• 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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  • 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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  • In most factories, robots and humans work in strictly separate environments. At Audi, robots and people are now working together for the first time ever on the assembly line. “Hand-in-hand” with humans. In Audi’s new PART4you workstation, the pick robot hands a work-piece over to the operator, relieving him or her from the need to

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    In most factories, robots and humans work in strictly separate environments. At Audi, robots and people are now working together for the first time ever on the assembly line. “Hand-in-hand” with humans.

    In Audi’s new PART4you workstation, the pick robot hands a work-piece over to the operator, relieving him or her from the need to reach over and bend down to take the part from the material box.

    Human‑robot cooperation

    Human‑robot cooperation opens up entirely new possibilities: “The factory of the future will feature increasing interaction between man and machine”, says Dr Hubert Waltl, Board of Management Member for Production at AUDI AG. “That allows us to automate routine operations and to optimize ergonomically unfavourable workplaces.” But also in the future, there will be no factory without people. “People will continue to make the decisions on production processes. And our employees will continue to be essential for future-oriented, successful production.”

    In this instance, the robot is an assembly assistant, a co-worker that adapts to the pace of the line operator, and not the other way around, as described at length in the in-depth article “New human-robot cooperation in Audi production processes” published by Audi.

    Already more than 500 robots at Audi Brussels

    Following positive tests in Germany, robots were fitted to the production line at Audi Brussels this year. They will work closely with the staff. “They assist assembly workers, instead of replacing them.”

    For the production of the A1 and S1, more than 500 robots have now been deployed in Brussels. They perform all kinds of tasks. For example, they take care of loading and unloading component containers. They apply joints, clips and adhesive, they weld parts together and carry out checks and monitoring of robot-driven in-line metrology.

    Working safely with a robot

    The fact that, until now, robots and humans were working separately had a lot to do with safety. Insurers especially are worried about the risk of accidents. “Thanks to a soft protective skin with integrated safety sensors, there is no danger with these robots,” explains Head of the Assembly Technology Development department Johann Hegel to the online Belgian publication Ingeneeringnet. “The technology can also receive the required certificates from the employers’ insurance company as a result.”

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  • Platoon tests are also being conducted in Belgium to pave the way for the advent of self-driving cars. The tests allow drivers and automotive companies to learn how the systems can be operated and improved. Insurance brokerage and risk advisory group Aon is one of the first companies to organise a platoon test in Belgium.

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    Platoon tests are also being conducted in Belgium to pave the way for the advent of self-driving cars. The tests allow drivers and automotive companies to learn how the systems can be operated and improved.

    Insurance brokerage and risk advisory group Aon is one of the first companies to organise a platoon test in Belgium. Assisted by the Transportation Research Institute (IMOB, Hasselt University), Carglass, Prodive Training and Royal Haskoning DHV, they are ensuring that self-driving vehicles are one step closer to becoming a reality.

    During the test, the cars drove in a platoon formation over different types of Belgian roads. They were equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keeping Systems (LKS).

    Feeling safe behind the wheel

    Nearly all drivers reported having felt safe and comfortable in traffic, once they had mastered the systems. “Only by being fully acquainted with the system will the driver manage to operate the vehicle properly. Additional driver training is therefore essential,” concludes the report on the National Platoon Test

    Innovative safety systems on trucks and passenger cars such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keeping Systems (LKS) offer demonstrable prospects for improved road safety. The use of smart vehicles will significantly reduce the number of road fatalities.

    Inconspicuous in traffic

    What are the main findings from this test?

    • Driving in a platoon was the most efficient on the motorway sections, with a constant speed limit and without traffic lights, while traffic was not excessively busy.
    • Once the drivers were accustomed to the system, their interventions became less frequent. They knew better what kind of support they could expect from the systems, and in which situations.
    • At the traffic lights on the motorway itinerary (A12), the platoons proved well able to automatically slow down in response to the deceleration of the leading vehicle.
    • Even during acceleration, the platoon formations remained generally intact.
    • The reaction of other road users towards the platoons was not noticeably different from their interaction with regular traffic. The platoons moved quite inconspicuously through traffic.

    Smoother and more sustainable traffic

    The expectation is that these cooperative, highly autonomous vehicles will contribute to safe, smooth, sustainable and pleasant traffic. Further research will indeed show whether these expectations are met.

    Download here the free National Platoon Test brochure (in Dutch).

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  • A transport company may save between 6,000 and 10,000 euros a year per self-driving truck. This study conducted by VIL also raises questions as to the fate of the truck driver, since this profession is about to be dramatically redefined. Self-driving trucks will arrive on European, and therefore Belgian roads by 2020. High time to

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    A transport company may save between 6,000 and 10,000 euros a year per self-driving truck. This study conducted by VIL also raises questions as to the fate of the truck driver, since this profession is about to be dramatically redefined.

