• FilipVanHool02
    Interview met ceo van busbouwer Van Hool, Filip Van Hool De bussen van Van Hool zijn een begrip op onze wegen. Betrouwbaar, steeds milieuvriendelijker, mooi en van eigen bodem. Het bedrijf uit Koningshooikt doet er dan ook alles aan om zijn sterke positie te verzekeren. Hun maatwerk is internationaal in trek, en sinds de recente

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    Interview met ceo van busbouwer Van Hool, Filip Van Hool

    De bussen van Van Hool zijn een begrip op onze wegen. Betrouwbaar, steeds milieuvriendelijker, mooi en van eigen bodem. Het bedrijf uit Koningshooikt doet er dan ook alles aan om zijn sterke positie te verzekeren. Hun maatwerk is internationaal in trek, en sinds de recente opening van een productievestiging in Macedonië versterkt het opnieuw zijn positie in standaardbussen.

    Toch voelde Filip Van Hool en het management zich in het recente verleden niet altijd zo zelfzeker. De twijfel of ze het alleen zouden redden tussen de grote merken als DAF, Scania en Volvo, knaagde bij het management.

    Waarom Van Hool zich vandaag sterker dan ooit voelt, en resoluut voor groei kiest, antwoordt Filip Van Hool op deze 10 vragen:

    1. Wat is de sterkte van Van Hool?
    2. Waarom produceren in het buitenland?
    3. Waarom is een verkoop van het bedrijf afgewend?
    4. Hoe zorgen jullie voor continue innovatie?
    5. Hoe ziet de bus van de toekomst er uit?
    6. Wat soort werkgever is Van Hool vandaag?
    7. Hoe groei in eigen land verenigen met een buitenlandse vestiging?
    8. Behouden jullie bewust veel handenarbeid?
    9. Hoe verloopt de internationale expansie?
    10. Welke automotive toekomst heeft België?

    1. We kennen jullie als busbouwer voor openbaar vervoermaatschappijen als De Lijn en TEC. Toch komt 89% van de busomzet van coaches, of reisbussen op maat van Google, wielerploegen, exclusieve organisatoren en langeafstandsritten. Waarin schuilt jullie sterkte?

    Filip Van Hool: “We positioneren ons als een bus- en coachbedrijf dat voertuigen op maat van zijn klanten maakt. 80% van onze omzet wordt op bussen en reisbussen gemaakt, 20 tot 25% op opleggers en trailers. Allemaal producten met toegevoegde waarde. 50% van onze omzet halen we in Europa, 50% in de Verenigde Staten.

    We zijn de laatste jaren steeds sterker geëvolueerd naar de duurdere producten. We zijn in staat om alles op maat te maken en zijn hiervoor internationaal gekend. Het resultaat is er ook naar. In dit segment wonnen we marktaandeel.

    Anderzijds lieten we een moeilijker segment steeds meer links liggen: de standaardproducten die aan een zo laag mogelijke prijs geproduceerd moeten kunnen worden. 80 tot 85% van deze bussen komt uit de lageloonlanden. Hiertegen konden we niet meer concurreren met onze aanpak ’100% made in Belgium’. Momenteel produceren we rond de 1000 voertuigen per jaar. Onze strategie zal ervoor zorgen dat we binnen 4 tot 5 jaar 1500 voertuigen maken.”

    2. Om deze groeivisie waar te maken, heeft Van Hool de grootste stap uit zijn geschiedenis genomen. Waarom trekken jullie naar het buitenland?

    Filip Van Hool: “Doorheen de jaren zijn de goedkope standaardproducten zo goed als weggevallen. Helaas leidt ook het premiumsegment steeds meer onder de crisis. Enkel dit segment zou ons te weinig toekomst bieden. Hiermee zouden we onmogelijk alle kosten kunnen dekken. Bijvoorbeeld ons groot budget voor onderzoek en ontwikkeling van 12 tot 13 miljoen per jaar, op een totale omzet van 475 miljoen euro. We moeten meer aantallen kunnen produceren om deze kosten te blijven dekken. Bovendien moeten we in staat zijn het volledige gamma aan te bieden. Onze Amerikaanse verdeler – waarin we ondertussen 35% hebben – wil zowel standaardbussen van Van Hool als tailor made. Kunnen we de standaardproducten niet meer leveren, dan zouden ook de premium wegvallen.

    Daarom hebben we beslist om een productievestiging in het buitenland op te starten, in Macedonië. Het is een grote stap voor een bedrijf dat voorheen alles in eigen land maakte. Met productie van het lagere en middengamma in het buitenland kunnen we opnieuw de West- en Oost-Europese markt bedienen, en exporteren naar het Midden-Oosten en Israël, wat ooit thuismarkten waren.

    In oktober zijn de eerste bussen geproduceerd in Macedonië klaar. Ze maken deel uit van ons eerste megacontract van 550 bussen voor de VS. ”

    3. Jullie zijn een onafhankelijke constructeur tussen de grote internationale groepen als Volvo, MAN en Scania. Hoe handhaven jullie zich?

    Filip Van Hool: “Zes jaar geleden twijfelden we of we als onafhankelijke constructeur konden blijven optornen tegen de groten. We vreesden misschien te moeten verkopen. De grote merken begonnen steeds meer bussen te bouwen om hun omzetverliezen in bijvoorbeeld hun truck-afdeling te compenseren. Tegelijkertijd stopten ze de leveringen van dieselmotoren aan ons, waardoor we ons moesten beroepen op een nog kleiner clubje leveranciers.

    Vandaag heeft Van Hool meer zelfvertrouwen. ‘Ja, wij geloven in zelfstandig zijn’. We geloven dat we onze unieke positie in de toekomst kunnen behouden met investeringen in innovatie, milieuvriendelijkere motoren, opvallende producten en productie in het buitenland.

    Waaraan we deze omslag danken? Onze strategie hebben we herbekeken. We hebben onze ideeën verder ontwikkeld met anderen, bijvoorbeeld onlangs met een buitenlandse constructeur, we houden veel beter onze kosten onder controle, hebben een financieel managementsysteem ingevoerd en kiezen met één ceo voor een duidelijke beslissingsnemer, strategie en visie.

    Het grote voordeel is dat we als onafhankelijke constructeur vrij partnerships kunnen aangaan, kunnen kiezen van wie we componenten afnemen en welke innovaties we zullen testen. Zo kunnen we telkens de beste componenten voor de klant integreren.”

    4. Hoe zorgen jullie ervoor dat jullie top zijn in jullie sector? Hoe vullen jullie innovatie in?

    Filip Van Hool: “We hebben een kleine thuismarkt. Dat is een nadeel, maar ook een voordeel. Het heeft ons gesterkt en harder gemaakt. Het heeft ons gedwongen zeer flexibel te zijn en een breed aanbod te ontwikkelen. Hierdoor exporteren we 90 tot 95% van onze voertuigen.

    Wij zijn gespecialiseerd in het zoeken, het op maat maken en integreren van de beste onderdelen tot een voertuig. We laten de verschillende componenten optimaal werken.

    Het Innovatief Aanbesteden van de Vlaamse overheid geeft ons een boost op het vlak van ontwikkeling, verkoop en werkgelegenheid omdat we de kans krijgen om een nieuw type te bouwen in opdracht van de overheid (De Lijn). Vervolgens kunnen we dit type en de opgedane kennis commercialiseren en exporteren. Dit helpt, zeker bij nieuwe technologieën die relatief duur zijn, bij het zoeken en optimaliseren van nieuwe aandrijfsystemen zoals hybride en elektrische motoren en de waterstofmotor met 0% emissie waarmee we nu al een 50-tal bussen hebben gebouwd en geleverd, 25 voor Europa, waarvan 5 voor De Lijn, en 25 voor VS.

    Toch gaat onze activiteit en visie op innovatie nog verder. Een voorbeeld is onze laatse nieuwe langeafstandsdubbeldekker. We hebben niet alleen reeds 300 dubbeldekkers gemaakt voor de VS, we hebben ook gelobbyd bij de overheid om de wetgeving te veranderen zodat deze mochten rijden op lange afstanden. Bovendien verzorgen we voor 10 jaar het totaalpakket van deze voertuigen die 20 uur per dag rijden: het onderhoud, kuisen, tot en met tanken. Zodat de klant zich enkel op zijn kerntaak hoeft te focussen.

    Een ander concreet product: onze extrabrede vliegtuigbus. In standaard vliegveldbussen zouden we niet concurrentieel zijn, wel van zodra de klant het langer of breder wil en hiervoor meer kan betalen.”

    5. Wat mogen we van Van Hool verwachten op KT en LT?

    Filip Van Hool: “We hebben een nieuw premium product: een bus met tramlook, de ExquiCity . Hiermee vernieuwen we ook het uiterlijk van de bus, nadat we ze met hybride motor intern al hadden vernieuwd. Met deze bus gaan we in steden de concurrentie aan met de tram. Onze bus is 10% goedkoper dan een tram, en wordt voor het eerst als waardig alternatief gezien voor de tram die een beter en groener imago heeft. De politici die beslissen over de aankoop vinden dit zeer belangrijk. We hebben er al een honderdtal verkocht aan steden in Zwitserland, Frankrijk, Zweden, Spanje en Luxemburg.

    Maar meteen blijkt ook hoe hard de concurrentie is. Na 1 jaar hebben drie andere constructeurs deze tramlook ook in hun gamma. Zo snel gaat het. Het geeft ons een constante druk om te innoveren, om een stap voor te zijn.”

    6. Van Hool staat bekend als een bedrijf dat een werkgever wil zijn voor mensen uit de buurt. Waarom is dit zo belangrijk? Hoe vullen jullie dit vandaag in?

    Filip Van Hool: “Wij willen kwaliteitsproducten brengen waarin elke werknemer zijn bijdrage kent.

    We beschouwen onszelf als een werkgemeenschap met horizontale structuur, één familie van mensen gepassioneerd door voertuigenbouw. We cultiveren het idee van fierheid op het eindproduct. Iedereen ziet ons eindproduct rijden. We willen niet alleen dat ze er een fier gevoel over krijgen, we weten dat dit zo is.

    Opvallend is dat we hiervoor geen zeer uitgebreide communicatie moeten uitrollen. Door de aard van ons product en de manier waarop we dit bouwen, creëren we als vanzelf een grote betrokkenheid. We springen allemaal op een flexibele manier in het productieproces in. Via onze delende werkvloer kan iedereen bijdragen tot de ontwikkeling, de nieuwigheden, het bedenken van slimme oplossingen. Dit is ingebakken in het systeem van de werven.

    Bij elk nieuw contract wordt deze cultuur geïnjecteerd en versterkt. Elke verkoop is een nieuw product dat kennis en vakmanschap van iedereen vraagt en doet uitwisselen.

    Wanneer we naar de criteria van Vlaanderen kijken, dan zijn we een voorbeeldbedrijf, een lead plant. We ontwikkelen innoverende en ecologische producten, hebben een digitale fabriek met geïntegreerde processen, een slim en zelfregulerend productieapparaat. Tot slot zijn we human centered.

    7. Toen jullie begin 2012 aankondigden in Macedonië te gaan produceren, werd er voor het eerst getwijfeld aan deze human centered-aanpak. Hoe verenig je groei in eigen land met een buitenlandse vestiging?

