Working in a SaaS Company Brings Plenty of Meaning for a Software Developer – RELEX’s Supply Chain Optimization Solution is About Making an Environmental Impact

May 6, 2021 4 min

You might know this feeling: you are at a certain stage of your career as a software developer, and the purpose of your job begins to be more and more important to you. You begin to wonder whether your calling is to work as a consultant or in a product company. 

In any case, you have a burning desire to use your skills to build something meaningful and successful. Preferably among some highly skilled people who share the same motivation.

That’s what Tomi Laine thought seven years ago: working at a consulting company at the time, he began to think that working in a product company could be an interesting career step. He had been in the Finnish software scene for over a decade and worked in both consulting and product companies in several different roles. In a software company with a successful and meaningful product, he thought he could work for something to feel ownership and pride of.

“I heard about RELEX and joined the company as a Senior Fullstack Developer. What still inspires me after these years is the idea of using technology to do things better. In this case, it’s about forecasting and replenishment of the supply chain and minimizing waste for the retail chains,” Tomi says. 

RELEX is a software company that helps customers to optimize supply chains and minimize waste

Nowadays, Tomi works as a Director of Engineering and is responsible for the teams developing the supply chain optimization solution. They solve our customers’ demand forecasting and supply chain challenges with AI and automation.

The result is a win-win situation for all: the stores are able to keep smaller stocks, their customers can still find what they are looking for in the store, and the food loss and wastage are minimized. In the end, what brings the ultimate purpose to our work as software developers is that developing our SaaS product for massive retailers also has a huge environmental impact.

Supply chain optimization solution is our core technology and was originally the first RELEX product, but there have been many different evolutions of it since then. Over the years, there has been major growth in our development teams. When Tomi joined seven years ago, there was only one software development team working with the product, and we had a total of 67 people working at RELEX. Today we are an international company with over 900 employees and offices on several continents. 

However, all of our software development operations are still based in Helsinki, Finland. Tomi’s organization is responsible for the supply chain optimization solution alone and has nine teams working with the different aspects of the application. Today, the solution is AI-driven and data-intensive, and it lays the foundation for the rest of our technology family: the space and assortment solution and the workforce optimization solution. Together they form our Living Retail Platform, where our customers can optimize everything from supply chain management to store maps and workforce planning.

What makes a Finnish SaaS company so successful that it’s able to grow like this and spread across the world?

“Our philosophy has always been ‘stop stupid things.’ Although we have grown a lot, we have stuck to this idea of doing things in an ever-smarter way. It’s deep in our culture that no matter who you are, you are expected to challenge others and suggest more sensible ways of doing things,” Tomi says with a smile.

He has noticed over the years that often, when people hear that we work on supply chain management, they miss the fact that we’re a software company.

“In fact, developing a SaaS product is our main business. We have highly skilled software development professionals in the house who are motivated by working with big challenges. We must do things very differently to push the wall and make a successful product on a global scale”, Tomi explains.

Why join the team as a developer?

In addition to the purpose of our work, as a software development professional, you gain tremendous value by being a member of our team.

“Developers tend to love working with people with the same, or preferably even higher level of competence. Our people are highly skilled. As we work with new and challenging things, we are also constantly accumulating our know-how”, Tomi says.

As a B2B supply chain optimization application, our solution has very different requirements than a basic web service targeting consumers. It has many curiosities, such as its AI/ML forecasting models, highly optimized in-house database engine, big data optimization, and a feature-rich frontend.

“We use technologies and languages such as modern Java, Scala, Kotlin, and Ruby on Rails in the backend, TypeScript and React in the frontend, as well as some less widely used languages like Haskell. You get to dive pretty deep into the world of technology and data. One developer in my organization once walked around the office with a university math book in his armpit and rejoiced to be able to use his math skills at work,” Tomi laughs.

The solution shapes individually to the needs of each customer. Our developers are working to make one flourishing product with the capability to be configured for different business cases. For a developer, our solutions make sense and a huge environmental impact, and the future prospects are outstanding.