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Tight connection for signal cables

For years, itsme has supplied signal cables to Krohne Altometer, a manufacturer of flow meters for the process industry, among other things. Cut to size and delivered on time, although the latter is a challenge these days due to delivery problems in global supply chains. "In itsme we have a good party, which thinks along and helps where it can. Just a very reliable supplier, who says what they do and does what they say"

Krohne is a leading manufacturer and supplier of complete measurement solutions for industrial process instrumentation. The group has more than 4,000 employees worldwide and a large number of production sites, including Krohne Altometer in Dordrecht. There, with some 550 employees, Krohne manufactures flow meters, among other things, and provides them with signal cables, says stock manager Dave Eielts. "That flowmeter is placed in the field and the signal amplifier can be placed somewhere else. Sometimes a hundred meters away, another time only fifteen meters and so we need a different length of cable each time." That's where itsme comes in. 

Thinking along and absorbing surprises

"Almost twenty years ago, in consultation with a cable manufacturer, a special type of cable was developed to Krohne's specification. Later that became five types of cables," explains Ron Stam, account manager at itsme. "The manufacturer delivers on reels of 2,000 or 3,000 meters. We cut the cables to the desired lengths and deliver them on rings, in fixed lengths of 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 meters, or specially tailored for larger lengths. We keep these standard lengths in stock so that Krohne can order on demand. We then deliver from our facility in Rotterdam and provide the rings with different lengths each with its own color of cable ties for identification. Last year they ordered about 25,000 cable rings."
Biggest challenge at the moment is being able to deliver the cables on time, reports Eielts. "We have regular contact about delivery problems, including for products such as connectors. If necessary, we look at alternatives, but in the process industry there are often approvals attached to our products. We can't just use alternative materials. Difficult, but in itsme we have a good party, which thinks along and helps where it can." Stam: "Based on our contract agreement on the quantities we deliver annually, we make sure that 25% of that is in stock at any given time. I personally check stock positions every week. In recent years, delivery times became longer, so we started bringing the ordering times forward. The first time 24 weeks, while we were still counting on 12, was of course a surprise. But because we order well in advance, we do catch such surprises."

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"I personally check stock positions every week."

At itsme, inside sales now spends more than half their time contacting customers about the availability of materials, Stam says. "We are incredibly busy looking for alternative suppliers, but the ponds are getting empty because everyone is fishing in them. If it doesn't work out, we can try to find an alternative product. Arranging that sometimes takes so much time and energy that one customer would rather wait for the original, while another says, "Please send something. At Krohne, we're stuck with the specifications and approvals. For example, if the electrical shielding of an alternative is less, it can cause distortions in the measurement signal. Then we can't just grab another cable." In the process industry, flow meters sometimes end up in explosive areas, Eielts adds. "ATEX guidelines apply to this. Even then we can't just put other cables on our flowmeters."

Above 95%

Additional challenge is that while Krohne has a forecast for the numbers of flowmeters, it does not know the corresponding cable lengths until very late. Eielts: "That is why we base our forecast for cables on what we have done in the past." Fortunately, itsme can get away with that, Stam responds. "We know the runners and try to anticipate past trends: where should we increase inventory and where can we reduce it a bit? In case of an urgent request, we are flexible in prioritizing and can almost always meet the desired delivery date."

"In terms of turnover a top-ten supplier and in terms of delivery reliability certainly as well"

Besides logistics, innovation is also on the joint agenda, continues Eielts. "Thinking along about how we can make our product even better, how we can distinguish ourselves from the competition with that." All in all, the cooperation is excellent. "For Krohne, itsme is simply a very reliable supplier, who says what they do and does what they say. In terms of turnover, they are a top-ten supplier with us, and in terms of delivery reliability, they certainly are. They have short delivery times and if there is a problem they are here the same afternoon if necessary. Their flexibility is very valuable." Stam adds: "We are always measured by Krohne on delivery performance and quality above 95%, for delivery quality even almost at 100%." Eielts: One time there was something with an inner cable, otherwise I can't remember an NCR (non-conformity report, ed.) for you guys."


Of course, there is always room for improvement, Stam knows. "We are now expanding the package with standard lengths of 30, 40, 50 and even 100 meters that we will deliver on ring. Only lengths over 100 meters will then be truly custom-made. Process optimization is also on the agenda. "Krohne has a repetitive order demand, for example 500 pieces of an item every two weeks. Is it more efficient to deliver 2,000 pieces at once, so that there is enough stock for two months? That might give Krohne a price advantage and certainly a logistical advantage, if they only have to receive the items once every two months instead of four times." Eielts agrees, "We certainly want that optimization, for cost savings and efficiency gains; for that, we first have to decide for ourselves how often we want something delivered."
Above all, however, Eielts is very satisfied, according to his closing words. "On behalf of Krohne, I would like to express my thanks to our contacts at itsme and all the other people there who make sure we get our cables on time. They all contribute to Krohne being able to deliver its products well." Stam: "Thank you, I will pass on the compliment."


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