    Filip Van Hool: “Tot de voorbije zomer waren we een bedrijf met alle activiteiten in België. Nu in oktober zijn de eerste bussen uit onze assemblagefabriek in Macedonië (net boven Griekenland) klaar. Het nieuws dat we een buitenlandse productie-eenheid gingen opstarten, was aanvankelijk een ijskoude douche voor het personeel. Het werd ongerust. Dat begrepen we.

    De afgelopen maanden hebben we kunnen verduidelijken dat deze stap een noodzaak voor ons bedrijf is, en dat we zo onze positie in België kunnen versterken. Hier houden we het beslissingscentrum, de op maat productie van een duizendtal bussen per jaar en alle engineering.

    Je moet weten dat de markt het volledige gamma eist, van standaardbussen aan een lagere prijs tot premium voertuigen. Willen we het premium gamma behouden en versterken, moesten we dus ook opnieuw meer standaardvoertuigen bouwen.”

    8. Wanneer we de assemblage van een bus vergelijken met deze van een auto of truck, zien we hier nog veel handwerk. Behouden jullie dit bewust?

    Filip Van Hool: “Rond onze handenarbeid bestaan misverstanden. Want zoals elke fabriek automatiseren wij ook zoveel mogelijk. We hebben bijvoorbeeld een lasinstallatie die een 60-tal lassers vervangt. Deze zoekt automatisch de onderdelen en last die. Tussen de arbeiders werken er ook heel wat alleenstaande lasrobotten en lasersnijmachines. Per jaar investeren we 4 miljoen euro in machines.

    Maar dan nog: een standaardbus of -coach is niet zoals een klassieke wagen of truck op een lopende band te plaatsen. Deze productie vraagt 1200 tot 3000 manuren, een truck 50 tot 60 manuren. Onze toegevoegde waarde is 50%, de bijdrage van handenarbeid hierin 76%.

    We gaan wel een stap verder dan veel andere constructeurs. Bij ons is alles mogelijk. Daarvoor hebben we meer dan 128 beroepen in huis. Heel wat van onze mensen zijn vakmensen die zijn opgenomen in de ontwikkeling van producten op maat. Dit maakt dat we in staat zijn om veel onderdelen zelf te maken in hout, metaal, kunststof,… Bijvoorbeeld zetels. Dit wil niet zeggen dat we het doen. Maar van zodra we niet vinden wat we zoeken, of de onderdelen elders te duur zijn en leveringstermijnen te lang, kunnen we het zelf maken. Wat blijkt: voor tailor made-voertuigen kunnen we veel onderdelen zelf maken. Dit geeft ons een concurrentieel voordeel, we kunnen meer en flexibeler dan onze concurrenten op dit segment inspelen.

    Zo hebben we een verticaal geïntegreerd productieproces uitgebouwd. We maken kleine series op een korte termijn en onze ingenieursafdeling is sterk geïntegreerd met ons productieapparaat.”

    9. Hoe verloopt jullie internationale expansie? Van Hool staat sterk in Amerika en Europa. Worden ook andere markten bespeeld?

    Filip Van Hool: “Hier is opnieuw perspectief nadat we markten verloren aan producenten van standaardvoertuigen. Het merendeel van deze standaardvoertuigen wordt geproduceerd in Polen, Tsjechië en Turkije. Ook wij kunnen hier nu in mee spelen met lager geprijsde modellen die toch volgens onze kwaliteit- en designeisen zijn gebouwd. Zo versterken we onze positie op de Amerikaanse markt en is het Midden-Oosten en Afrika opnieuw bereikbaar.

    In de Verenigde Staten hadden we al een productie- en rebuildingactiviteit met ABC Companies. Nu gebruiken we deze capaciteit in een samenwerking met concurrenten. Zij hebben orders in de VS, wij productiecapaciteit. Het is een moeilijk verhaal waarbij we moeten opletten niet in ons eigen vlees te snijden, maar ik geloof er wel in. We kunnen ook met andere collega’s en concurrenten in clusters werken. Het helpt ons aan omzet en werkgelegenheid voor onze mensen.”

    10. Hoe schat u de toekomst in van de automotive industrie in België?

    Filip Van Hool: “België heeft zeker een toekomst dankzij goede infrastructuur en connectie met de havens naar de Verenigde Staten en het hinterland, de vele hoogopgeleiden en opgebouwde knowhow. Tegelijkertijd mogen we deze troeven niet overschatten. Ook lageloonlanden hebben steeds beter opgeleide mensen.

    Het is heel belangrijk dat we ook de kostenstructuur onder controle houden. We moeten niet even goedkoop worden als de lageloonlanden, wel pas houden met Nederland en Duitsland. Ik pleit dan ook voor een globaal lagere loonkost…

    Verder kunnen we in de toekomst nog meer toegevoegde waarde realiseren in het samenwerken, de clusters tussen industrie, universiteiten, sectororganisaties en automotive partners.

    Alle Westerse landen kampen met een tekort aan vakmensen. Wij lossen dit op door laaggeschoolden en technische schoolverlaters intern op te leiden. Jaarlijks werven we 500 tot 600 nieuwe mensen aan. In 2012 hebben we 1800 mensen opgeleid. Daarenboven koesteren we onze 45-plussers. Deze zijn absoluut niet oud en out. Wij ondersteunen hen en waarderen hun ervaring. We laten ze niet graag vervroegd gaan. Om ervaringen maximaal te delen, mengen we jongere en oudere mensen in de werkgroepen.”

     

    In cijfers

    Oprichting: in 1947 door Bernard Van Hool.
    CEO Filip Van Hool, familielid van de derde (?) generatie
    Productie: jaarlijks tussen 1000 en 1350 bussen en coaches, x opleggers en trailers
    Personeelsaantal groep: 4069
    Sites: productie, ontwikkeling en hoofdkantoor in Koningshooikt, productie in Bree en Skopje (Macedonië)

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  • Gerhard Schneider
    Interview met fabrieksdirecteur Audi Brussels, Gerhard Schneider De Audi-fabriek in Vorst glimt zoals ze elke dag doet. Kraaknet en superefficiënt. Niet moeilijk wanneer je weet dat de 2551 vaste medewerkers niet alleen voortdurende verbeteringen kunnen aanbrengen, maar ook leentje buur mogen spelen bij fastfoodketens en ziekenhuizen. “We kunnen van iedereen iets opsteken”, zegt fabrieksdirecteur Gerhard

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    Interview met fabrieksdirecteur Audi Brussels, Gerhard Schneider

    De Audi-fabriek in Vorst glimt zoals ze elke dag doet. Kraaknet en superefficiënt. Niet moeilijk wanneer je weet dat de 2551 vaste medewerkers niet alleen voortdurende verbeteringen kunnen aanbrengen, maar ook leentje buur mogen spelen bij fastfoodketens en ziekenhuizen. “We kunnen van iedereen iets opsteken”, zegt fabrieksdirecteur Gerhard Schneider van Audi Brussels NV/SA, dat in april 2013 bekroond werd tot Employer of the Year 2013.

    Vandaag rolt er elke 90 seconden een gloednieuwe A1 van de band, waarvan 9 op de 10 voor de export. Schneider gelooft dat dit ook in de toekomst zo verder zal gaan, ook al wordt de knoop rond de opvolger van de A1 pas in 2014 doorgehakt.
    “De afgelopen 6 jaar investeerde de groep Audi 576 miljoen euro in onze plant”, blikt Schneider terug op de eerste jaren van Audi in Brussel. Zelf staat de 52-jarige Duitser sinds maart 2010 aan het hoofd. “Momenteel bouwen we een nieuwe pre-lakstraat waar auto’s hun grondlaag krijgen voor een kleine 90 miljoen euro. Deze laatste investering zegt meteen iets over onze toekomst. Zo’n lakstraat gaat 25 tot zelfs 30 jaar mee en past in een duurzame strategie. Audi doet dit enkel wanneer het een mooie toekomst voor de plant op het oog heeft. Voor alle duidelijkheid nog even benadrukken dat de knoop rond de opvolger van de Audi A1 pas in 2014 wordt doorgehakt, maar deze investering stemt ons optimistisch.”

    BEautomotive stelt Gerhard Schneider 10 cruciale vragen over het merk Audi, zijn fabriek en mensen, en de hybride toekomst.

    1. Audi doet het wereldwijd zeer goed. (verkoopcijfers?) Wat maakt Audi AG tot een van de meest succesvolle merken vandaag?

    Gerhard Schneider: “Audi heeft een langetermijnfocus op kwaliteit. Niet alleen testen en vergelijkingen erkennen dat Audi kwaliteit biedt, ook klanten voelen dit zowel in het product dat ze kopen, de prijs en de service die ze bij en na de verkoop genieten. Deze kwaliteit is precies wat klanten zoeken, en waaraan ze ook in tijden van crisis bereid zijn te investeren.
    We stellen onze klant centraal. Hij is belangrijk. Hij betaalt ons.”

    2. Vandaag is Audi Brussels 1 van de 5 Audi-fabrieken. Binnenkort komen er China en Mexico bij. Hoe draagt Audi Brussels bij tot het succes? Kortom wat is het geheim van deze plant?

    Gerhard Schneider: “De A1 is een echte veroveraar. Toen we de productie van de A1 in 2010 startten, was het een nieuw model. Intussen weten we dat 80% van de kopers van de 123.111 A1′s in 2012 voordien nog nooit een Audi gekocht had. Dit is een zeer hoog cijfer, dat benadrukt dat de A1 een strategisch zeer belangrijke wagen geworden is voor de groep. Ofwel kopen deze eerste kopers binnen een paar jaar een nieuwe, of ze hebben Audi ervaren en stappen over naar een Audi A3 of A4.
    We zijn wereldwijd de enige fabriek die de succesvolle A1 bouwt, en hebben bovendien zeer goede troeven en argumenten om de nieuwe te bouwen. We hebben een rijke ervaring in het opstarten van nieuwe modellen. Onze productiviteit stijgt steeds, we leveren prima kwaliteit en leveren tijdig, snel en correct.”

    3. U beseft dat vooral de kwaliteiten en inzet van uw mensen hierbij zwaar doorwegen, niet zozeer de machines?

    Gerhard Schneider: “Onze medewerkers zijn het belangrijkste voor ons. Machines kan je overal installeren, afbreken, verplaatsen en weer opbouwen. Onze mensen werken en wonen in België, niet elders. Zij maken het verschil. Zij verbeteren ons productieproces voortdurend. Ze zitten met hun chef samen om problemen aan te kaarten en op te lossen, ze mogen ideeën aanbrengen. Om ervoor te zorgen dat deze ook in de praktijk kunnen gebracht worden, hebben we een structuur uitgestippeld om ideeën in verbeteringen om te zetten.
    Bovendien zoeken we inspiratie binnen en buiten de autosector. We vergelijken ons niet meer alleen met autofabrieken. We kunnen voor onze just-in-time-aanpak bijvoorbeeld heel wat opsteken van McDonald’s waar de klant net op tijd zijn vers gebakken Big Mac krijgt voorgeschoteld, of van de zuiverheid en orde van een ziekenhuis. Hoe properder de werkomgeving, hoe gemakkelijker dat werknemers deze ook proper houden. Ze vertoeven hier bovendien meer uren dan thuis, dan mogen we ze toch een nette werkomgeving geven. Daarenboven investeren we veel in onze mensen: in opleiding, bedrijfsrestaurant, ergonomie, gezondheidscentrum,….”

