Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back from Mannheim

[This informative post is from Raph who is just returning from a two-day trip to Lugwigshafen (see former post) where he was hosted by our biggest client.)

Hi there,

I'm on the train back to Paris from Mannheim.  The day went well, I was very well received and the IT director showed me around the two different plants (one in Ladenburg, one in Ludwigshafen).

The two towns are facing each other on either side of the Rhine river and should be the same town except that they are in twos different "Lands" (regions).  I felt like the queen of Sheba with Solomon showing me around his place (OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration!)

I've attached two bird's eye photos of the sites  I visited. The biggest one in Ludwigshafen is one square kilometre (we visited by car, which was nice since it was snowing !).  It has it's own port on the Rhine for receiving raw materials (200 000 tons per year), it's own power plant, petrol station, cafeteria, etc...

This is where the headquarters of the mother company is.  They own 220 companies throughout Europe.  The IT director told me the original family came from Italy in 1823 and set up a chemical factory in Ludwigshafen.  They owned the place until 1977 when they sold out to a well-known chemical company based in Tel Aviv.  As they say, the rest is history.

The second plant in Ladenburg used to be "BK" before they merged (hence the BK in the name).  They do phosphates.  They receive lots of phosphates by boat from Israel then mix them up and make phosphoric acid out of it.  This goes into lots of very different products.

The plants are impressive.  They get raw materials from different mines they own throughout Europe and Israel : in the Negev desert they own one of the world's biggest open potash mines in the world.  They also own mines in Scotland and Barcelona.

Read all about it here (the article mentions our client ! and oh, the town they call Sdom is actually the historic Sodom, on the bank of the Dead Sea).  The plants I visited ship out 100 trucks per day in finished goods, ranging from phosphate based food additives to fertilizers to gypsum based polymers used for dental fillings.

I met about 20 or 30 people today who probably will remember me better than I will remember them.  Most of them seemed to have heard about me/us from somewhere.  Being in the same hotel as Mr. M who I saw at breakfast, but our paths didn't cross for the rest of the day.  I also saw Dr. S who is the head of the mother company in Germany and who still hopes to get Mona
[our software] one day.

I had meetings all day with different people : first the technical low level transport guys, then in the afternoon the whole SAP team of developers.

I think you could excuse me for using the somewhat popular adjective "gob-smacked" to describe their state after I'd finished presenting Mona.

It's sort of the "nuclear-battleship versus small swift pleasure boat" situation. Their SAP system handles 16 languages with multi-site redundancy, Oracle transaction logs replicating over 4 GB fibre optic lines, 1500 users connected over 26 countries — but our system gets the job done nicer and quicker when you don't need this kind of intergalactic superstructure.

Anyhow, we'll see how everything shakes down.  For now we impressed them enough to trust our system to stay where it is and integrate with theirs, but there are opportunities open later for putting our software in other places.

The integration itself is no small matter (couple months work at least) and show they have confidence in us and our system. The next step is to come back up here end of march with "a developer" and kick off the project by getting into the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts (XML-RPC between Java and .Net, should prove fun !).

Looks like I'm arriving at Paris soon.  I'd better sign off ; see you all soon.

Lots of love,


1 comment:

  1. You're a very smart man, Raph, because I have absolutely no idea what most of this means... Ha ha. I gather the journey was a success and, for that, congratulations!