How to Drive 30% Greater Efficiency Across Factory Workflows

With Mendix, the Dutch supplier digitizes lubrication maintenance to improve efficiency, employee experience, and data management.

Lubrication ensures the smooth functioning of every moving component in factory operations. An industrial lubrication plan is one of the most important points in the maintenance cycle that extends machinery run-time.

This process requires extensive knowledge about a factory’s environment, equipment, and staffing. Data collection for lubrication suppliers enhances planning and monitoring, ultimately resulting in increased uptime.

However, traditional monitoring methods often fall short, plagued by inefficiencies, outdated versions, and manual errors. These failings have highlighted the need for a digital overhaul in maintenance management and lubrication workflows.

Most industrial factories are still struggling to escape industry 1.0 in a world of 4.0. In response, Van Meeuwen, a Dutch supplier of premium lubricants, created S)MAXX. This cutting-edge tool, built on the Mendix low-code development platform, empowers technicians, engineers, and managers alike to streamline production processes and leverage data-driven insights.

Modernizing Manual Maintenance

Van Meeuwen has been helping companies maximize the efficiency and quality of their machines, personnel, and production for over 90 years. As a family-owned business with just 90 employees, they deliver high-grade lubricants and tailored lubrication maintenance solutions to customers.

Today, factories are experiencing a labor shortage of IT specialists. Forced to ration development resources, manufacturers are making digitalization less of a priority. This is leading to a shortage of tools to turn data into actionable insights.

Like others in the industry, Van Meeuwen struggled with common IT challenges including:

  • Slow software delivery
  • Reliance on specialized developers
  • Siloed data

“We sought a new solution to elevate data management,” said Rienk Minderman, Business Leader of Software Development at Van Meeuwen. “It is rare to get a machine manual that describes the exact situation on the production floor. There are operating conditions to consider, or for example, requirements for food-grade lubrication that need to be met,” he added.

Van Meeuwen first began experimenting with digitizing maintenance tasks like lubrication schedules. They tried Lotus Notes in 2002, but by 2010 the software became too outdated for factories. They then evaluated low-code platforms including OutSystems, ultimately choosing Mendix to create the first iterations of the S)MAXX application.

“It was pretty clear that we’d rather use Mendix than Power Apps when growing because the Mendix environment is far more flexible,” Minderman emphasized.

Ultimately, Van Meeuwen chose Mendix due to its:

  • Composable architecture
  • Scalability
  • Flexibility
  • Business-oriented development approach
  • Intuitive nature and ease of use

“What really made me enthusiastic about Mendix were the building blocks that were available. That spoke to me as someone without a technical background,” Minderman said. “The operating logic made sense. It’s much faster and more efficient. Someone in my network with 40 years of experience in IT also affirmed that Mendix was the right choice with great features in comparison to custom high-code.”

With their new development platform, the team began developing an application that both streamlined the lubrication process and offered an enhanced user interface to empower technicians and engineers.

Tuning Up Factory Workflows

In the past, Van Meeuwen relied on industry standard paper-based processes, including maintenance manuals and cumbersome binders filled with physical data. They managed lubrication schedules either on paper or in Excel, which proved to be time-consuming, error-prone, outdated, and data-deficient.

“It was impossible to find the information you needed as quickly as you needed it,” Minderman said.

Van Meeuwen saw an opportunity to bring the technical revolution to machine maintenance and lubrication when devices such as QR codes and iPads hit factory floors.

“We really started thinking about different ways of not only creating engineers’ schedule, but also registering each moment when we did the lubrication,” Minderman said. “Instead of crossing a box on paper in a binder, we started using digital methods.”

In 2018, Van Meeuwen collaborated with an external partner to develop the first edition of S)MAXX – an application designed for technicians’. Since then, they’ve iterated the solution four times, with the two latest versions independently created using Mendix.

The new native mobile application that utilizes QR code scanning and is ATEX compatible was built in just one year. This improved solution ensures ease of machinery reading and traceability of maintenance data.

S)MAXX offers users:

  • Task management, enabling adjustable lubrication scheduling and real-time access to technical information. Tasks can be prioritized, and users receive notifications for outstanding actions or changes.
  • Data capture, extracting factory data either via API connection or through export functions to Excel.
  • Dashboards and reporting, facilitating audit preparations and providing insights into material usage, among other metrics.

S)MAXX application displayed on tablet, mobile, and laptop that enhances workflow efficiency.