    Self-driving trucks will arrive on European, and therefore Belgian roads by 2020. High time to look at the impact on the truck driver profession.

    Today’s driver is passionate about his/her truck, has a certain desire for freedom and has his/her hands on the steering wheel.

    In the future, he or she will no longer have to actualy drive the truck on long stretches of motorway. This will give him or her some free time to do something else.

     

    Administration behind the wheel

    Which value-adding tasks can the truck driver perform in a self-driving truck? Such was the premise of the Value Added Trucking project investigated by Flemish knowledge centre for the logistics sector VIL.

    • Trip-related tasks, such as the administrative processing of the transport order
    • Non trip-related tasks, such as accepting new transport jobs
    • The registration of practical and commercial information about loading and unloading.
    • Following part of the mandatory 35 hours of refresher courses every 5 years (Code 95).

    The practical tests of the VIL showed that the driver can perform these different tasks electronically.

     

    Up to 10,000 euros saved per truck

    If the driver can perform administrative tasks while driving, a transport company with 10 administrative staff members would be able to require one person less. When calculated for each self-driving truck, this would mean a saving of between 6,000 and 10,000 euros.

    And this also assumes that there is greater safety and maybe higher customer satisfaction.

    Naturally, this is based on the condition that the drivers are able to perform these tasks. “The driver of tomorrow is a polyvalent administrative assistant, preferably with the characteristics of an account manager,” VIL writes in an article on Value Added Trucking. “And carriers will therefore have to determine to what extent their drivers are suitably competent with regard to communication, language skills, computer literacy and multimedia use.”

     

    More fatigue for drivers?

    In collaboration with IMOB/UHasselt, VIL also studied the impact of the work in a self-driving truck on the driver’s fatigue.

    • On day one, the drivers in a simulated self-driving truck were not given any tasks.
    • On day two, they were given a limited number of administrative tasks and training.
    • On the third day, each driver was given a full timetable of tasks.

    The tests show that the excessive workload of day 3 caused them stress. Conversely, the low workload of day 1 led to boredom. Both expressed themselves in increased fatigue.

    The right balance between driving, resting, tasks and training induces a lower level of fatigue and contributes to greater safety for the driver and other road users.

     

    The comprehensive survey report can be purchased from the VIL web shop: Value Added Trucking.

     

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  • The future is green and electric… and you’ll find it in Genk. SML is building the electric vans of Kuurne based Addax Motors on the suppliers’ park of the former Ford plant. “The beginning of a great future.” The Belgian SML used to supply Ford Genk, and now builds suspensions for Audi Brussels. SML has

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    The future is green and electric… and you’ll find it in Genk. SML is building the electric vans of Kuurne based Addax Motors on the suppliers’ park of the former Ford plant. “The beginning of a great future.”

    The Belgian SML used to supply Ford Genk, and now builds suspensions for Audi Brussels. SML has shifted up a gear, and recently began making complete vehicles.

    “We don’t limit ourselves to the production of components for cars,” Rhenus SML Manager, Stefan Maussen, told Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper. “In the past, for instance, we made body structures for the Transit. During the Christmas holidays, we launched the production for Addax Motors.

    Production raised from 150 to 300 units

    The production rate will be increased from the middle of next month, even though the vans will not yet be built on the assembly line.

    “A lot of manual work is still involved in the process,” says Maussen. “But we are able to adapt quickly to the growing demand for electric vans.”

    This year, SML expects to produce a volume of 150 Addax MT 10 and 15 vans. In 2018, this could rise to 300 following interest from Sweden, France and the Netherlands.

    Green transport in cities

    The vans don’t make any noise, neither do they release harmful emissions. Consequently, they are ideal vehicles to bring goods from the edge to the centre of cities, as well as for recreational and holiday parks and even for green waste collection.

    The light vans weigh 600 kg and can take a payload of up to 1,000 kg. They have a maximum range of 110 km on a fully charged battery.

    The Addax MT 10 and 15 cost between 25,000 and 30,000 euros.

    Electric mobility partner

    SML has 40 employees. The company had already landed a major contract with Rolls-Royce .

    Addax Motors wants to become an electric mobility partner for companies. The company is convinced that, in the future, mobility in towns and cities will rely on small personalized, electric commercial vehicles. These vehicles will ensure cost and energy efficient, silent and environmentally friendly transport. Addax Motors is also offering a full service solution which includes the technical, financial and administrative aspects.

