Today’s rapid developer profile, we feature Yasmijn Joosten, a Mendix Solution Developer at Kuehne + Nagel, one of the world’s leading logistics companies. Yasmijn has no software development background but is using Mendix to create apps and optimize processes at one of the world’s leading logistics providers. See how she’s doing it and living out her love for logistics.
What is your educational and professional background? Do you have any prior development experience?
I started working right after high school as a supply chain coordinator at a bedding company in the Netherlands called Beter Bed. I was responsible for about 20 supplier accounts, ensuring goods were delivered as agreed and delivered to customers on time. It was really cool to do. We used SAP there, for which I became a key user. At the time, we were still using email and even faxes for sending and receiving order confirmations. Together with the IT department, I helped to implement and roll out an electronic data interchange (EDI) with our suppliers. I helped other people understand the EDI messages and how to solve errors when they popped up.
That’s when I arrived at the idea that I wanted to do more with software from a more technical side because it comes easily to me.
I don’t have any prior development experience. I have done a little web design for my wife. She has a jewelry webshop that I built myself. But there’s no development background there. I’m just naturally good at software and technology, so that’s why I wanted to do more with it.
I saw a job offer at Kuehne + Nagel for application support. I got the job and really liked it, but I learned quickly that it wasn’t challenging enough for me. I set a goal for myself to become a project manager for our IT department. But after a few years, it felt like I was just chasing people, and I wanted to do the work, think for myself, and create things. I wanted to think with our business about solutions. I wanted to do different things at work every week. That’s why I thought Mendix was great because you get to code a little, you get to model a bit, and you get to do some consulting. In Kuehne + Nagel’s environment, as a Mendix developer, you do everything. It’s cool.
You’re very passionate about supply chain management. How did you get into it?
I like thinking about processes and how to do optimize them. In school, I worked at a supermarket warehouse, as part of the supply chain. I kind of just fell for logistics. That’s what drove me to Kuehne + Nagel; it’s a logistics company. Some people say that once you’re in logistics you never get out, I feel that way too. There’s always something to do, something to optimize.
What’s your drive for creating things? What do you like about creating and why?
What I like about creating is that you see the product grow and turn into a value-adding product for your customers. I also like the collaboration between people when creating new stuff. I love to be involved in the whole creative process of thinking about the possible solutions and actually creating it, instead of just designing the solution or just creating a solution someone else has designed. It’s what got me into this job.
What I like about creating is that you see the product grow and turn into a value-adding product for your customers.
How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction to it?
I had to support Mendix on a functional level, so I didn’t get to see the modeler initially. But when I saw people struggling with the app or some interfacing issues occurred, I would help them solve it. I decided to ask one of our developers to introduce me to Mendix, to get a little more background on how it’s supposed to work, how you can use it, and what’s the power of Mendix.
Our developer gave me some exercises to do with Mendix and afterward I thought, “This is really intuitive; it’s really easy.” It’s really fun being able to create an app so quickly, even without knowledge of software developing. I was enthusiastic. Even without an educational background in software programming or developing I’m going to be a software developer and create apps for people in no time.
What have you made with Mendix? What problems have you solved?
People are always talking about solving problems with software, but I don’t think it’s always problem-solving. With software like Mendix, you can also add value to an existing process. It’s not always triggered by a problem. Sometimes, we can just make it better.
I feel like I don’t have enough knowledge of what Mendix can do and how we can use it within our company to add value. I’m looking forward to Mendix World 2019 because I hope to see a lot of new things for me there. I want to know more about how to add value with Mendix.
My first app was an addition to our warehouse management system. It’s small, barely any UI. In logistics, there’s a process that’s called vendor-owned inventory, which means that we have stock in our warehouse that is legally owned by one party but held by another. Somewhere in the process, the stock changes owners.
With software like Mendix, you can also add value to an existing process. It’s not always triggered by a problem. Sometimes, we can just make it better.
The app that I built with Mendix calculates the delta of ordered quantities versus stock quantities for that day and sends a file to our warehouse management system to tell us how much stock we need to change from the owner. This way, the retailer will only buy stock that they will actually sell and the retailer will not have to worry too much about inventory management.
Another application that I built is a standalone module that’s integrated with another app that runs on a tiny tablet with a finger scanner. Our warehouse workers use this wrist tablet to scan products. The app provides instructions to the employee on what he or she has to do with the parcels that they are working with. It replaces an existing manual process where it was all paperwork and using a color-coded sticker system to mark parcels for our carriers that transport the parcels. Sometimes, parcels end up on the wrong pallet because someone placed the wrong sticker on the parcel or placed the parcel on the wrong pallet. Then the parcel would go to the wrong carrier, or an entire pallet would be loaded into the wrong truck.
Now, this new app takes the employee by the hand—or literally their wrist—where they can scan the parcel and they’re told what pallet to put it on. Then they scan the pallet to make sure it’s correct. If it’s incorrect, the app tells them which pallet is correct. Every step is being checked by a scan of a barcode. We’re helping the employees do it right.
What value have your apps brought to Kuehne + Nagel? How have they affected your work?
With the vendor-owned inventory app, there was no process in place at all before. Without this app, we’d have been using Excel exports and doing calculations ourselves. Then we’d have to manually change the owner of each pallet in the warehouse, pallet by pallet, hundreds of pallets a day. The Mendix app does it all automatically with just a few clicks. It’s saving maybe two hours of work a day.
The warehouse workers that are using the wrist tablet app are really happy because it’s easy to use, it’s fast, and it helps them do the right thing. In the past, no one was preventing them from making a mistake. That’s a big change.
What was most helpful for you when learning Mendix?
When you’re building really complex apps that are integrating with others, there’s a lot of data going in and out. Performance can become an issue. The most helpful thing for me was doing the advanced training to get to know a bit about when to be cautious about performance when you are developing. It’s important to learn about how you can optimize performance.
Have you had any “a-ha” moments using Mendix?
Mendix is very intuitive, so I haven’t had any real “a-ha!” moments. But what I’m surprised by every day is that sometimes I can’t figure out what to do but then I go to the app store or to the community and I look for it and it’s just there. Also, it’s really easy to use and to implement.
What advice would you give to people like yourself using Mendix for the first time?
People shouldn’t be afraid to start building. It’s not like you can do something wrong. Just try what you’ve built and see how it works. It’s really great to see yourself build an app in no time. I think everybody can build an app with Mendix, so just do it and don’t be afraid, because it’s fun!