The Belgian Febelco markets and distributes medicines among more than 3,200 pharmacies. With annual sales of 1.4 billion, the company is market leader. NetRom Software contributes to the renewal of the ERP system. Development Team Lead Bart Segers explains the collaboration.
"Our more than 1,000 employees supply pharmacies by means of 200 vans, working from 8 points of sale. This happens up to four times a day. We work very closely with suppliers and customers, and we are highly dependent on IT. Stability and reliability are crucial. Febelco has a significant social responsibility: for a patient, obtaining medication can be of vital importance.
As an IT team, we also work for a number of subsidiary companies including Pharma Distri Center (PDC, pre-wholesale logistics for the pharmaceutical industry) and HC Pharma (Individual Medication Preparation). Despite the continued growth and diversification, we are constantly working on a sustained alignment and integration of processes and systems. Knowledge and experience are essential. Therefore, Febelco used to work exclusively with an internal software development team - until recently.
Our current bespoke ERP system is a functionally very rich product that we‘ve been improving and expanding continuously for 15 years. It has many interfaces, for instance with the systems of pharmacists for order management, and with our warehouse management systems for inventory management and order picking. The ERP system supports processes like Product Management, Customer Relationship Management and Supply Chain Management. It’s a combination of batch processing and 4GL development in Progress.
In order to make the ERP system - and thus our primary processes - completely future-proof, we decided to modernize it on the basis of the .NET framework. For this project, we started looking for a flexible external partner, enabling our own team of 10 developers and analysts to maintain their focus on innovation. We explicitly wanted a partner who would not just second or detach employees, but instead take responsibility for results. Our team consists of specialists with in-depth knowledge of specific processes and technologies. We were looking for a partner who was ready to prove that they could effectively communicate on our level, functioning as a sparring partner in the reconsideration of processes, systems and changing business models. It soon turned out that NetRom Software was completely comfortable in this position.
Expertise and communications
NetRom Software is now working on a number of generic functionalities for the new ERP system. We have therefore placed our development environment in the cloud. We are working agile and we already completed 10 sprints. Sustained by feedback from the Febelco team, we can tell that the developers in Craiova bring a lot of perfectly applicable technological knowledge and process expertise. Moreover, they show a very strong performance in terms of communications. They have a significant positive impact on the software development process as a whole.
In early July, we found out that one of our core technologies in web development would no longer be supported. In co-operation with NetRom Software, we held a brainstorming session and conducted research into alternatives. Based on the considerations provided, we were able to make an informed choice. For our own ERP system, NetRom Software not only developed a set of generic features. On the basis of their own experiences and research, they also provided us with some excellent advice with regards to developing our testing strategy and the automated testing process of the user interface. We greatly appreciate such initiatives, which result in instant added value.
Structure and energy
During the development sprints, our co-operation is excellent as well: all kinds of questions and issues are tackled immediately from two sides. Of course we have established a sound structure. We have detailed procedures for sub-processes like analysis, design and code review and of course there are weekly conference calls. After kickoff, we really had to get ourselves used to communicating clearly and explicitly and ensuring proper documentation. But there is a lot of energy as well: the developers in Craiova show an open mind and an enormous drive to surpass expectations. It's the perfect combination for long-term success."