"Running a low-volume, high-mix production company is all about managing uncertainty. That’s why you need a set of building blocks that are easy to combine and adapt. And that’s exactly what 24Flow offers."
CGK and 24Flow put quick-response manufacturing (QRM) into practice
Time is money. Nowhere is this as true as in low-volume, high-mix manufacturing. Just ask CGK, a Belgian-based company that specializes in highly customized, end-to-end solutions for chemical storage and handling. To reduce lead times and boost delivery reliability, CEO Tijl Charle and Operational Manager Antoine Willems decided to make the switch to quick-response manufacturing (QRM). With 24Flow (which is part of the delaware family) they found the perfect digital partner to turn that vision into reality.
Established in 2004, CGK brings together expertise in the production of synthetics/plastics with in-depth knowledge of environmental legislation to provide solutions for the safe storage, treatment and usage of chemicals and dangerous liquids. Its clients include Shell, Alpro, Aquafin, Brenntag, Willy Naessens, and many other prominent businesses across Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
Tijl Charle, CEO CGK Group:
“Running a low-volume, high-mix production company is all about managing uncertainty.
That’s why you need a set of building blocks that are easy to combine and adapt. And that’s exactly what 24Flow offers.”
“Our goal is to fully unburden our customers by providing end-to-end solutions that cover the whole spectrum of chemical handling and storage, from piping and dosage to insulation,” says Tijl. “To make this possible, we’ve been focusing heavily on vertical integration. Everything we deliver is custom-made from scratch: we buy the raw materials and manufacture and install the final product ourselves. All these steps require high levels of expertise, but doing everything in-house also enables us to take full ownership and control in every project.”
Tijl’s approach pays off: over the last few years, the company has grown by 10% per year on average. “As a family-owned business, however, we want to make sure we’re growing in a sustainable way,” he adds. “That’s why we developed our CGK 2025 strategy, of which QRM is an essential building block. By focusing on quick-response manufacturing, we can lower our costs, improve our delivery reliability, and create a more attractive work environment.”
A comprehensive QRM wishlist
Together with Operational Manager Antoine Willems, Tijl started exploring how the company should embrace QRM’s principles, such as self-steering project teams, and improve their process flows. “For example, we had to reduce the amount of ‘in-progress’ projects in the workshop to a minimum, and focus on finishing projects instead,” says Antoine. “This requires careful planning, as well as the ability to deal with unexpected setbacks or rush orders. We quickly realized that we would need a digital solution to make this happen.”
To turn its QRM ideas into tangible reality, Tijl and Antoine got in touch with several IT vendors. However, none of them were able to meet all the requirements. “The solution had to be low-code, cloud-based, and built on a well-established platform,” Tijl explains. “It also had to work across all our departments and applications, contain a feature for role-based interfaces, and be scalable enough to grow along with our growth ambitions. No one else was able to cover all of that.”
By the numbers: the impact of digital QRM
By adding a digital dimension to their QRM vision with 24Flow, CGK can tap into a host of advantages. A recent study by Bain & Company, for example, shows that digital lean approaches can double the savings of traditional lean efforts.
Go with the 24Flow
Eventually, Tijl got in touch with Erik Dierinck from 24Flow, whose Salesforce-based operations platform looked like a promising offer. Tijl: “Erik believes in QRM as much as we do. The 24Flow platform is designed precisely to put those principles into practice and support their implementation across the company. It’s flexible and adaptable, future-proof, and offers enterprise-grade security (via Salesforce). What’s more: it could be customized entirely to our specific needs, which is a concept we’re quite familiar with.”
Those levels of customization, along with the fact that CGK was 24Flow’s first client, meant that both companies would have to work closely together. Tijl: “We basically started creating 24Flow together. Of course, this isn’t the easiest path to take: building something from scratch requires a lot more effort than just implementing an off-the-shelf solution. Here’s where Erik and his colleagues made the difference: they’re just very easy to work with. The journey certainly was intense, but the partnership was everything we could hope for.”
Time and capacity
In a first phase, the fledgling 24Flow/CGK-team started tackling capacity planning. Antoine: “Everyone used to have their own schedule. To ensure timely delivery, we had to spend a lot of time aligning all those schedules,” explains Antoine. “24Flow creates a single source of truth for overall capacity by combining data from multiple sources. For example, it gets its information about holidays, sick leave, and vacations directly from our HR application. In this way, capacity is always automatically updated.”
Project teams are now free to make up their own schedules within 24Flow. Antoine: ”In the past, we wanted to plan everything top-down, not realizing we were our own largest bottleneck. Thanks to QRM and 24Flow, project teams can align much more efficiently. Our throughput has improved significantly, and we’re not working on too many projects at once anymore.”
Improved efficiency, empowered teams
Sounds easy, right? “Of course, making the change from a traditionally hierarchical organization to self-steering teams and QRM doesn’t happen overnight,” says Tijl. “You have to get everyone on board and make sure that people have easy access to all relevant information while increasing visibility in each other’s work. At the same time, you have to show people their impact and empower them to make changes themselves. That’s exactly what 24Flow does.”
The results so far are nothing to be sniffed at: “Because people are empowered to (re)act, bottlenecks are often solved before they even occur. This means our throughput capacity has increased, and customers get their solutions well within the deadline. Overall, we’re able to produce more efficiently, with the same team.”
“But the most important measure of success is employee satisfaction, and that’s exactly where we see the biggest improvement. While urgencies and stress used to be common on the shop floor, everything now happens much more efficiently, and even urgent orders are processed with a new-found calm.”
An ongoing partnership
So what’s next for CGK and 24Flow? Antoine: “Now that capacity planning has been covered, we’re tackling file management next. We want our people in the field to be able to consult technical documents directly from their mobile phones. We’re also working on automated timesheets for installers and dynamic checklists. The latter will improve safety and quality, for example by making it impossible to move on to the next phase in a project until all safety and quality tests are successfully completed.” In a few years, CGK also wants to set up its own customer portal.
“Running a low-volume, high-mix production company is all about managing uncertainty,” Tijl concludes. “That’s why you need a set of building blocks that are easy to combine and adapt. And that’s exactly what 24Flow offers.”