PoultryPlan was established in March 2018 by Chiel ter Heerdt and is located in Duiven.
The software was developed by Ter Heerdt. This is an 85-year-old modern family business, which Chiel – as a third-generation Ter Heerdt – managed until recently as owner/managing director. Ter Heerdt is a supplier of Lohmann chicks and hens in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Ter Heerdt is the market leader in the rearing and selling of young layers in the Netherlands and has a respectable market position in Belgium and Germany. The entire business employs 50 people and has a turnover of 55 million euros.
The need for better planning and reliable data
Over the past two decades, the Ter Heerdt family business experienced such tremendous growth that the complexity of the organisation increased significantly. The need for better planning and a better overview increased along with this. ‘We lost control and no longer had an overview during the peak of the growth. We were guided far too much by emotions and day-to-day issues. This resulted in unrest and dissatisfaction amongst customers and employees. We also felt that our quality assurance was inadequate, due to the lack of reliable data, analysis options and comparisons. Something had to change, otherwise we were going to lose customers and money. The solution for us was to invest in software, in the further automation and optimisation of the organisation. This allowed us to remain ahead of the competition,’ explains Chiel ter Heerdt.
Ter Heerdt Information System (THIS)
The technical development of the software within Ter Heerdt was performed by Wim Polman. ‘When Wim started working at Ter Heerdt in 1998, he had already been working in the egg and meat poultry industry for over 20 years. He was hired as a technical expert for PS and later on as an export manager for breeding eggs and chicks. He is also great at mathematics and loves working with computers. Following the introduction and implementation of the Ter Heerdt Information System (THIS), the benefits of using the software soon became clear. Wim evolved into a full-time IT professional for the entire Ter Heerdt Group and this is where the foundations for the current PoultryPlan software were laid,’ Chiel continues.
One central system, one language
‘With the arrival of THIS, we were all speaking the same language and had a better overview. All data were available on everyone’s computer via one central system and could be viewed at any time. Error and failure costs decreased tremendously, by over 300,000 euros per year. Production processes became more efficient and were boosted through optimisation of the use of the two hatcheries and the 60 production barns that we contracted. Animal welfare also improved, through greater control, manageability and more early warning. We also saved 3 ftes on administration and Quality Control, which equates to 150,000 euros. And perhaps the most important aspect: our customers were satisfied again and our employees enjoyed their jobs much better again!’ Chiel explains proudly.
The software proved its worth in the years at Ter Heerdt. The system was thoroughly tested by approximately 130 internal users and roughly 400 external users, including rearers, breeders and customers. In 2012, the Ter Heerdt Group started a strategic cooperation with the Erich-Wesjohann Group (including Lohmann and Hy-line genetics). It soon became apparent that Ter Heerdt were not the only ones in need of an industry-specific ERP system.
Chiel explains: ‘I was asked to give a presentation about THIS to the management of all 25 hatcheries in the EW group in Europe. Based on their enthusiasm and the questions that they asked, it became clear to me that the management of other hatcheries were encountering the same problems that we had encountered. Most were working with Excel or an accounting program and information obtained from various sources, such as climate computers. This may function perfectly if you have a smaller business and employ only a few people. However, this method is very time-consuming and there is a high risk of error. The latent need for one clear and user-friendly software programme that combines all processes was tangible in this group. Following the presentation, some of the managers present enquired whether our programme could be purchased. The entrepreneur in me immediately became excited, this was an opportunity that I could not pass up on.’
From start-up to success
This formed the reason for Chiel to establish PoultryPlan together with Wim Polman and his cousin Niek ter Heerdt. From there, the team started working on the further optimisation of the software and started preparing for sales in the international market. At the samen time they searched for a managing director with both an entrepreneurial spirit and knowledge of software. Chiel: ‘It didn’t take long for us to find Mike Jansen, a man with plenty of experience in the field of IT. He has many years of experience as a developer and team leader in medium-sized IT companies. A few months later Mike convinced his former colleagues Rob Giesen and Barrie Meek to join the team on the adventure and to make a success of this start-up.’