    4. Innovatie in de autowereld gaat vandaag razendsnel. Hoe vult Audi dit in?

    Gerhard Schneider: “We concentreren ons op 3 thema’s:
    1. ‘Ultra’ waarin we steeds zoeken naar lichtere composietmaterialen uit carbon, metaal, aluminium,… zonder aan stevigheid en kwaliteit in te boeten.
    2. ‘Connect’ waardoor voertuigen met elkaar en andere IT-diensten kunnen praten. Hierdoor wordt verkeers-, weerkundige en andere informatie rechtstreeks tussen auto’s uitgewisseld. Waar ligt ijzel? Via welke route kan de file vermeden worden? Kan een technisch probleem meteen aan de garage gemeld worden?
    3. ‘e-tron’ waarin we alternatieve en groenere technieken om auto’s aan te drijven ontwikkelen zoals hybride motoren en motoren op elektriciteit.”

    5. De R&D van Audi zit in Duitsland geconcentreerd. Toch spelen jullie als productieplant een essentiële rol in dit innovatieproces?

    Gerhard Schneider: “Eigenlijk vervult de klant de centrale rol in heel het innovatieverhaal. We willen zijn wensen kennen en uitzoeken hoe we deze kunnen invullen. Dit is essentieel voor ons omdat een innovatie die niet door de klant gedragen wordt totaal geen nut heeft. Zo is er een steeds sterkere tendens naar individualisering. Vandaag heeft onze klant meer dan 700 combinaties om zijn A1 te individualiseren. Dit breidt nog uit in de toekomst.
    Dan is het aan de R&D om deze innovatie uit te tekenen, aan ons om er voor te zorgen dat deze plannen ook in serieproductie mogelijk zijn. Wij denken uit hoe de productie moet verlopen, welke aanpassingen aan het prototype gedaan moeten worden om het klaar te maken voor massaproductie. Zo kan onze lakstraat vandaag al veel complexere zaken aan dan wat Audi de klant biedt. Maar deze individualisering matchen aan een efficiënt productieproces en snellere leveringen is een aartsmoeilijke klus.
    We gaan naar een industrie 4.0. Geen grote hoeveelheden van dezelfde wagen. Maar zeer individueele wagens op maat van de klant. Deze individualisering moeten we zien te rijmen met snelle levering en wisselende bestellingen. De technologie moet met het product communiceren. Welke onderdelen moeten wanneer aangevoerd worden? Tegelijkertijd hebben we al bewezen dat we de capaciteit hebben om zulke complexe assemblage uit te werken en uit te voeren. We zijn in staat een nog flexibelere fabriek te managen.”

    6. Over de auto van de toekomst. Ook Audi werkt aan een groenere wagen. Mogen we binnenkort de elektrische A1 verwachten?
    Gerhard Schneider: “We hebben hier een pre-seriecenter waarin we onlangs 100 elektrische A1-prototypes hebben gebouwd op basis van de eerste ontwerpen uit Ingolstadt. Ze hebben een elektrische autonomie van 250km, nadien levert de benzinemotor elektriciteit zodat de wagen rijdt op een 100% elektrische motor. Op dit ogenblik worden ze getest in een grootschalig proefproject in Munchen.
    Bij zulke ontwikkelingen worden we als productiesite zeer vroeg betrokken. Van zodra de eerste de tekeningen en plannen er zijn, wordt er uitgedacht hoe deze wagen gebouwd kan worden. De eerste wagens assembleren we volledig met de hand. Hierop voeren we analyses uit, stellen verbeteringen voor, geven fouten aan en bekijken hoe we de serieproductie zouden kunnen realiseren. Moeten er extra laspunten voorzien worden? Wat kan nog beter?
    Dat we meedoen aan deze testen, is een zeer groot voordeel voor onze fabriek. We kunnen vroeger onze stempel drukken en ervoor zorgen dat de auto ook nadien in onze fabriek gemaakt kan worden.
    Toch staat deze elektrische A1 nog niet op de planning. De technologie wordt nu eerst in de A3 Sportback e-tron gebruikt.”

    7. Jullie personeelsaantal groeide met 184 in 2012 en jullie werden verkozen tot Employer of the Year. Wat is voor u de grootste uitdaging op werknemers-vlak?

    Gerhard Schneider: “De tewerkstelling van oudere werknemers. Ze moeten voortaan langer aan de slag blijven, wat we toejuichen omdat hierdoor ervaring binnenshuis blijft. Anderzijds stellen we vast dat ouderen meer moeite ervaren met fijnmotorische arbeid en aan snelheid verliezen, wat twee nadelen zijn voor het werk aan de lijn.
    Samen met de verschillende organisaties als vakbonden, werkgelegenheidscellen, Agoria en de politiek zoeken we naar oplossingen voor dit probleem. We hebben al veel ideeën en doen eerste testen. Zo heeft Audi een productielijn voor de R8 waar de oudere werknemers, de zogeheten silverliners werken. Van deze wagen worden er per dag 25 volledig met de hand geassembleerd. Op elke fase staat de auto gemiddeld 26 minuten stil. Deze aanpak vraagt werknemers met veel ervaring. Ze moeten verschillende taken aankunnen, maar krijgen hiervoor ook meer tijd. Ter vergelijking, de A1 staat maar 90 seconden bij één werkpost. Elke 90 seconden rijdt er een nieuwe wagen de fabriek uit.
    Vandaag ligt de oplossing in het mixen van jong en oud, van mannen en vrouwen van Vlamingen, Walen en nieuwe Belgen. Wist u bijvoorbeeld dat een groep waarin een aantal vrouwen werken properder is? En dat de omgangstaal beleefder is? Teveel vrouwen in één groep kan dan weer wrijvingen geven.”

    8. In Duitsland geeft Audi met het Duale Ausbildung-programma jaarlijks aan 750 jongeren een baan. Kan dit een oplossing zijn voor de jongerenwerkloosheid in Brussel?

    Gerhard Schneider: “We hadden volgens dit Duale Ausbildungssystem van Audi vorig schooljaar een proefproject lopen met 10 jongeren uit 2 scholen. Ze stonden in voor het programmeren van robots, het onderhoud en reparaties in de plaatslagerij. Dit project zetten we zeker verder om uit te zoeken hoe we ook in België jongeren al vroeger kunnen opleiden en werkzekerheid geven.
    Audi leidt in Duitsland elk jaar 750 jongeren op. Vanaf 15 jaar combineren ze school en werk. Hierdoor hebben ze na hun schooltijd een zeer praktische opleiding doorlopen waarmee ze klaar zijn voor de arbeidsmarkt, ze krijgen meteen ook een job waarin ze geroteerd zijn en sterk staan.
    Het programma zou in België zeker ook zijn nut bewijzen. De moeilijkheden zijn dat we hier te maken hebben met Nederlandstalige, Franstalige en anderstalige jongeren, met verschillende regio’s en ministeries moeten onderhandelen, en aanpassingen moeten doorvoeren in de onderwijsplannen. Als dat lukt, zullen ook andere jobs aan de lijn zo ingevuld kunnen worden. Wanneer echter, weten we niet. Al mag het snel gaan voor Audi.”

    9. Vandaag zijn er 2551 werknemers aan de slag in Brussel. Hoe zullen ze in de toekomst werken?

    Gerhard Schneider: “Hier ligt nog een grotere uitdaging. Vandaag hebben we delen van de fabriek waar robotten alle taken uitvoeren, in andere delen werken onze mensen. Het deel van de robotten is sterk afgeschermd. Robotten moeten eerst stilgelegd worden voordat er een medewerker bij kan.
    In de toekomst zullen robotten en mensen naast elkaar werken. Robotten zullen meehelpen aan de lijn tussen onze mensen. Ze zullen alle taken op zich nemen waarin ze beter zijn dan mensen, bijvoorbeeld het aangeven van materiaal, iets uit een container halen.
    Want wanneer we het productieproces analyseren, merken we dat er veel tijd besteed wordt aan het uithalen van materialen. Dit zijn taken waar de klant niet voor betaalt. Hij of zij betaalt wel voor de montage van deze stukken aan zijn of haar wagen. De delen waarvoor de klant niet betaalt, moeten zo goedkoop mogelijk. De zaken die wel meerwaarde brengen, kunnen dan extra goed worden uitgevoerd.
    Dit project werken we samen uit en testen we met de Audi-hoofdzetel in Ingolstadt. Een van onze werknemers is hiervoor in Ingolstadt aan de slag.”

    10. België is voor Audi wereldwijd de negende grootste markt. Wat zijn de grootste troeven van België als automotive regio?

    Gerhard Schneider: “Ik ben ervan overtuigd dat we veel goede argumenten hebben om in België te blijven. België heeft een lange traditie in het bouwen van wagens, grote ervaring en kennis op dit vlak. Hier lopen heel veel goed opgeleide universitairen rond. Maar dat is niet anders dan in andere Europese landen.
    Ook verschilt de Belg niet zo sterk van de Duitser, behalve op één vlak. Belgen zijn flexibeler en creatiever. Jullie slagen er in om met minder middelen goede verbeteringen aan te reiken en door te voeren. Duitsers zien het vaak te groot.
    Een Belg levert intelligente arbeid en een hogere productiviteit. Hij ziet het pragmatisch. Wanneer we deze kwaliteit kunnen verenigen met universitaire en ingenieursopleidingen, kunnen we hier zeer productief, kwalitatief en rendabel blijven.
    Naast het loonkostenprobleem zie ik één grote opdracht voor de overheden: een soort bemiddelingsopdracht om met de verschillende belangenorganisaties, bedrijven, opleidingsinstituten en overheden een gemeenschappelijke visie over kwaliteit, rendabiliteit en productiviteit te ontwikkelen.
    Zo willen wij ons gerust opwerpen als een voorbeeldbedrijf waar geëxperimenteerd kan worden, al mogen ook anderen deze rol op zich nemen, bijvoorbeeld uit de fietsenindustrie wat ook een sterke industrie in België is.”

    Hans Hermans

    Audi Brussels in cijfers
    • Oprichting van de fabriek: 1949. Audi A1-productie gestart in 2010.
    • Productie A1: 123.111 Audi A1 in 2012.
    • Medewerkers: 2.551
    • Directeur: Gerhard Schneider, 52 jaar, Duitser
    • Oppervlakte van de site: 540.000 vierkante meter
    • Autoproductie met carrosseriebouw, lakinstallatie en montage
    • Aangesloten logistiek en toeleverancierscenter ‘Automotive Park’. Dagelijks leveren trucks en treinen 4800 onderdelen van meer dan 780 toeleveranciers.

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  • More jobs and environmentally friendlier, safer trucks: the result of product innovation at DAF Trucks. The new LF distribution truck is more comfortable for drivers, more elegant, and safer for pedestrians and cyclists in the truck’s immediate vicinity. With a cab and axle plant in the Belgian city of Westerlo, DAF Trucks keeps upgrading its

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    More jobs and environmentally friendlier, safer trucks: the result of product innovation at DAF Trucks. The new LF distribution truck is more comfortable for drivers, more elegant, and safer for pedestrians and cyclists in the truck’s immediate vicinity.

