Supercharging Rexel’s network with intelligent connectivity

We’re helping this electrical products distributor to meet their customers’ needs while cutting costs.

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The Rexel Group is a leading electrical supplies wholesaler. In recent years, it’s focused on expanding its business worldwide. So that it now has 27,000 employees in 26 countries across Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. But its German subsidiary needed help to handle changing customer expectations. 

With 31 branches and four logistics centres distributing up to 300,000 components across the country, Rexel Germany has a lot of customers to keep up with. To offer the level of service it wanted, it needed a smarter network that could respond faster to increased online sales. The Rexel Group turned to us to help.

The challenge

Rexel Germany can only handle the variety of products and the logistics of just-in-time delivery thanks to modern IT. But in an increasingly digital world, customer expectations are changing. Rexel’s customers want to be able to place orders online, see descriptions and compare prices. To plan ahead they need order tracking. And because they don’t work in offices, they need to do it all using smartphone apps and tablets. 

But Rexel’s old traditional network – pairing an MPLS system with new VoIP and WAN – couldn’t keep up with the growing data volume. And because customers needed more assistance, the IT team had less time to deal with system support. "The IT technicians, who were extremely familiar with SAN, LWL and the like, had to develop into business IT managers," says head of ICT services Wolfgang Tomischek. 

Aware there was a problem, Rexel had already looked at upgrading its system. But it found the cost of new hardware and lengthy install time would be too expensive. They needed a solution that could flex to meet their changing business needs without breaking the bank.

Our customers place their orders via multiple channels – using the online shop, fax and phone – and expect us to deliver within hours.”

Wolfgang Tomischek
Head of ICT Services, Rexel Germany

The solution

To help Rexel better manage its system, we rolled out a Connect Meraki software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN). It combines the benefits of different network technologies and puts control back into Rexel’s hands. It used the company’s existing MPLS network for mission-critical and sensitive internal data, giving it a dedicated connection. Meanwhile, the system inexpensively routes less urgent traffic over the internet.

 An online management portal lets Rexel’s IT team keep an eye on network usage. As well as being able to view data flow through the entire network, they can view it by individual user, site or region. This portal also gives them more control, so they can choose which connection to use for each of its business applications. And they can react in real-time to surges in traffic, re-routing data to prevent bandwidth bottlenecks.

While the portal allows the IT team to monitor security threats, the solution also comes with new hardware and software-based firewalls built-in for added protection. “The new, hybrid solution should give us more flexibility and control options, as well as better scaling. It should also help us to keep control over costs at the same time,” explains Thomas Spannbauer, Rexel’s head of IT infrastructure and security

The result 

Our SD-WAN solution gives Rexel Germany more control over its network. The IT team have a self-service portal so they can get an overview of the data streams in the network, and choose the best connection for each business application. Making it easier to collaborate, react to changes and meet their customer’s needs. "Overall, we have a much more transparent overview of our network and know what is happening where," says Tomischek.

The change has also freed up 20 per cent of Rexel’s internal MPLS, bringing down costs and giving the company capacity when they need it most. And with new managed security devices, like hardware and software-based firewalls, the business is safer.

The next step is to migrate the local area network (LAN) to Meraki technology as well. This will give Rexel end-to-end visibility and control of the entire network. And the word has spread

Based on Rexel Germany’s experience with SD-WAN, the Group is also planning to roll out SD-WAN technology around the world.

The new, hybrid solution will give us more flexibility and control and help us control the cost at the same time.”

Thomas Spannbauer
Head of IT Infrastructure and Security, Rexel Germany