TLDR; I had a amazing time while working for the Aalberts Industries Group.

At school, i guess around 1999, I had a introduction course SPSS; the SQL that we learned there was just SELECT, ORDER BY and WHERE, maybe a GROUP BY / HAVING and a UNION. There were no real data sets, just demo data.

At a first project, I guess around 1997, I used a combination of excel and access to categorize a SAP/R3 product database. As a chemical Engineer, I was very stunned that that it you needed to jump through some ugly NOT EXISTS( .. ) hoops.

My first 'real job' was a shiftleader and when the company got a new ERP system. on of the managers allocated around 30 minutes of a consultant to me and my colleague for some training. This was a system based on a combination of AS/400 and lotus notes. As it was rather straight forward, we asked if we could get a special report that we could refresh occasionally. This report needed to hold the information to plan, steer and control our shifts. A few minutes after we described what we needed, the guy handed over the excel file and set up the ODBC DSN on our workstation. That report, and the opportunity to refresh it at any moment, gave us so much control and insights. Before that report we would need a big part of our shift to gather that information from various sources. Now it was instantly available.

After a few years, around 2002, the company merged and another ERP system was send in to replace this. Although it was also a AS/400 based system, it was a big step back. Nevertheless, people will find a way to do things: and for the first period, post-its and excel-sheets were used as duct-tape. Lots of them.

Together with the IT team that supported the infrastructure and the ERP system we made many improvements and in 2004 I was asked to improve and rollout both the Infrastructure and the ERP system to all the factories in Europe. We had a very tight time schedule and by optimizing the data-export-conversion and import, we could streamline the whole process. When the crisis hit the automotive and aerospace industry in 2008/2009, 50 factories were fully integrated in the IT structure. It was a hard but exciting time and I made a lot of friends during that period.

With all the knowledge about the processes in the group, both my boss and I realized that there were a lot of opportunities at the factories. Especially during the economic bad times, IT can be a very large lever for business improvements. We found out that Zend (PHP5) could run blazing fast on the AS400 (sorry, iSeries) and we created a print engine, then a reporting engine, then addons to the ERP System. Finally we went a step further and equipped the factories with a very fast and practical MES system. I think that I read the I5v1 version of this SQL reference guide at least 5 times. At one point I tried to order this as a physical book. IBM send me the printed, but a binded version of the pdf file, with a apology that this book has never been in print. With MES, we connected to any data-source and extracted, transformed and processed the data.

During that time, there were several projects to improve the data-center and its operations. By using checklist, intensively monitoring and dashboards, I got a more thorough confirmation that lean manufacturing techniques are invaluable to a business.

When the company grew further from 55 to 90 factories, projects got more and more a pure IT focus and I missed the contact with the Business.

During all these years I collected so many business ideas and unfinished side projects that decided that it was time to move on.