    With a cab and axle plant in the Belgian city of Westerlo, DAF Trucks keeps upgrading its product range. In April, DAF launched the new XF and CF, for the heavy and medium payload market segments. Now, it’s the turn of the popular LF distribution truck in the 7.5 to 19 tonne class.

    The interior has been given a new look, with warm and tasteful colours. It also features a graphically stronger dashboard and DAF Connect for fleet management systems.

    Greener truck

    With the new XF and CF models, DAF has delivered a fuel saving of 7% compared to the previous truck generation.

    The same applies to the LF. Fuel savings of 6% have been achieved thanks to engine innovations and new rear axle ratios. At the same time, the engine noise level has been lowered, while performance and operating range have increased, according to DAF Trucks’ press release about The New LF: Pure Excellence (Dutch only).

    Safety: a top priority

    The new LF is also much smarter than older models. The New LF models (from 8 tonnes GVW and with rear air suspension) are equipped with Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS), Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), as well as Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) as standard.

    • AEBS and FCW are designed to prevent collisions. In emergency situations, AEBS intervenes automatically if necessary by slowing down the truck as much as possible to avoid a collision or minimise its impact.
    • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) automatically adjusts the speed of the truck to match the speed of the vehicle in front.
    • Lane Departure Warning (LDWS) warns the driver if the truck seems to stray unintentionally from its lane.
    • An optional lower window in the passenger door makes cyclists and pedestrians alongside the cab even more visible to the driver.

    Growth of Belgian DAF operations

    DAF Trucks Flanders N.V. (only in French and Dutch) has been active in the Belgian city of Westerlo for 51 years. This cab and axle plant has grown into a leading and ultra-modern production facility, which has invested around 600 million euros in the last 15 years. Recently, more than 100 million euros have been invested in Westerlo (only in Dutch). to create the world’s most environmentally friendly paint shop.

    DAF Westerlo grows with DAF Trucks’ increasing market share, headlines an article published in BeAutomotive. More than 2,400 employees are currently producing 220 cabs and 550 axles daily for the popular DAF CF and XF trucks.

    Recruitment drive for 78 new employees

    Just before the summer, DAF announced its intention to raise truck production. The pace will be boosted by 8 trucks to 216 a day, in Eindhoven (Netherlands) and at the British Leyland Trucks.  In line with the production increase for the Dutch plant in Eindhoven and the Belgian Westerlo plant, a total of 78 new employees will be recruited as well as 102 temporary workers, writes the online publication ED (only in Dutch).

     

     

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  • The Belgian technology group Umicore announced today a 300-million-euro investment programme between 2017 and 2019. “The scale and scope of the investments underscore Umicore’s leadership in clean mobility materials,” says Marc Grynberg, CEO of Umicore. Umicore is investing 300 million euros to further increase its production of NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) cathode materials for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries.

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    The Belgian technology group Umicore announced today a 300-million-euro investment programme between 2017 and 2019. “The scale and scope of the investments underscore Umicore’s leadership in clean mobility materials,” says Marc Grynberg, CEO of Umicore.

    Umicore is investing 300 million euros to further increase its production of NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) cathode materials for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. NMC is the preferred cathode material technology for rechargeable batteries used in vehicle electrification to extend the driving range of electrified vehicles and make them more affordable.

    “Strategic choices are bearing fruit”

    “The scale and scope of the investments underscore Umicore’s leadership in clean mobility materials and our commitment to support the rapid growth of our customers,” says Marc Grynberg, the Belgian CEO of Umicore. “It is rewarding that our strategic choices are now starting to bear fruit and we are excited about the prospects for our business.”

    Soaring global demand

    Global demand for NMC is growing fast. Better still, the demand for Umicore’s NMC materials is surpassing the market by a significant margin. The planned increased capacity will therefore enable Umicore to cater for a surge in customer orders.

    The investment will also enable Umicore to meet growing demand for its proprietary high-energy LCO (lithium cobalt oxide) cathode materials used in high-end consumer electronics.

    More than six-fold increase in capacity

    This programme entails further investments in Cheonan (South Korea) and Jiangmen (China). Commissioning of the first production lines is planned for late 2018.

    Combined with the 160-million-euro investment announced last year, this will result in a more than six-fold increase in total capacity by 2020, compared to 2015 levels.

    Belgian specialist in recycling materials

    Umicore is a global player in materials technology. Despite its strong international reach, Umicore remains every inch a Belgian company, with five sites across the country: Hoboken, Bruges, Olen, Vilvoorde and the worldwide headquarters of Umicore in Brussels.

    Read how “Umicore is an active innovator in the future of automotive” in the article Umicore wins in automotive published on BeAutomotive.be.

    The Group generated a turnover of 11.1 billion euros (2.7 billion euros excluding metal) in 2016. Umicore currently employs some 10,100 people.

    This innovator is looking for you

    Umicore was voted Top Employer in Belgium in 2017 for the twelfth time.

    “It demonstrates the importance that we at Umicore place on the engagement of our people,” says Geert Walschap, HR Director Belgium and Northern Europe. “And it is these engaged employees who deliver innovation and satisfied customers. They are essential to the further growth of Umicore and the realisation of the Horizon 2020 objectives!”

     

    Find a career that suits you at Umicore.

     

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  • The Antwerp ring road will become a hub for testing autonomous vehicles from early 2019 until June 2020. 3.4 million euros are being invested into the Belgian part of this European test project. In total, Europe is investing 20 million euros in Antwerp and 4 other cities: Lyon in France, the Nurnberg to Munich motorway

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    The Antwerp ring road will become a hub for testing autonomous vehicles from early 2019 until June 2020. 3.4 million euros are being invested into the Belgian part of this European test project.

    In total, Europe is investing 20 million euros in Antwerp and 4 other cities: Lyon in France, the Nurnberg to Munich motorway in Germany, Vigo in Spain and the Rotterdam-The Hague conurbation in the Netherlands.

    Cars to be tested in the Belgian city of Antwerp

    From this year on, sensors will be gradually installed on several lanes of the ring and E313 motorway. Once operational, these sensors will send traffic data to the vehicles, allowing them to adjust to the flow automatically and avoid braking haphazardly.

    The Flemish nano-electronic research centre IMEC is also taking part in the experiment. IMEC designed a chip with deep-learning capabilities. It can react to unexpected situations, such as a child suddenly crossing the road. Ford and Toyota are also involved in this project.

    Less traffic jams

    The self-driving vehicles will run alongside normal traffic. One of the benefits the experiment is hoping to show is a decrease in traffic jams because motorists will follow the example shown by the autonomous vehicles, which in turn will improve traffic flow and reduce accidents.

    Clearly identifiable cars

    “For regular motorists, nothing will change,” said Philippe Muyters, Innovation Minister for the Flemish region to Belga. “They will be able to use these roads as before. The autonomous vehicles will not be driving on their own.” The autonomous cars will be clearly identifiable, according to Muyters, and always have a driver on board to intervene if necessary.

    The ultimate objective is to ensure that the autonomous vehicles operate in a completely independent and safe manner.

     

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  • Faymonville, the Belgian manufacturer of semi-trailers for the specialist haulage industry, keeps reinforcing its international position. Headquartered in Büllingen, the company has taken over an Italian trailer specialist and launched its first 6-axle MultiMAX low loader on the Japanese market. With the strategic decision to acquire 100% of the shares of Industrie COMETTO S.p.A., based

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    Faymonville, the Belgian manufacturer of semi-trailers for the specialist haulage industry, keeps reinforcing its international position. Headquartered in Büllingen, the company has taken over an Italian trailer specialist and launched its first 6-axle MultiMAX low loader on the Japanese market.

    With the strategic decision to acquire 100% of the shares of Industrie COMETTO S.p.A., based in Northern Italy, Faymonville set a milestone by expanding in the self-propelled modular trailer segment. This will strengthen its market position.

    Belgian company going big

    “We are going big, with this decisive acquisition of the Italian specialist in trailers,” said the company. “Cometto is one of the leading worldwide manufacturers for heavy modular and especially self-propelled trailers. In addition, the company offers special self-propelled equipment for industrial applications: shipyard and steel mill transporters as well as for handling technologies. Founded in 1954, Cometto gained worldwide recognition by providing the transporter for the NASA Orbiter Space Shuttle in the 1980s and by being involved in the ARIANE projects in the early 1990s.”

    Grouping Faymonville and Cometto under one strong brand allows the Faymonville Group to invest in new product segments and complement its product range.

    “A higher production capacity together with an improved quality will be the result. This acquisition will significantly increase our market position,” said Alain Faymonville, President of the Faymonville Group.

    Now employing 950 people

    The Belgian Faymonville has now grown into an international group with worldwide representation and sales. Its production sites are located in Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland and Italy, totalling a workforce of 950 people.

    It has a three-hectare site at Büllingen, with 15,740 m² of production buildings, a 7,400 m² service centre and a 6.585 m² CNC hall, as well as a production site in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg (36.250 m²) and in Poland (21,000 m²). A service station has been opened in Noginsk (near Moscow) with a surface area of 3,120m².

    Faymonville quality now also in Japan

    Japan is the last country to be added to the list of countries where the Belgian group markets its products.

    Early this year, Fujishiro Motors Co. from Yamanachi received the 6-axle MultiMAX low loader. This is Faymonville’s first vehicle to be used in the ‘land of the rising sun’.

    Fujishiro’s partnership with Faymonville makes it the national distributor. “We are proud to represent this make in Japan,” stressed manager Daisuke Fujishiro. “This kind of quality and technology is not available in Japan. In this respect, we definitely found the right partner in Faymonville.”

    The Seishin company ordered the vehicle. The innovative technology is generating a lot of buzz, prompting many other prospects to already show interest.

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  • Belgian gear manufacturer VCST is pursuing its international expansion. Having invested in Belgium, it is now expanding its Romanian facilities. An expansion in China may well be on the cards, too. Sint-Truiden based VCST is investing more than 14 million euros in real estate and machinery in Romania. “VCST’s East European plant will be more

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    Belgian gear manufacturer VCST is pursuing its international expansion. Having invested in Belgium, it is now expanding its Romanian facilities. An expansion in China may well be on the cards, too.

    Sint-Truiden based VCST is investing more than 14 million euros in real estate and machinery in Romania.

    VCST’s East European plant will be more than doubled,” said Eddy Van Steyvoort, Vice President Business Line Automotive at IGW/VCST, in an interview for De Tijd newspaper. “This will meet the company’s expected revenue growth.

    Our 320 employees in the Eastern European site are currently achieving a turnover of 26 million euros. In 2018, this figure should rise to 35 million euros. By 2020, we’re expecting it to increase to 40 million euros.”

    Innovation wins over Porsche

    The reason behind the growth in Romania? The company’s own innovation and the success of its products.

    Since the supplier itself began innovating, it acquired patents for gears that are quieter and vibrate less.

    Ford and Audi were already VCST customers. Porsche, won over by the new gears, has been added to the portfolio.

    Investment in Belgian site as well

    Over the past 4 years, the developer and manufacturer of car and track gears and powertrains has recorded a 10% average annual growth in revenue. The innovative company is also expecting double digits over the next four years.