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  • Bruges seaport consolidates its leading position as the world’s biggest automotive hub. 2.8 million cars were shipped from Zeebrugge which also reached record employment figures with 1,695 dock workers. Zeebrugge is by far the world’s largest port when it comes to car transhipments. A whopping 2,776,113 cars were shipped in 2016. “We were up by

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    Bruges seaport consolidates its leading position as the world’s biggest automotive hub. 2.8 million cars were shipped from Zeebrugge which also reached record employment figures with 1,695 dock workers.

    Zeebrugge is by far the world’s largest port when it comes to car transhipments. A whopping 2,776,113 cars were shipped in 2016.

    “We were up by 14.3% compared to 2015,” says Managing Director of the Zeebrugge Port Authority Joachim Coens. The countries showing the most growth in automotive in Zeebrugge are the United States (+ 47.5%), Sweden (+ 31.7%) and Spain (+ 25.4%).

    In the interview with BeAutomotive Coens said: “We are growing to 3.4 million cars”.

    7.6% more dockers

    The growing traffic has a positive impact on employment. Never has Zeebrugge employed that many dockers, wrote newspaper Krant van West-Vlaanderen: 1,695 in December 2016, or 7.6% more than in 2015. Last year, dockers worked 342,712 shifts, which is 15.4% more than the year before.

    This year also promises to be a good one. New car flows have already started in 2017, from the Far East and to Ireland.

    Ground-breaking ceremony at sea lock in 2017

    Efforts are being made to open up the inner harbour to ship traffic in order to accommodate the  growing automotive sector. The port has initiated the Strategic Harbour Infrastructure Project or SHIP to that effect.

    The old Visart lock will be replaced by a new sea lock farther inland. A channel will be created at the site of the current Visart lock, giving access to a limited open tidal zone extending up to the new lock.

    “Minister Ben Weyts promised that the ground-breaking ceremony will take place during the current parliamentary term. I am confident he will keep this promise.”

    Expanding for automotive

    Also for the port’s automotive activities, Coens plans to expand capacity by 156 hectares. “At present, 390 hectares of our inner port are allocated to automotive logistics. 70 hectares are still unoccupied along the Boudewijnkanaal,” says Coens, “where a new quay wall of 1,130 metres should give sea-going vessels the option to berth there in the future.”

    Watch here the video of automotive activities in the Port of Zeebrugge.

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  • Toyota Motor Europe is a caring organisation. Based in Brussels, the European marketing organisation of car manufacturer Toyota collects funds, clothes and food for the homeless in Brussels. Internally, these actions boost the team spirit. Based in Brussels, and staffed by 2,700 people of 63 nationalities, Toyota Motor Europe (TME) handles the wholesale marketing of

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    Toyota Motor Europe is a caring organisation. Based in Brussels, the European marketing organisation of car manufacturer Toyota collects funds, clothes and food for the homeless in Brussels. Internally, these actions boost the team spirit.

    Based in Brussels, and staffed by 2,700 people of 63 nationalities, Toyota Motor Europe (TME) handles the wholesale marketing of Toyota and Lexus vehicles, parts & accessories, and manages Toyota’s European manufacturing and engineering operations.

    Over the last four years Toyota volunteers have worked hand in hand with the Belgium-based non-governmental organisation Serve the City. They provide assistance to a wide range of people in need throughout the country including the displaced, the homeless, the elderly and also vulnerable families living on the breadline.

    Money, food and clothes for homeless people

    Toyota employees have achieved quite a lot for Serve the City:

    • In 2013, they filled three Toyota Proace vans with food and clothing for the homeless and deprived in Belgium.
    • In 2014, they filled & delivered 250 boxes of toys, sweets, healthcare products, books & electrical equipment for children living in hostels in Brussels.
    • In 2015, they raised over 26,000 euros. On top of that, TME donated a fully equipped brand new Toyota Proace van to charity.
    • In 2016, they collected over 16,000 euros in just 4 weeks. This money will enable Serve the City to purchase a mobile kitchen & serve more meals on the streets of Brussels. On top of that, Toyota members filled two vans with food and hygiene products that Serve the City have been using to care for homeless people throughout the harsh winter period.

    High response from TME employees

    “As much as I am proud to work for Toyota, I am deeply proud of my colleague’s activities to help the local community”, says Elena Kim – Body Group, Research & Development Division.

    “In 2014 we prepared nearly 300 parcels of Christmas gifts for children in need. Each parcel was personalised and addressed to a certain young person who had been identified by Serve the City; they contained toys, sweets, games and hygienic products. I was surprised to see the high response from TME employees towards the activity – people were bringing gifts every day, donating money and helping us to wrap the presents during their lunch times.”

