"Everything we do is based on technology."
VDL Steelweld is an international company founded in 1965 and active in the field of production automation, mainly focused on the automotive industry. The largest and most renowned company within the VDL group is VDL Nedcar, where cars are produced for BMW. Breda is also home to one of the larger companies belonging to the VDL group. I speak with Peter de Vos, CEO of the Breda location and the branches of VDL Steelweld abroad. Peter: "Here in Breda we mostly do assembly for the factory. There are a lot of offices around the factory. More people work in the office than in the factory. We always start with engineering, with devising the production processes and writing and testing the software for them. We do this virtually. We call it 'Virtual Commissioning'. So before we deliver production lines to our customers, we’ve tested those lines in a virtual world."
Video: Peter de V...
Video: Peter de Vos talks about VDL Steelweld
In this video, Peter de Vos, CEO of VDL Steelweld in Breda, talks about his company, the bond with the city of Breda and international entrepreneurship.
What is your connection with Breda?
The company was founded here. And Breda is still a great location for us. There are good secondary schools here and higher technical schools in the region. So we can attract well-educated people from Breda or the surrounding area. About 400 people work at this location. We are a technology-centric company. Technology is our boss. And anyone interested in technology loves it here. I won't say that attracting people isn't a challenge, but nine out of ten people who come here for an interview find it amazing. Most people are immediately enthusiastic, but not everyone knows where to find us. People don't know what's going on behind these doors.
What else are you doing here?
We also develop automatically guided vehicles (AGVs) for heavy applications, up to 70 tonnes. This means that these vehicles are pre-programmed, without the intervention of people, from A to B. Our vehicles are usually used in ports. For example, in the port of Rotterdam, but automatically guided vehicles that have been developed here in Breda are also running in Singapore.
So we won't run into them on the street?
Allowing automated guided vehicles to drive on public roads is a step further. Then you must comply with safety regulations. The speeds of our vehicles are currently relatively low, so they can drive safely. So we're not Tesla, and we don't plan to have the trucks run automatically on public roads anytime soon. We expect that process will take some time. What you will see is in the future are AGVs providing logistics between different companies on industrial estates.
How do you find the right employees?
We do a lot of recruiting. The people must have the right DNA to be able to work here. We do require flexibility from our employees. One moment it is very busy and the next moment it is a bit quieter. And because we develop production lines for customers all over the world, people need to be willing to travel and be away from home for longer periods of time. However, by applying 'Virtual Commissioning,' we can test more and more activities in the virtual world, so that the need to have software engineers on location for longer periods is continually decreasing.
How would you describe the culture of the company?
Many of the people who work here are from Breda. In the company you can feel that you are in a Brabant company. We have a go-getter culture. People here don't just do what their job description says. We ask our employees take initiative because we do not make standard products. Each process requires a re-examination of the requirements. That requires a lot of creativity. Our customers develop their product, and we develop the production process, doing that almost simultaneously. This means that we also provide feedback to the customer, about how he can adapt his product to make it easier to produce. On the other hand, we also check whether the products that have been developed are achievable at all. We do this together. We call this 'Simultaneous Engineering'. So yes, here people love challenges, creativity, and independence.