• 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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  • Audi Brussels has won the ‘Trends Business Tour 2016’ environmental award. In the selection process, the car manufacturer beat strong competition from over 50 other contenders, including energy giant EDF, investment cooperative Energiris, and the organic drinks manufacturer Simone a soif. According to the jury, the decisive criterion in choosing the winner was the balanced

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    Audi Brussels has won the ‘Trends Business Tour 2016’ environmental award.

    In the selection process, the car manufacturer beat strong competition from over 50 other contenders, including energy giant EDF, investment cooperative Energiris, and the organic drinks manufacturer Simone a soif.

    According to the jury, the decisive criterion in choosing the winner was the balanced overall approach implemented by Audi Brussels with regard to sustainable development. The plant consistently strives for innovation and sustainability and brillantly manages to harmonise economic activity with environmental protection, explained jury chairman and Trends/Tendances editor Guy Van den Noortgate: “The jury was especially impressed by the sustainability aspect, which runs through the entire Audi concept, something that is not easy to achieve for large companies. They are like those mega-tankers, for which changing course may prove difficult, but Audi was successful in this respect. Audi Brussels has incorporated sustainability in all its daily, practical and operational activities.”

    Patrick Danau, General Director and Spokesman for the Board of Management of Audi Brussels, couldn’t hide his pride during the award ceremony: “This is a well-deserved recognition for the Audi brand. We are proud on this award.”

    Audi attaches great importance to environmental protection, maximum efficiency and respect for natural resources. For example, the company operates a photovoltaic installation with a total area of approximately 37,000 m², which, incidentally, is also the largest photovoltaic installation in the Brussels-Capital Region. Moreover, a heat pump was installed in the new paint pre-treatment plant. The recovered heat is recirculated in the production process, which leads to energy savings and lower CO2 emissions. Audi’s environmental commitment is meeting customer expectations and has responded to changes in society worldwide.

    The first fully electric vehicle in Audi’s history is set to roll off the Brussels plant’s production line from 2018. The company is currently preparing for the production of this new e-SUV. General Director Patrick Danau stressed that all innovations in the plant comply with the highest environmental standards: “The same applies to our understanding of automotive manufacturing: intelligent and sustainable vehicles must come from a similarly set up production site. All production standards must meet this criterion.”

    Audi Brussels is aiming to lower key indicators relating to the environment, such as energy use, water consumption, solvent use, waste and CO2 emissions, by 25% by 2018 compared with 2011. Already today, the company is wholly powered by green energy and is therefore CO2 neutral. Like all the other Audi sites worldwide, the Brussels plant is a forerunner when it comes to taking all the necessary measures to protect the environment, and implements a certified environmental management system to that effect. Recently, Audi Brussels once again obtained the European EMAS certificate. Developed by the EU, EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) is a very efficient voluntary environmental management system for organisations wishing to improve their environmental performance in a proactive and systematic way.

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  • Regulations often have an interesting effect. They trigger innovation as they prompt companies to develop new products. For instance, Lambrecht Trailers, for instance, developed a brand-new trailer for dry bulk cargo to comply with the latest legislation. Compartmentalized bulk trucks compliant with the requirements of the international ADR regulations were not being manufactured in Belgium

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    Regulations often have an interesting effect. They trigger innovation as they prompt companies to develop new products. For instance, Lambrecht Trailers, for instance, developed a brand-new trailer for dry bulk cargo to comply with the latest legislation.

    Compartmentalized bulk trucks compliant with the requirements of the international ADR regulations were not being manufactured in Belgium as yet. The European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road determines how trucks should be equipped.

    Collaboration between R&D and authorities

    Kortemark-based Lambrecht Trailers worked closely with the regulatory authorities in order to build a trailer to the ADR standards.

    “Our R&D department and the authorities met regularly to discuss matters,” says CEO of Lambrecht Trailers, Luc Lambrecht. “The first challenge was to translate the texts into a clear specification. We kept consulting each other as well while the trailer was being built.  The first Belgian ADR trailer is therefore the product of an intensive collaboration between Lambrecht and the competent international authorities.”

    Safer and more robust

    What distinguishes ADR bulk transport from ordinary transport? These are the main differences compared with an ordinary trailer for animal feed:

    • Plate thicknesses may be up to 30% greater, and the frame is a more robust structure.
    • Overroll bars are fitted above the tank as added protection, ensuring that lids and accessories won’t come in contact with the environment should the trailer tip over or be involved in an accident.
    • Valves or other accessories may not protrude from the vehicle’s perimeter protection.
    • Stringent welding procedures are implemented during the building stage, ans various checks are imposed by external inspection bodies.
    • The manhole must be at least 500 mm.
    • Covers must be hermetically sealed.
    • The rear bumper has to be placed further back to ensure that the tank is not impacted should a collision occur.
    • Electric lines must be insulated to prevent the occurrence of sparks.
    • Orange signs and hazard labels must be affixed to each compartment.