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  • Facil, the Belgian Full Service Provider of fasteners and other C-parts to the automotive, truck and related industries, has signed a new contract with one of its most important customers, Ford. Already a loyal customer of Genk based Facil, the car manufacturer recently selected the Belgian company as a key partner in the production of

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    Facil, the Belgian Full Service Provider of fasteners and other C-parts to the automotive, truck and related industries, has signed a new contract with one of its most important customers, Ford.

    Already a loyal customer of Genk based Facil, the car manufacturer recently selected the Belgian company as a key partner in the production of the new Ford Focus.

    The contract covers the FSP service for the new Ford Focus to be produced in Ford’s Saarlouis plant.

    Success story with Ford

    This contract reinforces Facil‘s success story with Ford.

    Covering a period of 5 years, the intensive partnership deal involves not only the logistical supply of all fasteners but also active collaboration in all aspects of fastening technology, as well as in the development phase of the new model.

    Rolling out a global strategy

    “Facil is the Belgian service provider of small parts”, Facil CEO, René Achten, stated in an earlier BeAutomotive interview entitled “Our customers save 5% a year on fasteners”. “We are now rolling out our global strategy.”

    Starting from its home base in Limburg, Facil has opened branches in Europe, North and Central America, China, Thailand and Japan. With their approach, they also provide a unique added value to the car and truck manufacturers that are today their main customer sectors.

    Coordination from Belgium

    In total, nearly 100 of the overall 400 Facil employees work in Belgium. The entire staff is here and coordination is done from Belgium. The service to solve local problems is provided locally at customers.

     

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  • Are you knowledgeable in electric vehicles? Passionate about electronics or IT? If so, the Belgian automotive industry is looking for you. There are currently 600 job vacancies in some 30 companies. Some thirty Belgian companies in the automotive industry currently have 600 jobs to fill. This has been revealed by a survey conducted by Agoria,

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    Are you knowledgeable in electric vehicles? Passionate about electronics or IT? If so, the Belgian automotive industry is looking for you. There are currently 600 job vacancies in some 30 companies.

    Some thirty Belgian companies in the automotive industry currently have 600 jobs to fill. This has been revealed by a survey conducted by Agoria, the Belgian technology federation, on the occasion of the Brussels Motor Show. “Both large manufacturing companies and suppliers are looking for people,” says Agoria CEO Marc Lambotte.

    Electric talent wanted

    Interestingly, the transition to electric vehicles is visible in the list of job vacancies. Many companies are looking for people who are trained in electric mobility, including car manufacturer Audi Brussels, supplier C-Mac Elektromag in Ronse and bus manufacturer VDL in Roeselare.

    10 new jobs at VDL

    Roeselare based VDL Bus & Coach  is playing the electric bus card. Having landed several major contracts, the company is now looking to fill ten new positions.

    “In Europe, public transport is undergoing a revolution which is focusing increasingly on sustainability, eco-friendliness and the application of innovations,” says HR Manager Sharon Lepoudre. “We therefore want to attract new people with a very specific electrical background, at all levels and in all departments of our company.”

    C-Mac Elektromag has 6 new jobs

    Ronse based C-Mac Elektromag produces electronic components for car manufacturers. It is looking for six new people.

    “We are constantly looking for skilled technical staff, because we introduce new technologies and new processes very regularly,” explains C-Mac Manager Danny Detemmerman. “In addition, our products are becoming more and more complex, traceability requirements keep getting more stringent, and production is increasingly automated and digitized. At the same time, we also want to replace the baby boomers who are gradually retiring.”

    Audi Brussels has about 100 new jobs

    This year, at Audi Brussels, preparations are underway for the production of an all-electric vehicle. The company is trying to fill about 100 jobs.

    “Audi Brussels will soon launch a brand new project,” announces HR Manager Erik Prieels. “The Audi e-tron will be the first 100% electric SUV in the Audi Group with production kicking off in Brussels from 2018. This will enable us to build expertise and expand our current knowledge of automotive technology and automation and it means we can offer a dream job to anyone with a passion for the latest technologies.”

    Apply for a job through BeAutomotive.be

    You will find the jobs offered by the automotive companies on http://beautomotive.be/#jobs/. Interested candidates (graduates, alumni and job seekers) should contact the companies via the link or e-mail address listed in each job vacancy.

     

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  • Rotselaar based Atos Engineering holds a unique position in its sector. Every single seatbelt in the world is tested by one of its machines. Worldwide, the company supplies small and large test equipment. No other company holds such a strong position in its niche than Atos Engineering. The seatbelts in your car were tested and

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    Rotselaar based Atos Engineering holds a unique position in its sector. Every single seatbelt in the world is tested by one of its machines. Worldwide, the company supplies small and large test equipment.

    No other company holds such a strong position in its niche than Atos Engineering. The seatbelts in your car were tested and found safe after undergoing a fully automatic test in one of its machines. The same goes for the seatbelts in your neighbour’s car, your uncle’s in Australia or your niece’s in the United States.