    “Since the downturn during the 2009 recession, we are growing again,” said CEO Eric Willekens in an interview with BeAutomotive. “And it doesn’t stop there. Between now and 2018, we will add 14% output each year. This is done by continuously investing in our sites. To give you an example, we invested 10 million euros in our Belgian site.”

    VCST China plant also due to expand

    Both the headquarters in Limburg and the Mexican plant each have realised a 50-million-euro turnover. Considering the turnover growth in Romania, that site will eventually catch up.

    The expansion plans are not the only growth plans resulting from the pooling of resources at VCST and IGW, IG Watteeuw International. (Gimv sells supplier for the automotive industry VCST to BMT Group)

    The group is also predicting strong growth in China. Since a further expansion may be required, options are currently being weighed.

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  • Audi announced on June 21 the future launch of the new e-tron Sportback model to be manufactured by its Brussels plant from 2019. This makes it the second 100% electric model entrusted to the Brussels site. The Audi e-tron, the first electric SUV, will come out of this same manufacturing plant already in 2018. Strengthened

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    Audi announced on June 21 the future launch of the new e-tron Sportback model to be manufactured by its Brussels plant from 2019. This makes it the second 100% electric model entrusted to the Brussels site. The Audi e-tron, the first electric SUV, will come out of this same manufacturing plant already in 2018.

    Strengthened electromobility policy

    “By launching the production of the Audi e-tron Sportback, Audi proves just how much the make is supporting electromobility. This second electric vehicle will allow us to optimize the production capacity of the Brussels site,” explains Prof. Dr. Hubert Walt, Member of the Management Board and responsible for production and logistics.

    The Audi e-tron Sportback concept revealed at the beginning of 2017 at the Shanghai Motor Show is the basis of this project. This versatile electric Gran Turismo coupé comes with a 320 kW electric drive.

    More flexibility and job security up to 2020

    The award of a second electric model to the Brussels site is the successful outcome to negotiations on more flexibility and job security until 2020. Thanks to this agreement between the Management of Audi Brussels and the social partners, the Brussels site will meet AUDI AG’s request to produce greater Audi A1 volumes over the 2017-2018 period.

    In addition to adjusting break times, the plant Management and the unions agreed on a temporary extension of evening shift working hours in order to be able to produce the requested volumes of Audi A1 in 2017. In 2018, the increase in the Audi A1 output will be absorbed by adjusted break times as well as by temporarily amended working schedules.

    Patrick Danau, General Director for Production, Technology and Logistics, and also spokesman of the Audi Brussels Management: “AUDI AG’s expectations have been met by the Audi Brussels plant thanks to concerted flexibility measures. We are delighted that a joint approach between the Plant Management, executives, social partners and staff has allowed us to attract a second model to Brussels and secure long-term employment in Belgium.”

    The Audi Brussels sites employs some 3,000 workers who, from next year, will actively contribute to the development of electromobility. Indeed, from 2018, the Brussels plant will manufacture for the whole world the very first full electric SUV of the make with the four rings. The plant will also have its own battery production unit.

     

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  • Oerlikon Balzers has received the 2016 Award for Supplier Excellence from THK Rhythm in Changzhou, China. Oerlikon Balzers was recognized for its contributions to THK’s culture of excellence and commitment to quality, value and cost performance. THK Rhythm Changzhou in China is part of the Japanese THK Group and is a component supplier for the

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    Oerlikon Balzers has received the 2016 Award for Supplier Excellence from THK Rhythm in Changzhou, China. Oerlikon Balzers was recognized for its contributions to THK’s culture of excellence and commitment to quality, value and cost performance.

    THK Rhythm Changzhou in China is part of the Japanese THK Group and is a component supplier for the automotive industry. Since 2011, Oerlikon Balzers has developed customized plasma heat treatment solutions for and in close cooperation with THK Rhythm in Changzhou. The advanced heat treatment process BALITHERM IONIT OX has been adapted to meet THK’s needs, focusing on optimum wear and corrosion protection for ball pins.

    The BALITHERM IONIT OX process makes ball pins, tie rods, brake discs and many other suspension components wear-resistant and durable. Moreover, no hazardous chemicals are used. Thus BALITHERM IONIT OX is the efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to common methods of treatment such as hard chrome plating or salt bath nitriding. Oerlikon Balzers treats millions of ball pins every year for leading vehicle manufacturers worldwide.

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  • The Belgian start-up Bolides deals with innovative technology. While opening and starting Bolides shared cars with a smartphone is already proven technology, any company can now join this platform. Major automotive companies are launching pilot projects. Opening and starting a car has never been easier. The system set up by Belgian start-up Bolides allows people

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    The Belgian start-up Bolides deals with innovative technology. While opening and starting Bolides shared cars with a smartphone is already proven technology, any company can now join this platform. Major automotive companies are launching pilot projects.

    Opening and starting a car has never been easier. The system set up by Belgian start-up Bolides allows people to book a car with their smartphone. But that’s not all. They can easily indicate the car’s condition, whether it’s dirty or clean, if the bodywork is damaged, or if the oil lamp is flashing, etc.

    The car can also be unlocked and started with a smartphone, using Bluetooth technology.

    Technology developed in Antwerp

    “We opened our Wizkey platform to other companies in April. For example, leasing companies, rental companies, large and small companies can manage their fleet and give people access to their cars through our app.”

    The Antwerp company invested heavily and developed the hardware and software in house. “We are currently a team of 3 people, but I feel we need to expand,” says manager Bart Lizen (43). “I started Bolides, our premium cars business, in 2012 to officially launch it in Antwerp in 2014, together with my business partner Thibaud Dedier. The Wizkey platform is a hit. We are already running several pilot projects with one of the big four and with D’Ieteren. In other words, soon multiple fleets and companies will be “Running on Wizkey”, all driven by the same technology.”

    Dockx Rental, Touring, D’Ieteren

    In addition to managing their own fleet in Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven, companies like Dockx Rental and Touring now automate access to their fleet through this digital system.

    The technology is indeed attracting the attention of some big players in the Belgian market. “Many automotive players want to change course and market themselves as a mobility service provider,” says Lizen. “They can run their own application on our Wizkey platform. This allows them to combine their corporate identity and logo with our system. Anyone who has the app on their smartphone can access different cars from different companies.” There system makes a distinction between private and professional rides.

    Innovative fleet management

    “Our system automates and secures access to the fleet of these companies,” says Lizen. “Our technology makes administration and key management much easier.”

    The ambition of Bolides and Wizkey is certainly not modest: they seek to change the image of car sharing, and become an innovative player, also outside Belgium.

    Their weapons? An innovative platform developed in-house, using a smartphone as a key, and the pay-per-use principle without fixed subscription costs, also customizable to any company.

     

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  • Belgian DS Fibres is the next Belgian automotive player to invest in a production plant in Mexico, hoping to tap into the growing automotive production and sales market in Latin America. “I would be really amazed if our fibres were not found in the textile lining your car,” comments Sales Manager Alain Goossens. “Fibres manufactured

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    Belgian DS Fibres is the next Belgian automotive player to invest in a production plant in Mexico, hoping to tap into the growing automotive production and sales market in Latin America.

    “I would be really amazed if our fibres were not found in the textile lining your car,” comments Sales Manager Alain Goossens. “Fibres manufactured by DS Fibres are processed in pretty much every car in Europe. We supply TIR2 companies under contract with BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Renault, Citroën, and so on.”

    Belgian fibres in every car

    DS Fibres is one of three divisions of De Saedeleir family business from Dendermonde. It produces the fibres used as raw material to manufacture automotive carpets, rear shelves, insulation, door panelling, etc.

    More than 85% of the polyester fibres produced by the company comes from recycled PET material.

    Technological textile is growing

    Automotive accounts for 90% of DS Fibres’ revenue. This amounts to 25 million euros compared to a total of 85 million euros for the entire De Saedeleir group. As cars are getting lighter and more efficient, strong growth is expected in the use of this technological textile in cars.

    The Belgian company already had production sites in Belgium and France, employing 150 people in each country. Production is currently being launched in Mexico.

    10 million euro investment in Mexico

    The DS Fibras de Mexico plant in Aguascalientes covers 10,000 m2 on a 2-hectare site. The Belgian family has invested 10 million euros into the factory, and employs 50 people.

    “It’s a heavy investment,” says Goossens, “but our customers were asking. In addition, we think there is huge potential, as large numbers of cars are manufactured in Mexico. The country is ideal for shipping cars to different parts of the world, and the number of vehicles per capita can still grow.”

    Lower CO2 emissions

    DS Fibres does not consider its Mexican sister company as a factory in a low-wage country. “It would not have been sustainable to keep supplying from Belgium our expanding market in Mexico,” Patrick De Saedeleir, CEO of De Saedeleir told BeAutomotive. “By producing closer to our customers, we also reduce our CO2 emissions, and we also benefit from the arrival of more and more TIR2 companies into the region.”

     

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  • Van Hool, the Belgian manufacturer of coaches and industrial vehicles, has begun the production of 482 tank containers for BASF. The two companies developed the innovative transport solution together. Koningshooikt based Van Hool and BASF, headquartered in Ludwigshafen in Germany, spent two years developing these innovative tank containers together. The 45 ft tank containers are

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    Van Hool, the Belgian manufacturer of coaches and industrial vehicles, has begun the production of 482 tank containers for BASF. The two companies developed the innovative transport solution together.

    Koningshooikt based Van Hool and BASF, headquartered in Ludwigshafen in Germany, spent two years developing these innovative tank containers together. The 45 ft tank containers are 13.7 metres long with a basic volume of 53m³ or 63m³. The 52 ft tank containers measure 15.8 metres with a basic volume of 73m³, and have a load capacity of 66 to 67 tonnes.

    Leading design and construction

    “Just like our Buses and coaches business unit (BU), Van Hool’s second pillar of business – Industrial Vehicles BU – demonstrates the strengths that Van Hool offers as a company,” said a delighted Filip Van Hool, CEO at Van Hool NV. “Working together with customers to develop transport solutions for people and goods that are good for the environment, good for our customers, and thus good for the Van Hool group. This order for BASF confirms the [Industrial Vehicles] BU’s position on the world market as a leading designer and manufacturer of tank containers for the transport of liquids and gases.”

    Flexible and fast rail transport

    This new system provides BASF with a rail transport solution that is as flexible and fast as combined transport without compromising on the advantages offered by the existing high-load capacity of conventional rail transport.

    The 45 ft tank container can be removed from the container wagon, which offers more flexibility for loading and unloading. In addition, the stackable containers can be kept in container depots, and are suitable for the storage of liquids. The tank containers can be equipped with modern thermal insulation techniques and heating systems.

    Experience, knowledge and dedication of own talent

    “Our revolutionary tank containers can be used for rail transport, inland waterways and, when empty, also for road transport,” says Erik Taeymans, Director of the Industrial Vehicles BU at Van Hool. “They will possibly lead to a further shift of chemical goods transport from road to railway. This shift will improve the safety and road traffic congestion and benefit the environment. Van Hool has managed to secure this important order thanks to the experience, knowledge and dedication of our workforce.”