    An innovative format

    Francis Verhelst, technical director at Lambrecht Trailers, sees this achievement as proof that an SME is also capable of innovating when it comes to format: “We may not be the biggest, but many customers have hailed us as the most customer-focused and flexible trailer builder. We have worked on countless calculations and drawings, all of which had to be approved by an external technical service. It was a challenge.”

    The first Belgian ADR trailer was built for the carrier International Thuysbaert which specialises in the transport of cattle feed grains.

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  • Employees are celebrating at Volvo Car Gent, as they rolled the 6 millionth Volvo off the production line. Reason enough for plant manager Eric Van Landegem to treat his people to 6,000 éclairs. With a daily output of 1,200 cars, the production rate at Volvo’s Belgian plant is brisk. It looks like Volvo Car Gent

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    Employees are celebrating at Volvo Car Gent, as they rolled the 6 millionth Volvo off the production line. Reason enough for plant manager Eric Van Landegem to treat his people to 6,000 éclairs.

    With a daily output of 1,200 cars, the production rate at Volvo’s Belgian plant is brisk. It looks like Volvo Car Gent will produce more than 250,000 Volvo V40, S60 and XC60 this year, and this for the sixth year in a row.

    1 million cars every 4 years

    Let’s look back briefly at Volvo’s fascinating history. Volvo Car Ghent began building cars in 1964 in Alsemberg. In 1965, it launched the current plant in Ghent.

    The first millionth Volvo in Ghent was built in 1988. It took almost another decade to reach the two-million car milestone in 1997.

    In 2004, the yearly output of 200,000 cars was exceeded for the first time. The pace picked up from then on: three million cars at Volvo Car Gent in 2004, four million in 2008, and five million at the end of 2012.

    Ghent customer gets party going

    In keeping with tradition, a group photo was taken of the six millionth Volvo with (left in front of the car) plant manager Eric Van Landegem and Javier Varela, the new Sr Vice President Manufacturing and Logistics.

    The feted car is a white V40 T2 (petrol) in the ‘Volvo Ocean Race’ version. By buying his first Volvo, Dirk Everaert from Ghent kicked off the party ahead of the festive season.

    6,000 éclairs for all staff members

    Six thousand éclairs were ordered so that all staff members could celebrate this milestone. They were able to sample them during team meetings throughout the day.

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  • Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool will be supplying two luxury double-deckers for the Airbnb of bus transport, FlixBus. The FlixBus platform lets people book bus trips to European cities at low prices. An associated bus company such as Staf Cars from Lommel drives the actual trips. Belgian bus operator Staf Cars ensures the daily operations

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    Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool will be supplying two luxury double-deckers for the Airbnb of bus transport, FlixBus. The FlixBus platform lets people book bus trips to European cities at low prices. An associated bus company such as Staf Cars from Lommel drives the actual trips.

    Belgian bus operator Staf Cars ensures the daily operations of the bus ride FlixBus sells. Their bright-green buses depart from Antwerp, Brussels and Leuven, among others. After 1.5 years, FlixBus has already transported one million Belgian customers to cities across Europe.

    Trendy buses with Wi-Fi for young people
    Across Europe, the young German company expanded to 900 destinations in 20 countries. In 2016, 30 million travellers have boarded the fluorescent green buses.
    “We always have Wi-Fi on board, the chairs are comfortable, electronic devices can be charged, cancelling and changing bookings is free of charge, etc.”, explains Adrien Ravet of FlixBus to Gazet van Antwerpen. “We’ve noticed that this is making bus travel popular again with young people, as 75% of our travellers are younger than 35.”

    Van Hool makes customised double-deckers
    These luxury double-deckers are the speciality of Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool. The two buses for Staf Cars were built in our country, in Koningshooikt. “It’s about customising buses according our clients’ wishes”, says Dirk Snauwaert, Van Hool spokesman. “It’s a product with a lot of added value and requires a lot of manual labour. We make them here for many clients in Europe and the United States.”
    Van Hool may manufacture many more buses for Staf Cars and FlixBus in the future, as the network will be expanded considerably in 2017. In 2016 and 2017 Staf Cars will invest €4.3 million in coaches.

