Stay-at-home Sales Propels Turkish Bathroom Pioneer into a Digital Transformation

During the recent pandemic, Turkey’s largest producer and exporter of ceramic bathroom products noticed an unusual phenomenon.

“With everybody staying at home for two years, people looked around and thought it was time to change something in their bathroom,” noted Alp Güldür, group IT director at Eczacıbaşı Building Products. “The first year of the coronavirus, our orders went up 33%. The second year, it was 40%.”

However, the unexpected uptick in sales put a strain on the company’s dated enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform. Employees were forced to use more than two systems to retrieve data. Customers complained that screens were antiquated and difficult to navigate. Customer information could not be managed with one click.  And in order for employees to get an accurate sense of the profitability margin, they sometimes had to consult as many as three reports.

Technology is a vital component for digitally transforming businesses. Eczacıbaşı Building Products needed to transform and digitize their core business processes to better support their internal distribution network and digitize sales channels by using SAP CX solutions as one single platform.

“Our system was really old,” recalled Gamze Şenkal Odabasi, Eczacıbaşı’s IT project manager.  “To stay in the game, we had to upgrade our infrastructure and transform everything.”

Hence, the creation of the Vitramax digital transformation project, named for by the VitrA branded ceramic plumbing fixtures the Istanbul-based company started producing in 1958. 

Internally, the venture would be referred to as “more than just another digital transformation.”

“It was an opportunity to change, to make something better,” Güldür explained.

Leaner and faster

Internationally, Eczacıbaşı is known for distributing sinks, toilets, bathtubs, bathroom furniture, and shower trays, among other products. As a data-driven company, it had been conceptualizing the project for several years, allocating a budget and formulating a time plan in 2018.

For two decades, the bathroom group had been reliant on SAP’s on-premise ERP Central Component (ECC) system. “When we adopted it, it was 2002,” Güldür said. “We were operating solely in Turkey. Then, we acquired many more companies, and the group became more diversified. We started doing businesses in many languages.”

Still, the long relationship with SAP led Eczacıbaşı to once again utilize the multinational ERP leader’s solutions to digitize every business process, creating a difference in the market through mobile systems, user-friendly screens, and other innovations.

“A project like this becomes like your child,” Güldür said. “More than 200 people worked on it. In some ways, the pandemic helped us. Everybody was home every day. If we weren’t, I don’t know if we could have finished a project this big in 13 months.”

A cultural shift

Deployed in January 2021, the Vitramax system now covers five countries and five manufacturing sites, operating in four languages over 24 types of modules.

The transformation was not just technological, but also cultural, connecting the finance, accounting, supply chain, logistics, controlling, and CX processes.

Today, sales trends can be predicted with 15% more accuracy.

With its “holistic view” of each customer, Eczacıbaşı understands where every client shops and can effortlessly arrange home deliveries.

“If anyone mentions our brands on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, we get the data immediately, and we can respond to complaints within two hours,” Güldür said. “This used to take more than 24 hours. We can connect to the production departments, quality assurance departments. We used to have to do it by email and spreadsheets.  Now, it’s all done in the system.”

Because of this, the company has seen a 75% reduction in time for merchandise returns.

The enhanced understanding of the various processes has resulted in 60% more efficiency in end-month reporting, as well as a 30% increase in warehouse output – without adding to the headcount. Users have real-time insight and a harmonized view of data for a clearer picture of operations.

Due to the success of the Vitramax digital transformation project, Eczacıbaşı was honored as a finalist at the 2022 SAP Innovation Awards, a yearly ceremony celebrating organizations that have used SAP technologies to make a difference.

“This project is bringing us new vision,” Odabasi said.

Immediate goals include using the technological advances to effect transformations in human resources (HR), CX, and other departments.

 “We believed in the future and it really helped us,” Güldür said.

Learn more about Eczacıbaşı’s achievement and submission to the SAP Innovation Awards in their pitch deck.

Digital Transformation