    BASF already deploying 90 containers this year

    90 units and 2 prototypes will already be delivered this year. Van Hool will deliver the balance of the order in 2018. BASF intends to deploy the new 45 ft tank containers immediately.

     

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  • Paramount Pictures’ upcoming “Transformers: The Last Knight” will feature the heroic Optimus Prime based off the new Western Star 5700XE truck model. A Western Star 4900EX wrecker will also be joining the cast as the Decepticon Onslaught. Developed specially for the Transformers film series, the Optimus Prime truck incorporates the distinctive styling found on the

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    Paramount Pictures’ upcoming “Transformers: The Last Knight” will feature the heroic Optimus Prime based off the new Western Star 5700XE truck model. A Western Star 4900EX wrecker will also be joining the cast as the Decepticon Onslaught. Developed specially for the Transformers film series, the Optimus Prime truck incorporates the distinctive styling found on the 5700XE. Western Star’s most aerodynamic truck, the 5700XE is tough and powerful, making it the natural choice to portray the leader of the heroic Autobots.

    Facil was responsible for the development and supply of the fasteners used in this top of the line Daimler Truck.

    The average base price for this truck is around $140k, but the Optimus Prime truck is so heavily spec’d the sticker price easily exceeds $250k! The truck has been built in the Portland facility of DTNA.

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  • Prime Minister of the Flemish Government Geert Bourgeois acknowledges the Robert Bosch Produktie N.V. windscreen wiper plant in Tienen as a factory for the future. “Innovation is their motto” During a visit to the Belgian Robert Bosch Produktie windscreen wiper plant in Tienen, Flemish Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois discovered a state-of-the-art production facility. The factory

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    Prime Minister of the Flemish Government Geert Bourgeois acknowledges the Robert Bosch Produktie N.V. windscreen wiper plant in Tienen as a factory for the future. “Innovation is their motto”

    During a visit to the Belgian Robert Bosch Produktie windscreen wiper plant in Tienen, Flemish Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois discovered a state-of-the-art production facility. The factory produces wiper arms and blades, as original equipment and for the aftermarket.

    In recent years, the company has invested heavily in its transformation into a modern factory where state-of-the-art production lines and innovative IT applications support the employees.
     
    Confidence in the future

    “The fact that this great manufacturing company is investing in Industry 4.0 is a show of confidence in the future, an expression of trust in the economic growth,” says Geert Bourgeois. “Innovation should be your motto if you want to grow and flourish as a company. In both processes and products. And that is precisely what Robert Bosch is doing here in Tienen.”
     
    Robert Bosch Produktie is investing

    In recent years, the company has invested heavily in ultra-modern production lines for the new generation of wiper blades and the transition to Industry 4.0. “We are doing this to maintain our market position in the automotive industry,” says Thomas Barrho, Plant Manager at Robert Bosch Produktie. “We have to keep devising other products based on our expertise in paint and rubber. At the same time, we are introducing more digital applications in our production lines, since IT applications can support our employees and make their work easier.”
     
    1,100 employees and Belgian R&D

    The 1,644 employees of the Bosch Group in Belgium realised a turnover of 843 million euros.

    With a workforce of around 1,100, the largest Belgian site is in Tienen. There, Robert Bosch Produktie operates a manufacturing hall, its own rubber extrusion division and the Bosch Competence Center for research and development in innovative windscreen wiper technology.

    As a lead plant, it supports production sites in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America.

     

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  • From the end of June, three trains will be bringing 123 Volvos from China to Zeebrugge each week. The Port of Zeebrugge is strengthening its gateway position to the European car market. The Port of Zeebrugge is already handling 2.8 million new cars a year. Another 19,000 new cars will be taking this ‘new Silk

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    From the end of June, three trains will be bringing 123 Volvos from China to Zeebrugge each week. The Port of Zeebrugge is strengthening its gateway position to the European car market.

    The Port of Zeebrugge is already handling 2.8 million new cars a year. Another 19,000 new cars will be taking this ‘new Silk Route’ to enter the European distribution market. In the long run, according to the market demand, this number could grow to 30 to 40,000 new cars.

    This will further strengthen the position of the Belgian seaport as the world’s leading port for the import and export of new cars.

    123 Volvo S90 on one train

    The first train will arrive in the inner port on 26 June, at the International Car Operator (ICO) terminal. It will carry 123 Volvos of the S90 model from the Geely assembly plant in Daqing. One block train transports 41 (40 ft) containers in which 3 cars can be loaded. The ride between Daqing and Zeebrugge takes 22 days.

    Cooperation with Chinese carrier

    The train link is a consequence of the partnership agreement concluded by the Zeebrugge Port Authority in February with Changjiu Logistics, Volvo’s carrier in China. Changjiu Logistics is the largest independent finished vehicle logistics provider in China, and the first Chinese automotive logistics company to go public.

    The Port of Zeebrugge is currently exploring the market for return shipments to China.

    Kris Peeters announces deal

    With its ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, China aims to shift rail transport between China and Europe up a gear.

    The news was announced during a visit by Kris Peeters, Federal Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs, in charge of Foreign Trade, at the China Volvo factory in Daqing. This plant is owned by the Chinese Geely group, which also owns Volvo Cars in Ghent.

     

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  • Real innovators cannot be stopped. Real innovators do not allow promising ideas to gather dust on a shelf. Pieter Gheeraert is such an innovator. The 29-year-old manager at Volvo Trucks convinced the Swedish headquarters to launch a project worth millions in Belgium. Present-day garages keep track of the cars and trucks they service as this

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    Real innovators cannot be stopped. Real innovators do not allow promising ideas to gather dust on a shelf. Pieter Gheeraert is such an innovator. The 29-year-old manager at Volvo Trucks convinced the Swedish headquarters to launch a project worth millions in Belgium.

    Present-day garages keep track of the cars and trucks they service as this data helps with troubleshooting and maintenance. But why not prevent breakdown through real-time monitoring?

    Collecting data worldwide

    If all Volvo trucks transferred real-time data on the truck’s health status and if the data was managed centrally, logistics companies, garages and Volvo Trucks should be in a better position to respond to potential problems.

    This was precisely the idea nurtured by Pieter Gheeraert, Manager Connected Services Support in de Ghent department of Volvo Trucks.

    After completing the Vlerick ‘Take the Lead‘ training, he managed to convince Volvo’s Swedish headquarters to monitor all trucks worldwide in real time from Belgium.

    Central monitoring from Belgium

    The new application monitors the technical data of trucks centrally, we read in De Tijd newspaper. This is used to compile a list of vehicles requiring maintenance which is sent periodically to garages. Belgium-based central monitoring also helps prevent unexpected breakdowns, by warning the driver that there is a strong risk of a breakdown occurring, for instance.

    15 people develop the platform

    Belgian innovator Pieter Gheeraert lobbied for months. “At first I was given the message that I was going far too fast. ‘We’re getting there’, was the answer from Sweden. After I refocused my pitch and digital strategy, I was able to convince Karin Falk, Senior Vice President at Volvo Trucks. “

    “She thought my project was the right way to go. She decided to shift other projects aside and asked me how many millions I needed.”

    Now, Gheeraert has a few millions to invest. With a 15-strong team from Ghent, he will develop a platform that continuously monitors all trucks in real time via GPS or the Internet.

    For truck updates, like AppleBijkomend, they are also testing whether Volvo can update the software remotely in the trucks. “We want to evolve into a system allowing us to press a central button to enable all trucks to download a general update, as you do on your iPhone. We are already testing this and have received the green light from Sweden to fully deploy it,” Gheeraert told De Tijd.

     

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  • The Belgian SoftKinetic technology is built in more and more BMWs. After the BMW 7 Series luxury line, now it’s the turn of the BMW 5 Series cars. The technology allows the driver to control the infotainment system with hand gestures. Brussels based SoftKinetic is the world’s leading provider of 3D vision and gesture recognition

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    The Belgian SoftKinetic technology is built in more and more BMWs. After the BMW 7 Series luxury line, now it’s the turn of the BMW 5 Series cars. The technology allows the driver to control the infotainment system with hand gestures.

    Brussels based SoftKinetic is the world’s leading provider of 3D vision and gesture recognition solutions. It announced that its 3D Time of Flight (ToF) vision technology is built in the 2017 BMW 5 Series cars.

    University spin-off bought by Sony

    The seed of this success story was planted at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). The company was originally a VUB spin-off specialised in hardware and software capable of recognising and analysing movements in 3D. The electronics giant Sony bought the Belgian company in early 2016.

    Hand gesture control

    In automotive, this 3D Time of Flight (ToF) vision technology is used to control the infotainment system with hand gestures. The vehicle uses personal recognition to adjust optimally to the driver and his/her behaviour.

    This video shows you how the technology works.

    “Just the beginning”

    “SoftKinetic is proud to expand our technology partnership with BMW Group to include both the BMW 7 and BMW 5 series cars,” said Eric Krzeslo, CMO of SoftKinetic. “The infotainment gesture control we see in the BMW cars is just the beginning of the innovation we are bringing to the automotive market.”

    “Our technology can improve driver safety through driver assistance and monitoring and 3D vision cameras that ascertain the environment in and out of the vehicle at all times, paving the way towards the fully autonomous vehicle.”

    Safe driving mechanics

    In recent months, automotive manufacturers have been drawn toward 3D gesture recognition capabilities for the driver.
    SoftKinetic’s technology has been used to give drivers the ability to navigate the in-vehicle infotainment system using simple, predetermined gestures that promote ease-of-use and safe driving mechanics.

    Follow this link for the press release: SoftKinetic’s Gesture Control Technology Rolls Out in Additional Car Model.

     

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  • Volvo Car Gent has started producing the Volvo V60 Twin Engine. The Ghent plant is the first Belgian car manufacturer to roll a hybrid car off the production line. Flemish minister Schauvliege sat behind the wheel of this first “Ghent-made” hybrid Volvo. Volvo Car Gent took over the production of the Volvo V60 in the

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    Volvo Car Gent has started producing the Volvo V60 Twin Engine. The Ghent plant is the first Belgian car manufacturer to roll a hybrid car off the production line. Flemish minister Schauvliege sat behind the wheel of this first “Ghent-made” hybrid Volvo.

    Volvo Car Gent took over the production of the Volvo V60 in the spring. The Swedish plant in Gothenburg needed additional capacity for the production of the new models on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform.

    20,000 to 30,000 additional cars

    Since the V60 also has a hybrid variant, Volvo Car Gent is the first Belgian car manufacturer to have a hybrid variant in its range.

    “Volvo Car Gent is taking over the production of the Volvo V60 until the current model is replaced,” says plant manager Eric Van Landeghem. “On an annual basis, we are talking of volumes between 20,000 and 30,000 cars.”

    Experience with hybrids

    “Getting acquainted with the construction of hybrid models, enabled by the arrival of the Volvo V60 Twin Engine in Ghent, is a great asset for us,” adds Van Landegehem. “A hybrid variant is also planned in the XC40 series. By then we will have gained experience in all aspects of the production of hybrid cars and in handling 400-volt batteries. It goes without saying that we have given all our staff thorough training to ensure safety.”

    Two eco-friendly models

    The ‘Twin Engine’ model combines a combustion engine (diesel powered) and an electric motor. The fuel consumption (according to NEDC standards) is 1.8 litres per 100 kilometres. CO2 emissions are limited to 48 grams per kilometre. The car’s action radius in the purely electric mode is approximately 50 kilometres.