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  • The European sale of electric cars increased by 20.2% in the third quarter of 2016, compared to the third quarter of 2015. Almost three times more electric cars were sold in Belgium, an increase of 161.7% and the biggest growth of any European country. In total, 35,237 electric cars were sold in Europe this year,

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    The European sale of electric cars increased by 20.2% in the third quarter of 2016, compared to the third quarter of 2015. Almost three times more electric cars were sold in Belgium, an increase of 161.7% and the biggest growth of any European country.

    In total, 35,237 electric cars were sold in Europe this year, 6,000 more than in the same quarter of the previous year. Moreover, the market of alternative fuel vehicles increased by 7% to 137,423 cars sold in the third quarter of 2016.

    An increase of 161.7% for electric cars in Belgium

    Belgium is catching up, as the sale of electric cars increased between the third quarter of 2015 and that of 2016 by a staggering 161.7%, from 812 to 2,125 cars. As well, 171.5% more alternative fuel vehicles were sold. The bonuses granted by the government to Belgians who buy an electric car have clearly had an effect on the purchasing decision of Belgians.

    If consider all alternative fuel vehicles, 4,833 were sold in Belgium, compared to 2,466 during the third quarter of 2015, which is an increase of 96%.

    If you would like to read the full sales figures, read ‘New passenger car registration by alternative fuel type in the European Union’ of the ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. What stands out most is that the major growth in Belgium can be explained in part by relatively small amounts. Countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom and Germany have a higher sale of green cars in absolute figures and for a longer period.

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  • With offices in Ypres and Tessenderlo, Belgian company Melexis, which mainly develops chips for the car industry, is growing rapidly. This past quarter, the company’s turnover increased by 13%, while operating profit jumped to 9%. Our cars are increasingly becoming computers on wheels, full of chips and high-tech equipment. The Belgian Melexis, which operates many

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    With offices in Ypres and Tessenderlo, Belgian company Melexis, which mainly develops chips for the car industry, is growing rapidly. This past quarter, the company’s turnover increased by 13%, while operating profit jumped to 9%.

    Our cars are increasingly becoming computers on wheels, full of chips and high-tech equipment. The Belgian Melexis, which operates many functions with its chips, is benefiting from this development. Their chips enable our cars to operate the auto-stop function, guide pumps, switch on air conditioning and LED lights, measure heat, etc., among others.

    Some 89% of turnover is automotive

    The sale to automotive customers represents 89% of their total turnover.

    Sales for the third quarter of 2016 were €114.5 million, an increase of 13% compared to the same quarter of the previous year and an increase of 2% compared to the previous quarter. The operating result was €29.7 million, an increase of 9% compared to the same quarter of last year and an increase of 7% compared to the previous quarter.

    Outperforming market growth

    “In the third quarter of 2016, Melexis continued its growth path with a year over year double-digit sales increase, outperforming market growth”, says Françoise Chombar, CEO of Melexis. “We’re happy to see continued growth in a number of Melexis core ASSP product lines such as position sensors, fan drivers and LIN (Local Interconnect Network). Geographically, EMEA was the main growth driver compared to the previous quarter.”

    Based on the current order book, Melexis expects full-year sales growth around the level of 13-14%, a gross profit margin around 45% and an operating margin around 25%.

    Demand for greener and safer cars

    Investors regard the company as an interesting investment with high dividends. “The novelties of Melexis meet the worldwide demand for greener and safer cars, which are also a pleasure to drive”, Anne-Catherine Delaye, manager of Richelieu Equities Belgium, told Trends. According to Marco Miserez, manager at Candriam Investors Group, the Melexis market is growing every year by 6 to 8%. “As well, the group is performing better than the market thanks to its good strategy and the quality and reputation of its products.”

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  • Patrick Bloemen_Alro_IMG_8755
    The Belgian Alro Group is a remarkable player in the automotive industry. Operating from its head office in Dilsen, Limburg, the business group doesn’t manufacture a product or brand of its own and yet occupies a crucial position for the quality-based appearance of luxury cars such as the Audi Q7, BMW 7, Mercedes G-Class, VW

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    The Belgian Alro Group is a remarkable player in the automotive industry. Operating from its head office in Dilsen, Limburg, the business group doesn’t manufacture a product or brand of its own and yet occupies a crucial position for the quality-based appearance of luxury cars such as the Audi Q7, BMW 7, Mercedes G-Class, VW Touareg and large trucks such as DAF, Volvo, Scania and Mercedes.

    Alro is specialised in coating parts for the automobile and truck industry. “We are unique in how we do this, our level of quality, the amounts we supply and the additional services we offer”, explains Commercial Director, Patrick Bloemen.