    Belgian SME rules the world

    Atos Engineering is one of the many hidden champions in our country, an SME that is a worldwide leader in its market. Through the series of feature articles published in De Tijd newspaper under the title “Verborgen Kampioenen” (Hidden Champions), we zoom in on Rotselaar based Atos Engineering.

    Fully automatic testing in 6 seconds

    Atos Engineering is the only company in the world to design and manufacture highly specialised machines in which seatbelts undergo a range of tests. Founder and CEO Frans Proost told De Tijd that his company sold about 600 seatbelt test equipment units over the past 25 years, solely to foreign companies. The sale price ranges between 30,000 and 350,000 euros for each machine. The most innovative and fully automated equipment is capable of testing a seatbelt every 6 seconds.

    Increasing added value

    The company’s future lies in electronic seatbelts. These belts adjust their tension to the road and driving conditions detected by the vehicle’s sensors. ”I also expect a lot of the self-driving cars,” says Proost. “These require increasingly complex test systems. Thanks to our good relationship with automotive, we are the first to know what the industry needs. This enables us to develop machines with higher added value… that we can sell at a higher price than simpler models.”

     

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  • Over 500 million euros. The record sales of Punch Powertrain in Sint-Truiden in 2016. A whopping 50% more than the year before, during which the specialist in stepless transmissions had already doubled its sales. The company expects to reach the 1.5 billion euro mark by 2020. Sint-Truiden has been the scene of fascinating growth. Seven

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    Over 500 million euros. The record sales of Punch Powertrain in Sint-Truiden in 2016. A whopping 50% more than the year before, during which the specialist in stepless transmissions had already doubled its sales. The company expects to reach the 1.5 billion euro mark by 2020.

    Sint-Truiden has been the scene of fascinating growth. Seven years ago, Punch Powertrain almost went bankrupt. A number of investors such as LRM and the Flemish investment firm Gimv decided to take the risk to inject capital into the venture, while CEO Cor van Otterloo managed to breathe new life into the company by focusing on CVT transmission systems for the Asian market.

    Record sales netted in Asian markets

    2016 ended with a turnover of over 500 million euros. A figure confirmed by Punch Powertrain CEO Cor van Otterloo to the daily newspaper Het Belang van Limburg. These sales were generated in countries like China, Malaysia and Taiwan. Geely, the Chinese owner of Volvo, is currently the biggest customer, with one of its best-selling sedans in China equipped with the Punch CVT.

    In China, Punch Powertrain supplies some 15 car manufacturers and also has a production site. This allows the company to tap into the growing car market of this vast country.

    Chinese investment in Sint-Truiden

    The sale of the Belgian company to the Chinese group Yinyi was the other big event of 2016.

    Van Otterloo is convinced this sale is very good news. “Our shareholder only talks about investing… in Sint-Truiden. And there isn’t a Chinese executive watching over my shoulder. Since R&D and the production of key components remain in Sint-Truiden, the anchoring of Punch Powertrain in Belgium is secured.”

    Hundreds of additional jobs in automotive

    “In 2007 we had 17 men in our R&D. Today more than 300 people,” Cor van Otterloo said in a previous interview with BeAutomotive. “This number will keep growing as a result of our forthcoming plans. After Toyota, we have the largest R&D department in the Belgian automotive industry.”

    A new R&D complex with a testing centre – that requires a total of 500 experts – and expansion of the production facility will eventually add another 280 jobs at the headquarters.

    The new R&D complex, including a new test centre with different test rigs, a new prototype workshop and a high-tech test track will lead to the creation of 130 R&D jobs and 50 supporting jobs. Additionally, increased production capacity in Sint-Truiden will create another 100 new jobs.

    Punch Powertrain created 722 new jobs in 2016 across the 3 facilities of Sint-Truiden, Nanjing and Eindhoven. Both the Sint-Truiden and Nanjing sites, which are similar in size, experienced a similar growth of about 60% in 2016.

    Another 1 billion euros over 4 years

    The future looks bright for Punch Powertrain. A few key figures?

    • Over the next five years, Punch Powertrain will invest 400 million euros in further growth.
    • At present, 60 million euros have been invested in the Sint-Truiden plant, especially in manufacturing.
    • A new development centre will be built next to the existing plant.
    • Punch expects to reach a turnover of 1.5 billion euros by 2020. Or another one billion euros over 4 years.
    • By 2021 Punch hopes to get its first European car manufacturer as a customer.
    • The workforce in HQ in Sint-Truiden is set to rise from its present level of 870 employees to over 1,500 by 2020.

