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  • GEPA mbH
    • Implementation of a cloud infrastructure
    • Implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales, Customer Service and Marketing
    • Integration of various legacy systems such as AX2012, Board, Magento, telephone system
    • Strategic consulting, project concept, implementation, project management, change management
    • Implementation using agile project methods

    Fair trade with a holistic view of the customer

    Fair trade and the digital transformation are not mutually exclusive. Quite the contrary: For GEPA mbH, the fair trade organization from Wuppertal, it is a way to make more and more people aware of the sustainability objectives of fair trade in cooperation with its partners. To this end, the existing data silos needed to be replaced by an integrated data and application platform.

    Sustainability in the production and distribution of food and craft products is more than just a current trend for GEPA mbH. It has been the mission of the company based in Wuppertal – for more than 45 years. GEPA mbH distributes select foods such as coffee, sweets, honey, nuts, rice, and wine as well as craft products including wickerwork, textiles, and candles. Fair treatment of producers clearly takes center stage. GEPA prefers working with cooperatives of small farmers and craft organizations in the global south.

    Through fair pricing strategies, consulting, and long-term trade relationships, GEPA assumes important social responsibility. Commitment in Germany is important to GEPA as well: Our partners are fair trade shops and sustainable retailers. Changing consumer behavior and the structures of global trade is the shared objective.

    Customer feedback
    • "Our cooperation with Sycor was very professional and based on trust from the outset. This allowed us to implement the solution quickly. Naturally, the digital transformation will continue to occupy us. But we have now established a perfect basis."

      Joachim Hubinger, Head of IT, GEPA mbH

      The situation: Silo mentality and no CRM

      With more than 170 employees and over 80 million euros in sales (2019), GEPA mbH is also a company that needs to operate economically and in a structured manner. A corresponding IT infrastructure developed over the years is an essential basis for this. The problem: New and very useful tools were introduced over time that effectively covered the growing needs for a while. However, this gradually resulted in a patchwork of solutions, promoting a silo mentality and approach.

      In concrete terms, the situation at GEPA was that the four different Customer Service teams, each of them responsible for one of the sales lines, managed their customer relationships, sales promotions, and all related data exclusively within their team. The Sales, Service, and Marketing departments each also worked autonomously. There was no integrated data platform and no all-encompassing view of customers. As a result, customers had more than one contact person at GEPA because they distributed products from more than one sales line. Paper-based processes also caused breaks in the workflow and the lack of telephone integration resulted in unnecessary costs.

      “For us, the digital transformation means simplifying, standardizing, and therefore optimizing the operating processes, and implementing all of this on the basis of an integrated IT infrastructure,” is how Joachim Hubinger, Head of IT at GEPA, summarizes the requirements. “We need a 360 degree view of our customers to support the further growth of our business. This is essential for the meaningful coordination of all customer interactions in Marketing, Sales, and Service.”

      A cloud infrastructure for greater flexibility

      It quickly became clear that GEPA needed the support of an experienced IT service provider for the upcoming project. This did not merely involve the introduction of a single new solution, but the implementation of a comprehensive digitalization concept. “The Sycor experts convinced us with their comprehensive know-how, project experience, and ability to respond to our very specific requests, starting with the very first presentation,” Joachim Hubinger recalls. “We didn’t need a ready-made software suite out of the box. We needed a tailor-made solution for a medium-sized enterprise, integrating our existing ERP system.”

      A cohesive customized concept was developed in close cooperation between the GEPA and Sycor project teams. GEPA was already using the industry-specific AX2012 ERP system, which is part of the Microsoft Dynamics family. “Expanding to Microsoft Dynamics 365 made sense for numerous reasons,” explains Michael Baerhausen, Senior CE Consultant and person in charge of the project at Sycor. “A cloud infrastructure as the overarching data and application platform provides exactly the integration and flexibility that GEPA needs. At the same time, D365 expands the infrastructure with the CRM functionality that was previously lacking.”

      Special challenges: From agility to the pandemic

      Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) is a cloud service offering numerous applications that can be individually selected and scaled according to the requirements. D365 is fully integrated with Microsoft Office 365. It can be used on various devices and provides a company-wide, secure data platform. Once the cloud infrastructure was set up, the Sycor consultants implemented the necessary D365 modules: Sales, Customer Service, and Marketing. Integration with the Office applications, including Exchange and Teams, was realized at the same time for the 100 or so users. Additional components of the Microsoft Power platform can be used. 

      The integration of some existing systems was also part of the project. The existing AX2012 ERP system and the Board decision-making platform were integrated using an SQL interface from KingswaySoft. The DHL return interface, telephone system, and Magento online shop software were integrated as well.

      Some specific challenges were encountered in the implementation phase. The retail sector was hit particularly hard by the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, at times resulting in reduced working hours at GEPA. Change management as a whole had to be adapted to this special situation, with more detailed planning required. “For us, it was also the first project we implemented using agile methods,” says Joachim Hubinger. “It was a big adjustment at first but quickly paid off. Our project partners at Sycor assisted us patiently and constructively.”

      The digital transformation gathers speed

      The various Dynamics modules went live one after the other within a few months. Several core processes, in particular the planning and documentation of customer visits, mobile order entry, customer service including complaints, event planning, and e-mail marketing are now based on the cloud infrastructure. Data comes together from all departments, providing a more comprehensive view of customers. An important step for customer communication and support at GEPA: ERP and CRM along with all data are now so closely integrated that customer communication has become much more personalized and also more versatile.

      “At the start of the project, we were somewhat skeptical whether all of this could be achieved within a reasonable time,” Joachim Hubinger says. “Our cooperation with Sycor was professional and based on trust from the outset, allowing us to implement the solution quickly. We will of course continue to be involved in the digital transformation. But we have now established a perfect basis.”

      About the Company

      • Company name:  GEPA mbH
      • Registered office:  Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia
      • Industry: Retail
      • Company size: >170 employees
      • Web:

      Your contact: John Bertolino

      John Bertolino

      Sales & Marketing Director
      +1 412 788 9494

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