    The result is a flourishing and expanding business. But, like many other automotive suppliers, Alro also suffered a hard blow during the crisis eight years ago, but managed to pull through. They restructured, invested in further automation and expanded their recently built factory abroad. Today the company has five production companies in Belgium, the Netherlands and Slovakia, and is owned by the founder Mr. Thijs and the management team. Recently, new headquarters became operational in the largest branch in Dilsen-Stokkem. As well, Alro is one of the main employers in Limburg, employing almost 1,000 people in the whole group.

    The general public doesn’t know Alro. Tell us what you do.

    For trucks, we handle plastic parts such as roof spoilers, side panels, bumpers, etc., in any colour. We are a major supplier for truck manufacturer DAF in Westerlo and Volvo in Ghent. Our trucks arrive there every hour to supply parts just-in sequence. We coat similar parts for Scania, Mercedes and MAN, and we often carry out preassembly for them.

    For cars, we specialise in coloured exterior add-on parts, as well as extremely difficult high-gloss black coating of windows frames on many Audis and BMWs. We also handle the silver-coloured coating on the underside of bumpers for Audi Q7 and A3, giving the plastic parts an aluminium look. We are also very proud of coating the window frames of the latest BMW 5 and 7 series. Examples of other cars whose parts we treat are the Mercedes G-class, the VW Touareg and Volvo S60.

    All in all we produce more than 100,000 items a day in hundreds of colours. A significant part stays in Belgium, while the rest is mainly supplied across Europe. Currently we’re negotiating to play a major part in the new electric vehicles of Audi Brussels. On the road we constantly see vehicles whose parts we have coated. At least 25% of cars built in Europe and 50% of trucks carry our parts.

    Can you develop this activity in Belgium from Dilsen-Stokkem?

    The purchasing organisations know us and know that we have the right production machinery and skills. Our competitors are often unable to keep up in terms of quality and quantity. We have also built up a long-term relationship with our clients spanning generations of vehicle models. For component manufacturers, production lines for coating are usually a bigger investment than their own production line, which is why they are happy to outsource it. Car and truck builders concentrate on coating the bodywork, but the rest is provided to them.

    For example, our coating line in Genk is one of the largest and most modern in the world, with 20 robots entirely behind glass linked to an automated warehouse. The competition lags far behind, especially in Belgium, but also elsewhere.

    However, we can’t coat everything in Belgium due to high wages and the distance between our plants and our clients. For example, a major order for coating windscreen wipers was the reason to start our factory in Slovakia. We currently coat windscreen wiper arms for 15,000 cars a day for the entire VW Group. Our company there is offering now the same coatings as in Belgium, but concentrates on large volumes of smaller products. This market has almost fully moved to Central Europe. We recently signed for example a contract for coating two million metal parts for seat frames for BMW, Audi and Mercedes.

    R&D is crucial for Belgian companies. How are you being innovative?

    We have our own lab and highly automated production and logistics. Our process technology and coating processes are developed in Belgium and monitored from here.

    Just imagine: each truck brand currently offers more than 500 colours. The coloured parts must then be supplied to the client’s production plant in the right construction order, or just-in sequence. With all our developments of as well our IT as production systems, we are able to breath along perfectly with vehicle assembly sequence of our client.

    Except for coating parts, we also manage preassembly and logistic tasks for our clients, making us fairly unique. Highly advanced automation ensures that we can work from Belgium. Of course, the logistics position of the manufacturer and end client also play a major role, but due to our capacities and skills, some products travel more than a thousand kilometres to be coated by us.

    Quality is Alro’s strength. How specific are the demands in the automotive industry?

    In our industry, you are no longer blamed for an error margin in percentage terms, but you do get blamed for how many mistakes you’re allowed to make per million parts, or ‘parts-per-million’. I can tell you that not a lot is allowed to go wrong and that all processes need to be monitored very closely.

    This is why a lot of computer technology is involved in our production lines and logistics. Apart from this, still the performance of our employees is also very important, as the final inspection of most products has to be done visually.

    What opportunities does Alro have in the rapidly expanding automotive sector?

    Demands are always increasing in terms of quality, competitiveness and logistics. At the same time, prices and margins are under pressure. Our clients want ever-decreasing prices, while wages and energy prices are increasing. This is actually insane and the opposite to several other sectors.

    Yet, we have proven that it’s possible. By using the right technology and choice of location, we show that we can get orders and fulfil them. Our order book has orders up to 2022 and 2023. Once you supply parts for a specific car, the contract runs to remodelling or until that line of model ends. The condition is that you continue to perform at top level and operate increasingly efficiently in order to always be able to reduce prices.