     

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  • It’s Belgian, has three wheels, is all electric and produced from recycled materials for the most part. Visitors to the Brussels Motor Show would know that we are talking about the Ecar 333. Now officially for sale. Four years after it was first unveiled at the Brussels Motor Show, the youngest Belgian car manufacturer has

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    It’s Belgian, has three wheels, is all electric and produced from recycled materials for the most part. Visitors to the Brussels Motor Show would know that we are talking about the Ecar 333. Now officially for sale.

    Four years after it was first unveiled at the Brussels Motor Show, the youngest Belgian car manufacturer has already introduced three versions of its electric car: a city (Urban), a luxury model and a pick-up.

    “Our Ecar 333 meets several of the requirements of responsible motorists,” says Ecar company manager, Xavier Van der Stappen. “They want a vehicle that is clean, economical, fun, innovative and has an extensive range. The roadsters are ideal for anyone who is passionate about new technologies.”

    13 Belgian partners

    The concept of the three-wheeler was developed in Belgium. And production will also take place in our country. 13 Belgian partners are involved, including manufacturer of complex parts Addiparts, insurance and leasing company Alliance Bokiau, design and engineering firm Green Propulsion, electrical and lighting specialist Hella, industrial design firm IOL, producer of small vans Addax Motors and producer of chassis and bodywork JD’C Innovation.

    With regard to the range and battery life, Ecar 333 has teamed up with yet another major partner. Ecar incorporates the Lipo cells of the biggest manufacturers and its Belgian partner NLAB has the tools to ensure the production of batteries which are then available to buy or rent from the first year. NLAB ensures the second life of the battery, by providing an energy storage solution for a period of 20 years.

    500 vehicles by 2020

    The roadsters are now available to purchase. The models shown at the Motor Show are also the first three selling models. Ecar plans to sell a total of 50 roadsters in 2017.

    Negotiations are also underway with an industrial partner to launch mass production in 2018. “We are aiming to produce 500 vehicles by 2020.”

    Low cost lease car

    The Ecar is available to buy or lease. Among other prospects, the start-up company is targeting the government which should lead by example by using eco-friendly cars.

    What are Ecar’s selling arguments?

    • The vehicles have a range of 150 to 300 km.
    • Engine power reaches 30 HP.
    • Maximum speed is 130km/h.
    • The retail price for the basic model is 20,000 euros.
    • A Flemish grant is available, lowering the price by 4,000 euros.
    • Because of the lower operating cost, the lease payment over five years is lower than that of a small city car.

     

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  • The Belgian manufacturing industry will benefit from additional investments of hundreds of million euros in the coming years. “We want to bring the new industrial revolution to Belgium,” announces Urbain Vandeurzen. He and other Belgian top entrepreneurs have set up a new investment fund to do just that. We know Urbain Vandeurzen from LMS International.

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    The Belgian manufacturing industry will benefit from additional investments of hundreds of million euros in the coming years. “We want to bring the new industrial revolution to Belgium,” announces Urbain Vandeurzen. He and other Belgian top entrepreneurs have set up a new investment fund to do just that.

    We know Urbain Vandeurzen from LMS International. Vandeurzen founded the specialist company in simulation and test solutions for the automotive and other industries, grew the business, and sold it to Siemens in 2013. Since then, he has played an ever greater role in the Belgian manufacturing industry, as former chairman of the Flemish investment company Gimv, as chairman of Flanders Make, and now as an investor.

    The Belgian investment fund is aimed at 3 segments:

    1. technology designed to make factories and production processes smarter
    2. digital healthcare
    3. retail & consumer

    Smart factories in Belgium

    “We want to breathe new life into the manufacturing industry in Belgium and the Netherlands,” Urbain Vandeurzen said in De Tijd newspaper. “Our fund encourages Industry 4.0 companies, an industrial revolution of smart factories equipped with autonomous, networked machines which are controlled by big data and computing power and manufacturing customised products at the cost of mass production.”

    Vandeurzen and Co will invest in companies that have already something to show: a high-tech product that is finalised, generates revenue and is exported.

    Focus on R&D and internationalisation

    There is no doubt as to which pillars Vandeurzen will support in the companies in which he invests.

    Didn’t he already reveal his recipe for success to BeAutomotive? “Specialisation, extensive innovation, partnership and development centres.“

    “Before, the big foreign companies used to call the shots in Belgium. Without them, there was no work. Now, jobs and innovation can be created by our own entrepreneurs. I therefore advocate a strong internal R&D department, in conjunction with internationalisation. Companies should seize the real growth opportunities, in Asia, which accounts for half of the world economy.”

