Known for his engaged and strategic perspective and strong leadership qualities, the 37-year-old is leading the charge to automate as many processes as possible for the distribution company. Already about 80% of purchase orders are automatically processed and 67% of order confirmations are completely electronic.
Head of Supply Chain at German distributor of bearings, power transmission, fluid power and tooling products Ludwig Meister, Florian Ostendarp is geared toward data. The 37-year-old is constantly on the search for automated solutions in all facets of Ludwig Meister’s operations — approaching operations with an analytics-first mindset behind every decision-making process.
“When I’m in the office, I’m trying to digitize processes, not only regarding purchasing but also focus on logistics and workshops and trying to get better every day,” he says. “Trying not to waste too much time on repetitive tasks. Trying to build up automated processes.”
When Ostendarp first worked with the company as a student in 2009, most order lines were sent out via fax or email. Now, thanks to the efforts he’s spearheaded to automate processes through EDI connection, about 80% of purchase orders are automatically processed.
Within the last year, the company started down the path to fully automating billing audits. Typically checked manually by an employee before being sent to the finance department, the billing process is now automated for at least one Ludwig Meister supplier — saving about four to seven hours a week in manual labor that is no longer taking place.
Through an automated single batch system, the workshop has overcome a common problem: Not knowing if the right amount of stock is on hand for a customer’s order. For example, a product may be listed as having 100 meters of supply available, but because that material is cut to order, it could be 50 two-meter pieces, 33 three-meter pieces, or any combination. The system now calculates automatically if there is enough stock level to meet a particular customer’s order requirements.
Other recent milestones led by Ostendarp include:
- Development of the data landscape around the company’s order proposal system that now enables a fully automated order process, from purchase request to order dispatch — with no employee intervention.
- Order confirmations at 67% completely electronic, with downstream processes for changing delivery dates/if necessary, price adjustment via ERP system.
- Digitization of manufacturing processes and batch management with automatic space allocation and fully automated remaining quantities management on a single-batch basis.
While studying business administration with a focus on logistics, Ostendarp wanted to write a thesis that incorporated practical components of a company’s daily workings. He had a friend who worked at Ludwig Meister at the time, in 2009, who introduced him to the company’s co-owner Max Meister.
Meister was looking for someone to reorganize his workshop and optimize processes. Ostendarp wrote his thesis with ideas for how to revolutionize the workshop and Ludwig Meister followed the suggestions. “I really liked his work, the results and style,” says Max Meister. “At that time, we didn’t have a job for him, but [in 2012] we asked him to start in our purchasing department.”
When Ostendarp rejoined the company, he was put in charge of centralizing the purchasing department, restructuring it away from having every sales person quote, inquire and buy.
The project started with 18 suppliers, and has now grown to more than 700 — nearly 80% centralization.
John Fox, vice president of global distribution at Parker Hannifin, a manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems that works with Ludwig Meister, has visited the facility outside Munich a couple of times. “Their automation is world-class,” says Fox. “Everything those guys are doing is pretty unique — things they are doing in e-commerce, everything from marketing to logistics — Max and Florian and the team have been pretty impressive as far as using innovative solutions to service their customers.”
When Ludwig Meister took on the Parker line about three and a half years ago, Fox notes Ostendarp “led that whole charge,” setting up the Ludwig Meister systems and personally visiting Parker’s U.S. facilities to take back best practices. “He’s been very engaged and looks at things from a high level, from a strategic perspective, but then also rolls up his sleeves and is very involved in the details and the implementation of this project,” says Fox.
Some of Meister’s project management qualities, according to Meister, include:
- Process automation from start to finish — currently only invoices pending for implementation.
- Process implementation for manufacturing with IT.
- Material flow optimization of production layouts for two locations.
- Sales development from 2015-2019 of 500%.
Before the automation and digitization efforts that include “parameters for every decision,” employees spent a lot of time in front of their computers, manually typing information, making hundreds of decisions a day, and handing information off to other departments, Ostendarp recalls.
Now, normal daily routines have changed for his colleagues who no longer have to check supplier proposals, packaging units, minimum-order quantities, minimum order volume, different order channels, etc. Each person now has two or three hours of time freed up to perform other duties.
“For them, the biggest change was first of all to trust the system and to trust their own parameters they created together with the IT department,” says Ostendarp.
Right now, about 30 to 40 suppliers run through the system automatically every day without any human intervention.
Another element of Ostendarp’s job is to represent Ludwig Meister at international conferences, such as dealer events and associations. He is involved in the European Power Transmission Distributors Association’s own Future Leaders program, and serves as vice president of EPTDA’s Know Your Market committee and will become that committee’s chair in September.
Youth development is also important to Ostendarp and Max Meister within the Ludwig Meister company internally. Meister’s advice to other distributors on developing young talent “is to learn from them and try to be a good employer,” he says. “You will benefit from input from young potential leaders.”
In his department alone, Ostendarp has five people who started working at Meister when they were 15 or 16 years old. One is now his deputy, Christina Laschinger.
“He really gets the best out of every one of us. He’s very committed. He’s very reliable. He always has an ear for everyone and he takes the time for each and every one of us, no matter how long it will take him,” she says. “He’s one of the managers all over our company who always act after our company values and our vision and mission.”
Looking toward the future, Ostendarp says, “The most important thing for me is, we are trying every day to get all the processes automated. Our customers, they need to concentrate on their core competencies, like developing a product and developing new ideas and not thinking about the logistics and the procurement of their needed materials. So that’s what we do.
“We are trying to be the best connector between end customer and the suppliers and we are trying to be better every day.”