    We’re looking for what suits us on the market, to produce where we can still make a profit. Due to this, we usually end up with top brands and cars automatically. The quality demands for more expensive cars are extremely high and more products are being coated compared to cheaper models.

    You went through a very bad patch. What do you consider your greatest threat?

    It is a fact that we have been growing again for the last seven years based on our know-how and reputation. We are now heading for a turnover of around €90 million, and intend to reach a turnover of about €100 million by 2018. Some 600 out of about 1,000 employees work in Belgium. Robots mainly do the coating. We have 19 production lines spread over various branches in total.

    Our greatest threat comes from our clients who are in fact our greatest competitors. Whenever the sector is not doing well, they try to carry out more activities themselves. They do what suppliers normally do, but back in-house. When production is on the rise, we notice the reverse, which is better for us.

    We’re convinced that we are now much better prepared to deal with any serious setback that may arise. We have already made our various industrial processes very flexible to be able to switch quickly if necessary.

    Isn’t Alro currently looking for paint sprayers and production workers? 

    The job of paint sprayer is a shortage occupation. We’re currently looking for about 10 people to do this job and will train them internally. Although we use robots for coating, we still paint some components and low volumes manually, such as a very specific colour for a truck.

    Our economic unemployment of a few years ago has now turned into a situation where we want to expand our workforce. Some positions are regularly filled using temporary staff. We can offer them a long-term career within the same company and a complete wage package and attractive perquisites such as corporate events and the possibility of promotion within Alro. Many of our people have gone from working on the production line to team leaders, assistants or quality controllers. I am perhaps an example of these opportunities as my career with Alro has evolved from a young engineer through various management positions to my current position as commercial director and partner.

    Your group is active internationally. What ambitions do you have in this respect? 

    Our aim is to be a first-class coating company in Western and Central Europe expanding in a controlled and healthy manner. We serve Western Europe from Belgium and Central Europe from Slovakia.

    We are not considering an additional production location as we still have enough capacity at our disposal. Nevertheless, requests from our clients with regard to expansion, for instance in the BRIC countries, are seriously considered and judged according to economic viability. However, until now we’ve always concluded that we are fine with our current locations, which are in a perfect position to serve the large majority of the European market.

    What’s the most important decision you have to take these days?

    Our most important decision has already been taken. It was establishing and expanding our plant in Central Europe, Slovakia.  In the past, we were more and more unable to make an offer or win an order, as we only worked from Belgium. Some clients began to opt for other companies and regions. But now, with our plant in Slovakia, we suddenly became back an international attractive company. We’re once again very much in demand with our clients, which has a positive effect on all our plants. I see also other Belgian companies doing well, as soon as they partly perform their activities in a low-cost country.

    Today Alro is more concerned with where and how to grow without posing any threat to profits. In order to achieve this, we make full use of the assets that Belgium and its employees have to offer: our location, know-how and skills.

    Based on our reputation and our expertise, I see Alro developing and expanding further within the automotive market.   Our order book for the coming five years is already quite full and we will continue on this path to success.

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  • Punch Powertrain, VCST and Tenneco are already employing more than 2,400 people in the automotive sector in Sint-Truiden. A new R&D complex and a testing centre will eventually add another 500 jobs. The new R&D complex will require 450 developers while plans for a new test centre with different test rigs, a new prototype workshop

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    Punch Powertrain, VCST and Tenneco are already employing more than 2,400 people in the automotive sector in Sint-Truiden. A new R&D complex and a testing centre will eventually add another 500 jobs.

    The new R&D complex will require 450 developers while plans for a new test centre with different test rigs, a new prototype workshop and a high-tech test track will lead to the creation of the remaining 50 jobs.

    This impulse in the Limburg automotive sector is the result of an agreement between LRM, VCST and Punch Powertrain. Investment Company LRM purchased half of the land owned by VCST, to later lease the site of over 9 hectares to nearby Punch Powertrain, allowing the CVT transmission expert manufacturer to expand its operations.

    Future-proofing local automotive industry

    The city council of Sint-Truiden, which has a right to repurchase these industrial sites at Schurhovenveld, has agreed to this sale.

    “Punch Powertrain and VCST together with Tenneco constitute the automotive industry’s largest R&D centre in the region,” Mayor Veerle Heeren (CD & V party) told Sint-Truiden web magazine Truineer.be. “We intend to do our utmost to support these important companies which have now been anchored in our city for decades. By doing that, we can future-proof the automotive sector in Sint-Truiden.”

    Expansion possible for Punch Powertrain

    “Punch Powertrain is glad expansion plans in Sint-Truiden can proceed quickly. This is necessary in order to keep up with the growth,” says Punch Powertrain CEO Cor Van Otterloo.

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