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  •   As of Sunday, 11 December 2016, the Eindhoven area has one of the largest electric bus fleets in Europe. The new timetable was introduced on that day by passenger transport company Hermes, which is now running 43 innovative VDL Citea SLFA Electric buses. The vehicles do not release harmful emissions and are much quieter

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    As of Sunday, 11 December 2016, the Eindhoven area has one of the largest electric bus fleets in Europe. The new timetable was introduced on that day by passenger transport company Hermes, which is now running 43 innovative VDL Citea SLFA Electric buses. The vehicles do not release harmful emissions and are much quieter than regular buses. The buses are recharged when not in use, providing them with sufficient range for a whole day. VDL also supplied the charging stations and is delivering the electricity to them, in partnership with the power company. Therefore, in addition to supplying buses, VDL is also a system supplier.

    The VDL Citea SLFA Electric is an 18.1 metre long electric articulated bus with an innovative, futuristic BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) design. Since the delivery of the 43 Citea SLFA Electric buses, Eindhoven in Netherlands North Brabant has one of the largest zero-emission bus fleets in Europe. The rapid transit – based on the ‘show up and go’ system – of the buses on certain lines is comparable to a tram system. These high-frequency lines serve the main destinations in Eindhoven, such as Eindhoven Airport and the High Tech Campus.

    Within VDL Bus & Coach, VDL Bus Roeselare is the product owner of zero-emission buses. The production of these buses has also taken place in Roeselare and the forward-looking Research & Development department of VDL Bus Roeselare is still focusing exclusively on zero-emission buses.

     

    About VDL Bus Roeselare and VDL Bus & Coach:

    The former Jonckheere was renamed VDL Bus Roeselare a few years ago. Jonckheere was founded in 1881 as a family business, first as a builder of carriages, and it gradually developed into a reputed manufacturer of both city buses and coaches. In 1998 the company was taken over by VDL Groep. Within VDL, VDL Bus Roeselare is part of the VDL Bus & Coach division, which also runs manufacturing plants in Valkenswaard, Eindhoven, Venlo and Heerenveen.

    Next to environmental awareness, VDL Bus & Coach also priotizes quality, safety, sustainability, low fuel consumption, comfort and low maintenance costs. Thanks to a worldwide network of sales and service outlets, VDL Bus & Coach has become one of the biggest bus manufacturers in Europe.

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  • From 2019, self-driving buses will shuttle passengers and staff within Zaventem airport. Five consortia were recently shortlisted to tender for the contract. The Flemish transport company De Lijn has shortlisted five bus manufacturers for the construction of a transport system involving self-driving shuttle vehicles at Brussels Airport. In about three years’ time, these shuttles will

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    From 2019, self-driving buses will shuttle passengers and staff within Zaventem airport. Five consortia were recently shortlisted to tender for the contract.

    The Flemish transport company De Lijn has shortlisted five bus manufacturers for the construction of a transport system involving self-driving shuttle vehicles at Brussels Airport. In about three years’ time, these shuttles will be able to transport both employees and travellers transport between various key locations within the airport limits. Even though driverless, the vehicles will move under the supervision of a dispatcher.

    Belgian-Dutch VDL Bus & Coach submit tender

    These five companies were provided with the specifications allowing them to submit a tender. The winner of the contract will be selected in late 2017.

    “The self-driving shuttle is cutting-edge technology that captures the imagination,” says Flemish Minister for Mobility Ben Weyts. “This pilot project should turn this vision into a reality. I want to harness innovation to further enhance the services offered by De Lijn. This is an investment in the future, in greater efficiency, and in a more enticing offering for our public transport.”

    Shuttles to run in mixed traffic

    The self-driving vehicles will follow a route within Brussels Airport limits. They will connect the bus and train stations at the airport terminal to the business park at the Brucargo Air Freight terminal. The shuttles will be driving in mixed traffic over large sections of their route and thus interacting with all other existing road users.

    Investing heavily in the future

    De Lijn and partner Brussels Airport Company are investing heavily in this innovation.

    “As an intermodal hub where several modes of transportation intersect, Brussels Airport enjoys working on projects that improve mobility in and around the airport,” says Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company. “The automatic shuttle has the advantage of being available to thousands of travellers and employees at any hour of the day or night.”

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  • AKKA-MATIS Benelux and Zaventem-based Toyota Motor Europe on Tuesday, 22 November took part in the “Futurs Diplomés Motorisations & Entreprises Partenaires” event held by the IFP School (Institut Français du Pétrole) in the Île-de-France region. Since both companies share the will to invest in a new generation of engineers for the automotive industry, they seized

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    AKKA-MATIS Benelux and Zaventem-based Toyota Motor Europe on Tuesday, 22 November took part in the “Futurs Diplomés Motorisations & Entreprises Partenaires” event held by the IFP School (Institut Français du Pétrole) in the Île-de-France region. Since both companies share the will to invest in a new generation of engineers for the automotive industry, they seized this opportunity to show the students of the Powertrain Engineering programme the career opportunities they can offer them.