    In addition to the Volvo V60 Twin Engine, Volvo Car Gent is also building this model from now on in the CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) variant. It runs on both petrol and natural gas. This model also scores high in eco-friendliness, since CNG is the cleanest fossil fuel: 95% less fine particles, 30% less CO2.

    Click here to read the press release.

     

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  • Umicore announced today an investment programme of € 300 million between 2017 and 2019 to further increase its production of NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) cathode materials for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. NMC is the preferred cathode material technology for rechargeable batteries used in vehicle electrification and global demand is increasing fast. The demand for Umicore’s NMC materials is outpacing the

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    Umicore announced today an investment programme of € 300 million between 2017 and 2019 to further increase its production of NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) cathode materials for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. NMC is the preferred cathode material technology for rechargeable batteries used in vehicle electrification and global demand is increasing fast. The demand for Umicore’s NMC materials is outpacing the market by a significant margin and the increased capacity will enable Umicore to cater for a surge in customer orders. The investment will also enable Umicore to meet growing demand for its proprietary high-energy LCO (lithium cobalt oxide) cathode materials used in high-end consumer electronics.

    This programme entails further investments in Cheonan (South Korea) and Jiangmen (China) with the first production lines expected to be commissioned in late 2018. Combined with the € 160 million investment announced last year, this will result in a more than six-fold increase in total capacity by 2020 compared to the levels of 2015.

    Umicore’s NMC cathode materials are key ingredients in battery technology to extend the driving range of electrified vehicles and to make them more affordable. Umicore’s twenty years of accumulated expertise in battery materials technology, its early qualification for transportation applications, extensive IP portfolio and unrivalled ability to scale up have made it a leader in this domain.

    Marc Grynberg, CEO of Umicore, commented: “The scale and scope of the investments underscore Umicore’s leadership in clean mobility materials and our commitment to support the rapid growth of our customers. It is rewarding that our strategic choices are now starting to bear fruit and we are excited about the prospects for our business.”

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  • The problem with a traditional tail lift? It needs to be lowered whenever you want to take something out of the van. The EasyLoader is the solution. Belgian company LMJ Construct is bringing this innovation to our market. Turnhout-based bodybuilder LMJ Construct has just built the first innovative EasyLoader tail lift into a van. The

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    The problem with a traditional tail lift? It needs to be lowered whenever you want to take something out of the van. The EasyLoader is the solution. Belgian company LMJ Construct is bringing this innovation to our market.

    Turnhout-based bodybuilder LMJ Construct has just built the first innovative EasyLoader tail lift into a van. The unusual characteristic of the tail lift is that it retracts under the roof of the van or truck. Because of this configuration, it does not impede the opening of the rear doors.

    “We discovered this innovation in the Netherlands,” Carl Van Gorp, sales manager at LMJ Construct, told Made in Kempen. “We added it to our range at the beginning of 2017.”

    Tail lift under the roof

    The EasyLoader is innovative in that the tail lift is not in the way when not needed. You only need to open the doors if you have small items to load or unload quickly, while the lift is stowed under the roof of the van. It only requires 18 mm of space. Once you open the doors, you can lower it in one push of the button on the remote control.

    With a loading platform of 1.5 x 1.3m, the aluminium tail lift weighs only 150kg. Yet, it is sufficiently stable to load and unload heavy goods. The lifting capacity is 400, 500 and 650 kg.

    Economical and easy to use

    Other advantages of this new tail lift

    • Operational in under 15 seconds
    • Wireless remote control
    • Electromechanical system, minimal maintenance
    • Can be fitted at the back of all major European van makesUse in combination with tow bar
    • Very low power consumption: 80 A with full load
    • Fitting time: 1 working day

    LMJ Construct and VH-Global Trading are the first Belgian companies to integrate the EasyLoader.

    This video shows you the innovative tail lift in action.

     

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  • Once again, the Belgian Volvo Car Gent plant is reinforcing its anchoring in Ghent. Swedish Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson has confirmed that the plant will build the V40’s successor. The XC40 was also recently assigned to the Belgian team. Over the coming years, the Volvo Ghent plant can prepare for the two new models

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    Once again, the Belgian Volvo Car Gent plant is reinforcing its anchoring in Ghent. Swedish Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson has confirmed that the plant will build the V40’s successor. The XC40 was also recently assigned to the Belgian team.

    Over the coming years, the Volvo Ghent plant can prepare for the two new models built on the new CMA platform.

    The new XC40 made in Ghent

    The first CMA car in Ghent is expected to be a compact-sized crossover called the XC40. Production will soon kick-start and Ghent will build the new cars for the European and American markets. “The Volvo XC40 will be a big success,” said Eric Van Landeghem, plant manager on a previous occasion.

    The second model will be the successor to the V40 which is currently being built in Ghent.

    “The new model will replace the V40 in volume. However, this car will not necessarily be in the same segment,” Håkan Samuelsson indicated at the press conference. “It will be an attractive and forward-looking model for a growing and global market segment.”

    Production of this second new model will be launched at the plant in a few years, when the current V40 reaches the end of its lifecycle.

    Volvo’s trust confirmed

    5,500 people are currently working at Volvo Car Gent, building three models: the V40, S60 and XC60.

    “The fact that the Ghent plant has Volvo’s trust is a positive omen,” commented a satisfied Van Landeghem. With this news the car manufacturer is confirming what Van Landeghem had told BeAutomotive in a previous interview: “We’ve been asked to assemble as many Volvos as possible. Our two models, the XC60 crossover model and the V40, are selling like hot cakes. They are two popular cars which have reached peak sales. And what do we do? Of course, we immediately seize the opportunity and say that we can manage the production increase, and also succeed in achieving that goal.”

    200 million euro investment

    The transformation to the CMA platform will also be successful. 200 million euros are being invested in this new platform designed especially for smaller, compact cars. At the end of this year, Ghent will roll the platform’s first model, the XC40, off the production line.


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  • In March CEO Cor van Otterloo CEO congratulated the thousandth employee, represented by the company mascot “the Punch”. With 1000 employees Punch is one of the large employers in the region and is a major player in the local automotive industry. Punch Powertrain has the largest R&D department in Belgian automotive after Toyota. R&D and production

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    In March CEO Cor van Otterloo CEO congratulated the thousandth employee, represented by the company mascot “the Punch”. With 1000 employees Punch is one of the large employers in the region and is a major player in the local automotive industry. Punch Powertrain has the largest R&D department in Belgian automotive after Toyota.

    R&D and production

    The head office in Sint-Truiden houses a R&D center, test center with test track and prototype-lines. In contrast with many multinationals, also production takes place in Belgium. Every Punch product installed worldwide is at least partly made in Belgium. Therefore, about half of the 1000 employees in Sint-Truiden is active in the production environment.

    Expansion in own country

    To support its large growth, Punch hired 250 employees in 2016 and will have 450 more vacancies in 2017.

    This strong increase in personnel numbers was accompanied by a physical expansion. In 2015 the new main building was completed, followed by a new canteen in 2016. 2017 Started with completion of an entirely new Logistics Centre and will be followed by opening of 3 new production halls, a building with dressing rooms and offices, a fitness and an office building for production.

    In addition to the expansion of existing production capacity, a complete new site will be built, with a new 6 story R&D building, accommodating 400 engineers. To complete this construction project over hundred people will be at work at Punch Powertrain over the next few years.

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  • The popularity of a normal car usually declines after seven years, at the end of its sales cycle. Built by Volvo Car Gent, the Volvo XC60 is clearly not a normal car. The millionth car has just rolled off the production line. 161,092 Volvo XC60 were produced in the Ghent Volvo plant in 2016. That’s

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    The popularity of a normal car usually declines after seven years, at the end of its sales cycle. Built by Volvo Car Gent, the Volvo XC60 is clearly not a normal car. The millionth car has just rolled off the production line.

    161,092 Volvo XC60 were produced in the Ghent Volvo plant in 2016. That’s 64,000 more than 5 years ago (2011). The millionth Volvo XC60 rolled off the line in April 2017, 8 years after its initial launch.

    All Volvo Car Gent employees were invited to celebrate with a fruit tart during their team meeting.

    XC60 most successful model

    The Volvo XC60 is one of the most successful models in Volvo’s recent history. Equipped with the City Safety system, it was the first car to automatically brake when approaching an obstacle if the driver did not intervene.

    The Volvo XC60 has been the best-selling midsize SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) in Europe ever since 2015.

    Sales of the XC60 have increased year after year. One could say that the SUV is quite a phenomenon, since the classic sales curve of growth, maturity and decline does not apply to this model.

    New sales record in March 2017

    The XC60 is still riding the wave of success. In March of this year, the XC60 was still the best-seller with 18,420 units sold. This is nearly two thousand more than the year before.

    The Volvo XC60 was first produced in Ghent. Volvo Car Chengdu began building this model in 2014 for the Chinese market, and Volvo Car Manufacturing Malaysia is also making the XC60.

    Revamped XC60 revealed

    “The Volvo XC60 was a huge success for Volvo Cars,” says plant manager Eric Van Landeghem. “Volvo is also set to enter the segment of premium compact SUVs with the launch of the Volvo XC40. I am convinced that it will be just as successful as the XC60.”

    At the Geneva Motor Show, Volvo Cars revealed the new XC60 SUV. The current model will remain in production until after the summer break.

     

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  • Roeselare based VDL Bus & Coach has received its largest order ever. Over the next few years, it will supply the Dutch public transport company Connexxion with as many as 100 electric buses. In the VDL Group, VDL Bus Roeselare specialises in electric and hybrid buses. The new record order is certainly good news for

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    Roeselare based VDL Bus & Coach has received its largest order ever. Over the next few years, it will supply the Dutch public transport company Connexxion with as many as 100 electric buses.

    In the VDL Group, VDL Bus Roeselare specialises in electric and hybrid buses. The new record order is certainly good news for the Agoria member and Belgian operation of VDL Bus & Coach.

    It will deliver a hundred electric buses to Dutch public transport company Connexxion, immediately setting a record in the Netherlands. Once the order is complete, Connexxion will have the largest fleet of electric buses in Europe.

    Leader in electric mobility

    According to plant manager Peter Wouters, this is “wonderful news” for VDL Bus Roeselare.

    “This is the largest order for electric buses with fast charging technology to date,” says Wouters. “This confirms our leading position in electric mobility.”

    Late last year, VDL Bus Roeselare already landed a contract for 43 electric buses for the Eindhoven region (Eindhoven area puts 43 electric buses in service – built by VDL Bus Roeselare).

    Production anchored in Western Europe

    Good news from the VDL Group in the Netherlands after Willem van der Leegte took over from his father in November. The son, too, wants to keep the manufacturing in Western Europe. “We prefer to stay close to home,” Van der Leegte told Trends. “It’s easier to communicate in your mother tongue. It feels better. It requires less energy. It’s about the pride that I see in the eyes of our people when I meet them in the supermarket.”

    24 hours a day

    The buses will have their batteries topped up periodically so they can operate 24 hours a day.