The application currently oversees 70,000 machines and covers over 600 production processes. Since its implementation, the application has shown an impressive 30% increase in production efficiency.

This heightened efficiency directly correlates with technicians’ ability to deliver high quality results. “With S)MAXX, you can monitor all lubrication points and machine parts so everything can be seen in real-time,” Minderman said. “We’ve even been able to identify roughly 40% more maintenance tasks that might have been overlooked before.”

Originally conceived as an internal tool, Van Meeuwen has made the application available externally to its customers. “Now, our users prefer using S)MAXX alongside their existing computerized maintenance management system, as it offers additional depth in task management and execution,” he added.

Data Insights Fuel Operational Efficiency

Minderman described previous data capture at Van Meeuwen as inefficient and lacking detail.

“When I had to do an analysis, I would clean up data for days to make it readable and uniform and to eliminate any errors. The data just wasn’t very usable,” he said.

S)MAXX offers Van Meeuwen insights into manufacturing performance over time, allowing users to analyze trends and make informed decisions. Managers can track the number of tasks completed, open, and declined, providing valuable metrics for assessing productivity and prioritizing lubrication.

Moreover, customers leverage S)MAXX to adapt and meet their evolving needs with the more detailed data available with Mendix. They can fine-tune their approach, ensuring efficient and responsive maintenance.

S)MAXX users can now track critical points in the maintenance cycle to pass audits, including:

  • Tasks that have been open the longest
  • Any upcoming updates in the next six-to-twelve months
  • Parts that are frequently checked, but where no action is required
  • Tasks that fail multiple times
  • How often lubrication tasks are delivered on time (per department, per line, or per machine)

“The platform is excellent for planning, executing, registering, safeguarding, and continuously improving lubrication maintenance dynamically,” Minderman explained. “That’s necessary because production lines are continuously being optimized. New machines are added, or old machines are removed, lubricants are replaced, running hours change, or there might be a different employee taking over a process.”

“With Mendix and S)MAXX, we can provide an up-to-date picture and guarantee critical lubrication points in production. That enables you to respond to situations in practice not just periodically but daily and preventively,” he added.

Now, Van Meeuwen’s data is complete, dynamic, and easy to adjust. Being able to see a clear overview of historical data enables them to prepare, plan, manage, and secure operations more efficiently.

“Mendix has proved very useful for building data-driven machine-maintenance software like S)MAXX,” Minderman said.

Amplifying Technicians’ Voices

A large emphasis was placed on innovation and employee experience when introducing Mendix to Van Meeuwen.

For this reason, developing S)MAXX was a collaborative effort involving lubrication technicians, product engineers, and service managers. Working in agile sprints and leveraging user stories in Mendix, all ideas and functionalities went directly through the users.

“We hired a full stack developer who we are using to train new colleagues on the business side in the platform,” Minderman said. “We want to continue involving those colleagues in the development process.”

“Right now, we’re working on a new release of the application. People in the field are working as a testing group to see how it operates in new environments,” he continued. “We did a test in November with eight colleagues, and it was very successful.”

With plans to roll out S)MAXX more broadly in the near future, Van Meeuwen is furthering its commitment to modernizing lubrication processes for technicians.

Small Business, Enterprise Ambitions

Today, Van Meeuwen is paving the way for a future where low-code integrates with industrial maintenance to drive efficiency and productivity. Mendix is revolutionizing digitalization for niche businesses like theirs, offering cost-effective and rapid tools for standardizing development.

“A simple representation of the state of maintenance is a great introduction to the benefits of digitalization and the use of data to improve uptime,” said Minderman.

According to him, access to such technology is crucial for staying ahead in an industry often resistant to modernization. “Our whole company would still be running Excel if we didn’t use low-code,” he said.

Customer feedback overwhelmingly endorses S)MAXX’s enhanced data quality, innovation, and efficiency, further showcasing how small businesses can digitally transform to establish themselves as industry leaders. “Most of the large businesses and companies we reach out to are interested in using S)MAXX,” Minderman shared.

Motivated by their success with S)MAXX, Van Meeuwen is now in discussions to expand their Mendix contract to add multiple applications, further solidifying their position as innovators in the market.

“Our slogan is that you can get much more out of your assets by implementing smart lubrication,” Minderman concluded. “And we plan on continuing the momentum by building even more complex solutions with Mendix to grow our business.”