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A year ago, the Alken-Maes brewery moved its headquarters from Waarloos to a new building in Mechelen. At the new location, the brewery created a completely new ICT infrastructure, opting for IP telephony.
With a market share of twelve per cent, Alken-Maes is number two in the Belgian beer market. The company has built this position with a portfolio of six popular brands: the pilsner beers Maes and Cristal, the abbey beers Grimbergen and Affligem, the Mort Subite fruit beers, and Desperados, the beer with a tequila flavor. In addition, Alken-Maes owns quite a few local beers such as Ciney, Brugs Wit and Postel. The Alken- Maes breweries are located in Alken, Opwijk and Kobbegem. In addition, there are distribution platforms in Grimbergen, Wellen and Middelkerke. A year ago, Alken-Maes moved into a brandnew head office in Mechelen.
Neither telephony nor IT
The old building in Waarloos was no longer sufficient,” recalls IS Manager Rudi Vandeweyer. “We had outgrown our old headquarters: ergonomically speaking it was no longer suitable, the location wasn’t ideal and the building was no longer in any way representative of our company image.” Alken-Maes stayed in the neighborhood and opted for new headquarters in Mechelen, right next to the E19 Antwerp-Brussels motorway. The building houses all of the company’s central departments: Finance, HR, Marketing, Sales, IT and all other support services. Vandeweyer: “We took care of all of the interior design ourselves. In terms of telephony and IT we had to start from scratch as well.”
Preference for the telephone
This situation presented Alken-Maes with the opportunity to design new ICT infrastructure with complete freedom. “We didn’t even consider traditional telephony. Vandeweyer: “We went for IP telephony right away.”Alken-Maes also initially looked at the feasibility of replacing all the fixed devices with softphones. “That proved to be a step too far, for the time being. Our employees clearly indicated that they prefer working with a telephone device than calling on a laptop.” What’s more, we needed the infrastructure to allow us to collaborate smoothly with the existing Avaya-switchboards in Alken and Wellen. Ultimately, the proposal from Belgacom turned out to be the best one.
Race against time
In the decision-making process, a surprising amount of weight was given to the opinions of the end-users. Vandeweyer: “It’s true, this decision was made in consultation with the employees. They established several criteria of their own – which we took into account in our final decision.” The new solution consists of an IP switchboard and 200 IP telephones from Avaya. “It was certainly a challenging project. The move took place very quickly. In a space of just 6 months, we had to both select and implement our solution. Fortunately, Belgacom had no problem with our tight deadlines,” Vandeweyer recalled.
A separate part of the project consisted of setting up a new contact center. Vandeweyer: “Telephony remains business-critical for us. We have made a conscious decision to canvass our clients by phone, and not to simply refer them to a website, for example. At the contact center there is a commercial team of 30 employees who make calls to the clients about special promotional offers and the like.” These employees were also given a chance to formulate their specific needs during the selection process. This resulted in the choice for a different IP telephone device from Avaya. “With the implementation of the new IP infrastructure at our headquarters we now have a solid basis on which we will be able to expand later on,” Vandeweyer added. “In this way, for example, we will be able to further expand the functionality of the contact center and integrate it with SAP.”
Alken-Maes belongs to the Heineken Company. The company has 500 employees, distributed among the headquarters in Mechelen and the breweries in Alken, Opwijk and Kobbegem. Alken-Maes produces some 1.4 million hectoliters of beer each year, generating a turnover of 200 million euros.
For more information on IP-telephony, visit the Belgacom website or contact your Account Manager.
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