    The IFP School trains students from all over the world, helping them become the motorization experts of the future, with specialisations ranging from research to design and the implementation of the entire powertrain and its main componenents. The innovative nature of this programme fits perfectly with the technology DNA of AKKA-MATIS Benelux and Toyota Motor Europe. It is therefore not surprising that both companies are employing a lot of people who graduated from the IFP.

    AKKA-MATIS Benelux and Toyota Motor Europe: a lasting partnership

    After a four-year collaboration, AKKA-MATIS Benelux and Toyota Motor Europe recently decided to enter into a special partnership aimed at providing a unique opportunity to one of the final-year students of the Powertrain Engineering programme of the IFP School. This student will have the opportunity to participate in a programme during which he/she will be able to complement his/her studies with added work experience at Toyota Motor Europe through the consultancy firm AKKA-MATIS Benelux.

    During one year, this student will be able to enjoy personal coaching as well as our [CW1] management system which focuses on proximity, while working directly at the Toyota Motor Europe site on the projects of one of the major players in Belgian automotive.

    AKKA-MATIS Benelux: close relationships with industrial partners

    This new initiative, which fits in with the ambition of AKKA-MATIS Benelux to expand its activities in the automotive industry, strengthens the already strong bonds between AKKA-MATIS Benelux and Toyota Motor Europe even more.

    By nurturing this kind of robust and close relationship with its customers, AKKA-MATIS Benelux has made it to number one on the Belgian industrial engineering consultancy market and the company is able to give its employees the opportunity to work on the biggest technological projects in Belgium.

    More information: www.akka-technologies.com

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  • Volvo Trucks Belux will be holding the Volvo Trucks Hackathon Challenge on 17 and 18 February 2017. The idea behind the event is to bring students, start-ups and developers together to collaborate on a creative solution to calculate the real know cost of a trip for a carrier and hence improve mobility. Nowadays, connectivity allows

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    Volvo Trucks Belux will be holding the Volvo Trucks Hackathon Challenge on 17 and 18 February 2017. The idea behind the event is to bring students, start-ups and developers together to collaborate on a creative solution to calculate the real know cost of a trip for a carrier and hence improve mobility.

    Nowadays, connectivity allows us to combine very diverse datasets together, which, in turn, offers whole new possibilities, also in the area of mobility.

    In everyday life, carriers find it very difficult to know the exact cost of transporting goods from point A to point B. Eager to assist carriers in these efforts, Volvo Trucks is wondering whether it would be possible to devise a solution.

    Can this solution take into account the most effective transport time based on specific routes?

    • Is it possible to take into account the kilometre levy in this calculation?
    • Can this[CW1]  be integrated with the fuel consumption?
    • Is it possible to include traffic information?
    • Is it possible to factor in safety issues?
    • Is it possible to take into account the maintenance costs of the truck?
    • Can the safety of the driver and his environment be taken into account?
    • In short, is it possible to develop a tool that can display the cost per trip using as many parameters as possible in the computation?

    Volvo Trucks is organising the Volvo Trucks Hackathon Challenge on 17 and 18 February 2017 to determine if these questions can deliver workable solutions.

    Developing a Route Cost Calculator

    Volvo trucks are already generating a lot of interesting and useful data which is displayed through the Volvo Dynafleet telematics solution. However, Volvo Trucks believes that this data could also be used in other ways and is making it available to its customers through the Dynafleet API. In addition to this Dynafleet data, other datasets will also be used, such as traffic information, fuel costs, tolls, traffic conditions, certain road types, etc. For this purpose, Volvo Trucks has contacted many ‘data providers’ who will make their data available for the hackathon.

    Ultimately, the Volvo Trucks Hackathon Challenge aims to develop a Route Cost Calculator.

    The participants will be given 32 hours to develop their ideas and then submit them to an international jury. The jury will evaluate the proposals on the basis of:

    • Innovation
    • Feasibility
    • Value for the end-user

    Pieter De bruyn, Product Support Engineer at Volvo Trucks: “It’s incredibly exciting to be able to organise this Volvo Trucks Hackathon Challenge. We hope to attract a wide variety of teams with unbridled creativity and insight into data analysis. The event, we firmly believe, will generate many ideas for useful tools, which will be of great value to our customers.”

    What is a hackathon?

    A hackathon is an event where people come together to solve a problem, often using software. The term is a contraction of Hack and Marathon. As for “hack”, it is used in the benign sense of exploratory programming. During a hackathon, several teams with different specialties are given a set number of hours to develop usable innovative ideas.

    For more information, please visit http://www.volvotruckshackathonchallenge.be/

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