building fronts rolled effortlessly up and down while music played over the sound system. It would be understandable if you felt small around so much large machinery and activity, but everyone we met was friendly and accommodating and brought the enormous scale of what they were doing down to a very human level.
I can only imagine it’s how people feel when they’re finally able to get a handle on what seems like an inordinate amount of data and see the possibilities in shaping it to make changes for the better. (More on that later.)
After a lunch break we filmed a bit more in the warehouse, including the offices upstairs, where I had an incredible view of the surrounding landscape (and could confirm the presence of the cows I thought I heard hours earlier).
Next up: the production building, where there were also friendly, curious faces and reluctant filming participants who turned into enthusiastic bright lights before the camera. Here there was also music playing overhead but it was punctuated by the sounds of pneumatic tools and men singing or humming along.
We saw a small example of Celonis at use in the production facility, with real-time status screens at each assembly station. And as they explained what was happening in each step there was no “show” or any more formality than when we got recommendations for someplace to eat in Amsterdam. Only a genuine effort to share the real story of real people trying to make a real and impactful change in how they do business.
I found the production process just as captivating as the vehicles it produced—the ones we had seen on the lot awaiting delivery to customers. So, at the end of the day’s shift when there was a “parade” of vehicles moving slowly down the line, I was a little sad to leave this world behind.
For the second day of filming we went to the Terberg Group headquarters; an unassuming brick building in nearby IJsselstein. A pond on one side feeds a moat flanking two sides of the building, and the pond itself is right next to the main road. The whole scene was a nice juxtaposition of Terberg’s natural connection to this area and their vehicle empire.
The morning began with an interview of George Terberg, CEO and fourth-generation leader of the Terberg Group. He’s a personable man with a strong belief in family and striking a good work-life balance. Which is probably a factor driving some of this company change; the desire to deliver a better experience not only to Terberg’s customers, but also to its employees.
And we met with some of those employees next—the two-person data science team and a few folks from finance. Terberg is using Celonis for six processes, and they’ve already seen good results for purchase to pay and accounts payable.
They also have plans to migrate from their current Microsoft system to Microsoft’s cloud platform—no small feat, and another strong use case for Celonis to help things go smoothly. On top of all that, their data science team is busy with another quest: to break down the performance numbers Celonis provides into smaller, actionable pieces.
On the one hand Terberg has found Celonis offers a world of possibilities. On the other, the data science team sees colleagues who are sometimes overwhelmed by all the available information. Much like that initial feeling in the warehouse—of being an ant in the world of elephants—it’s about making the available resources relatable, so they help you find the best way to do what you need to do.
It’s all a wonderful example of how a traditional company is taking proactive steps to address change. Not only in terms of digital improvements in what has been a mostly manual industry, but in how they view the future of their company.
One thing George Terberg said in his interview wrapped up the idea nicely: “The more you know, the better you can predict the future.”
He was talking about the proper understanding and use of data, but to my mind it has applicability to how our digital era is bringing new opportunities and Celonis is providing ever-innovative ways to capitalize on those opportunities.
In the case of Terberg, it’s obvious their “tradition” is to seize opportunity in the face of change, and that courage has led them to where they are now. As they continue looking for ways to improve and serve all their stakeholders at even higher levels today, who knows where the opportunities they uncover with Celonis will take them tomorrow?
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