Making figures talk
With 65 staff and an annual turnover of €15 million, aluminium company Blommaert is active worldwide in a unique niche market, viz. that of aluminium and (stainless) steel constructions for the shipping industry and mobile industrial roofs. It’s a market with good future prospects because in 2013 a private investment group bought into the family business. The figures are undeniably favourable.
Since 2014 those figures have been rendered via the BrightAnalytics platform. All financial and operational data are collected and displayed in a transparent manner. Although CEO Tom Blommaert, who took over the reins from his father in 2005, is an entrepreneur who puts great stock in following his gut feeling, he has also come to rely on the analysis of the figures. “In the beginning your decisions are based on gut instinct but professional and sensible entrepreneurship also means taking account of the figures. Especially when investors are involved.”
Not a day goes by that Tom doesn’t consult the platform. Other managers and sales staff also have either full or limited access to the system. “You don’t need a manual but new software always takes some getting used to. The more you use it, the better you get to know the system and the bigger the possibilities.” At Blommaert, figures and statistics are endlessly combined and selected. From turnover to gross margin, from staff costs and stock inventory to insurance costs. “The system is highly flexible. You can take it as far as you like. Moreover, you can adjust many things yourself without doing anything wrong because that’s one thing you can’t afford with figures.” That being said: the CEO believes data analysis is still in its infancy and possibilities will grow exponentially in the near future. “I see huge opportunities in retail, for instance. With a single click you get a full overview of products, locations - you name it.”
A guideline, not an order
Now that the company has an insight into all data it would theoretically be possible to plan investments based on predictions. Still, Blommaert chooses not to go down that path. “We work in a project-oriented business. Our monthly figures do not always give an accurate representation of the actual situation. We only manufacture what has been ordered. Predictions based on the past are always relative in our business. A lot can change in a short space of time, for instance due to new legislation. Figures are a big help but we take care not to get fixated on them.”
The exception that stays within budget
Tom was introduced to BrightAnalytics via the investment group that bought into the company in 2013. It’s highly unlikely he would have taken the step towards data analysis of his own accord. “Custom-tailored packages always demand a lot of effort, time and money and when all is said and done they rarely live up to expectations.” Fortunately BrightAnalytics was the exception to the rule. “I’m serious: to me this is the only software that delivers the goods and stays within budget. I still have to come across the first error message.”