    “This is the first stage in the transition to completely emission-free public transport for Amstelland-Meerlanden. Naturally, we are using all we have learned in the South-east Brabant concession, where VDL successfully supplied us with 43 articulated Citeas Electric. Therefore, we have every confidence in the product and the collaboration with VDL,” says Eric van Eijndhoven, public transport director for Connexxion.

    Read the full press release here: 100 electric VDL Citeas and 18 VDL Futura double-deckers for Connexxion.

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  • DAF Trucks has strengthened its market position in Europe. In 2016, its market share in the heavy segment (16+ tonnes) grew considerably by 0.9 percentage point to 15.5%. The Westerlo plant is expanding accordingly. In Belgium, DAF now holds a 19.1% market share. This makes Belgium one of the Group’s strongest countries, with a manufacturing

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    DAF Trucks has strengthened its market position in Europe. In 2016, its market share in the heavy segment (16+ tonnes) grew considerably by 0.9 percentage point to 15.5%. The Westerlo plant is expanding accordingly.

    In Belgium, DAF now holds a 19.1% market share. This makes Belgium one of the Group’s strongest countries, with a manufacturing site in Westerlo, among other locations.

    Production in Westerlo mirrors growth

    The increasing popularity of DAF Trucks can be explained by its wide range.

    “The current generation of DAF trucks are the best ever,” DAF Westerlo plant manager, Marc Beets, tells BeAutomotive. “Not only do they consume relatively little fuel; they are also incredibly reliable and extremely robust. We’ve seen a rise in the demand for our trucks in recent years as a result.

    In Westerlo, DAF Trucks manufactures cabs and axles. If demand for our DAF trucks rises, production in Westerlo increases accordingly, and so does our suppliers’ business.”

    220 cabs and 550 axles a day

    The Westerlo plant is currently producing some 220 cabs and 550 axles daily. Each cab and each axle is built to the customer’s specific requirements. Once these axles and cabins are built, they are transported by road to the plant in Eindhoven (Netherlands) where they arrive just in time to be mounted onto the right frame.

    Over 100 million euro investment

    DAF Trucks is investing continuously in the Westerlo manufacturing plant. The new cab paint shop is the most impressive innovation. It is the world’s most environment-friendly paint shop. Over 100 million euro were invested in it, which is proof that the Group has strengthened its anchoring in the Kempen region even more.

    The new cab paint shop will be officially commissioned shortly. The first cabs are expected to come out of the paint shop in May.

    Current employment strong enough

    In 2015, 400 additional employees were recruited, raising the total number of people employed in the Westerlo plant to 2,400.

    “We are able to meet the growing production demand by organising work processes optimally and retraining blue and white-collar employees,” adds Beets.

    DAF has strengthened its position in almost all European countries and is market leader in the Netherlands, the UK, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria.

    DAF Trucks remains ambitious. “We aim to raise our European market share from 16% to 20% over the coming years. The impact of such growth on jobs in Westerlo is impossible to estimate.”

     

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  • Jerome Lefebvre
    As a service provider, what do you do if you can’t work with good products? Well, you build one yourself! That’s the story of Jérôme Lefebvre (38) and his brother-in-law Jean-Charles Carrette (41) of Westlease who wanted to increase their share of the leased electric vehicle market. They are now launching their own light commercial

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    As a service provider, what do you do if you can’t work with good products? Well, you build one yourself! That’s the story of Jérôme Lefebvre (38) and his brother-in-law Jean-Charles Carrette (41) of Westlease who wanted to increase their share of the leased electric vehicle market. They are now launching their own light commercial vehicle, under the banner of Addax Motors.

    You may have spotted an Addax in the Sahara desert. These white antelopes are recognisable by their large spiralling horns. They are also remarkable by their capacity to go without water for lengthy periods of time. It was precisely this property that Jérôme Lefebvre and Jean-Charles Carrette thought would befit their new concept of electric light commercial vehicle. It would be able to keep driving without fuel, without maintenance and without worries for a long time.

    The antelope features prominently in the Addax sporty logo. But that’s where the comparison ends, since the African animal is threatened with extinction. Addax Motors, on the other hand, is looking at a great, sustainable future.

    Addax Motors emerged from the leasing company Westlease. Why did you launch something that is not your initial business?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “Addax Motors is a spin-off which originated from our leasing company Westlease. We actually had about one hundred electric vehicles leased out to customers, but we couldn’t run them the way we wanted. With our customers, we were not entirely satisfied with some of the vehicles supplied to us by foreign makes. The quality of workmanship was often low; the manufacturers offered substandard after-sales and they did nothing with our improvement suggestions. For example, we suggested they built in a 3G connection to relay problems in real time. This would allow us to quickly troubleshoot our customers. But giving us access to their system was out of the question for them.

    The niche is also important to Addax. We focus on the light commercial vehicle niche because they make short, daily trips and are not used for the annual long-haul holiday away . Our target clientele includes couriers, the maintenance services of large business parks, urban services and one-person businesses that are mainly active in the city.”

    You offer mobility as a service, not as a product. Why is this essential in the Addax Motors business model?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “We started up as a service company through our leasing operation. We found that not everyone feels comfortable driving electric vehicles. Many fear that the battery loses capacity quickly, even though this should no longer be an issue with the lithium battery technology and the current management systems that guarantee capacity for five years.

    The hefty price tag associated with buying electric is another challenge. Sure, the cost of investment is high, but the operating cost is low because the fuel is cheap, the insurance premium is lower and there is less maintenance.

    We easily overcome these objections through leasing. The costs are spread out over 5 years, and instead of being a risk borne by the driver, the battery is the leasing company’s responsibility.”

    Your vehicle is electric, green, economical, always connected … What is your overall selling argument?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “We offer light commercial vehicles that are ideal for urban traffic. This is our niche. The problem was that, until now, we didn’t have a decent product to help us achieve our goal.

    Our solution was to start designing and building the vehicle ourselves to suit our needs and those of our customers. This was a joint effort involving several partners. They supplemented the expertise that we did not have in-house at Westlease.

    That’s how we designed our first vehicle with an engineering firm. Flanders Make examined and studied the first drawings and Rhenus SML was able to take care of the assembly. This collaboration has produced one light commercial vehicle model allowing different applications. For example, a tipper body, a refrigerated compartment, a sorting system, an open or closed loading platform, etc. may be mounted on the chassis.

    The maximum speed is around 70km per hour. The vehicle’s other strengths include a small turning circle of 4m, its width of only 1.40m and the extra-large cab.”

    What did you gain from your cooperation with Flanders Make?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “The network that it has built, that’s the major added value of Flanders Make. Their living lab is also interesting. They use it to test new products with the aim of developing and bringing them to market more effectively and faster.”

    Both your R&D and production operations are in Belgium. Why in our country?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “It’s true. Our story so far is entirely Made in Belgium. All our suppliers are Belgian. For example, our cab is pressed and built in Belgium; the chassis is welded at a Belgian company… We think it’s crucial that we should contribute to our economy. At the same time, it’s easier for us to discuss matters with Belgian partners than with foreign ones. Sharing the same language and culture does facilitate our collaboration. Quality is assured.”

    You are employing five people. What kind of growth are you expecting?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “A year ago, we were two partners and two employees. We now total three partners and five employees. Several freelancers complement the team.

    We anticipate that our business will double over the next two to three years. This will also expand our team.

    Currently, our challenge is to find people here who are specialists and have a broad profile at the same time. At present, we cannot afford to hire several specialised profiles. On the contrary, our people must be generalists in automotive.”

    Rhenus SML is now manufacturing the vehicles. Why did you choose the Limburg based supplier of the former Ford Genk?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “Right from the beginning, we’ve had good relations with SML. Even when we had nothing, they were already interested. They immediately came up with ideas to facilitate assembly.

    This is vital. You must know from the get-go how a vehicle can be produced on a large scale. Anyone can build a couple of vehicles in their garage, but it often backfires when scaling up to industrial production.

    Our vehicles are produced near the former Ford Genk since the beginning of 2017. There is still a lot of manual work involved in the process. But SML is able to adapt quickly to the growing demand for electric light commercial vehicles.”

    Are you also planning to export your success story?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “In our wildest dreams, we produce 1,000 to 3,000 vehicles annually per model. We sell them mainly in the Benelux, but increasingly abroad. At present, there is interest from Sweden, France and the Netherlands for instance.

    The fact that many environmentally friendly measures are being taken at the moment certainly fits well with our vision of the future: the low emission zone in Antwerp; Ghent and other cities likely to follow suit; the public’s greater awareness of harmful particles; … This is bound to change the concept of logistics. Our vehicles can play a major role in the city. We hold discussions with large postal operators who are looking for greener ways to deliver parcels and letters. They can, for example, use electric vehicles to deliver parcels. This is a great opportunity for a company like Addax.”

    How can Belgium help you grow further?

    Jérôme Lefebvre: “I think that we can still do a lot more. Let’s compare ourselves with a project in Germany. At the government’s initiative, the University of Aachen has started the development of electric cars, this together with Deutsche Post. The politicians have ensured that the best heads from the various university departments are cooperating.  Each department is contributing its specialty to the development of the car. There is a person coordinating everything. The result is called StreetScooter. Now that the concept is finalised, the vehicle is produced by a spin-off, near the university. This has boosted the local economy. People who are involved in the project continue to work in the area and are spending their income locally.

    I miss this kind of approach and vision in Belgium. We do get support, but everything is so fragmented. Politicians are not developing an overall solution. So, even though we have the best experts, they should be brought together in a kind of cluster to work on a far-reaching project.”

     

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  • Volvo Cars has been named a 2017 World’s Most Ethical Company, a first for the car manufacturer. “Volvo Cars embraces policies of diversity and inclusion, is committed to ethical leadership and demonstrates the values of a true global citizen.” 124 companies have been listed this year by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining

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    Volvo Cars has been named a 2017 World’s Most Ethical Company, a first for the car manufacturer. “Volvo Cars embraces policies of diversity and inclusion, is committed to ethical leadership and demonstrates the values of a true global citizen.”

    124 companies have been listed this year by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices. Volvo Cars is one of only four companies in the automotive industry.

    “I’m very proud that Volvo Cars has been recognised as one of the world’s most ethical companies,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars. “Responsible business is a fundamental part of Volvo Cars’ heritage, and ingrained in our corporate culture. An ethical approach is not just the right thing to do; it brings financial value too.”

    Ghent shares awards

    Volvo Cars has a plant in Ghent where almost 6,000 employees produce the V40, S60 and XC60 models. Last year, 450 additional staff were hired to roll off the assembly lines more than 250,000 cars, setting a new record.

    “Congratulations to all at Volvo Car Group for being recognised as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies”, said Timothy Erblich, Ethisphere’s Chief Executive Officer. “Volvo Cars embraces policies of diversity and inclusion, is committed to ethical leadership and demonstrates the values of a true global citizen.”

    Training in ethical business practices

    Volvo Cars implements a comprehensive Compliance and Ethics Programme aiming at preventing and mitigating a range of legal and ethical risks, covering areas such as corruption, human rights, competition law, export control and data privacy. This includes a Code of Conduct, based on international conventions and standards, which governs and guides the actions of all our employees and business partners.

    Volvo Cars is committed to fostering a culture of Ethical Leadership. Last year, a new training programme for managers was launched which focuses on responsible and ethical business practices. To date, over 400 employees have received this training.

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