Work smarter together at BIC

Too crowded, too fragmented and no longer up-to-date. For many years, this was the reality for KMWE’s headquarters in Eindhoven. However, the situation at Brainport Industries Campus is completely different. ‘Work smarter together at BIC is not just a theory, or a story on paper. We are actually doing it here!’ says CEO Edward Voncken. Despite the fact that the field labs and several other collaborations have only just started.


‘Simply crossing the hallway and getting things done’

The conference room in which the interview takes place, borders on a wide hallway. Eat & Meet which is located across the hallway, is slowly filling up with customers – lunch time has begun. One of the units is rented by robotics specialist Yaskawa. Edward Voncken imagines how one of the engineers at KMWE could just walk in there for advice on automation and to be told the following: ‘This is a robot. Try it for a month. If you like it, we will solve your problem together.’ ‘Instead of endless discussions about what the business case should be or running tests at a remote location, you simply cross the hallway and get things done without a lot of fuss,’ says Voncken.


The benefits of sharing

Sharing knowledge and facilities, and developing new, innovative working methods and business models together. The ecosystem facilitated by BIC offers an excellent opportunity for this, Voncken believes. ‘Strong parties will be located here that, together, will cover all disciplines required to supply to end users in the high-tech manufacturing industry.’ As chairman of the cooperation Brainport Industries he points out the seven field labs that are located at the BIC, in which seventy members of the cooperation, among which many KMWE members, already collaborate. He also mentions Futuretec, where renowned machinery manufacturers, tooling suppliers and system integrators work together to teach engineering students of Summa College, which has been located at BIC for over a year, how to work with the latest machines and processes. ‘Siemens PLM Solutions is moving here with 150 employees. With good reason, obviously: everything they develop, they can immediately apply at BIC and fine-tune, if need be.’


BIC gains momentum

KMWE feels at home at the BIC. Mainly because the relocation put an end to an unsustainable situation. ‘We were growing, but don’t ask me how. Every time we ran out of space, we rented another building. If there wasn’t one available nearby, we rented one down the street. All this hindered our ability to grow. We were at risk of getting stuck in the middle: too large for small end-users and too small for large end-users,’ says the CEO.

In 2014, KMWE took over DutchAero – now known as KMWE Aero Engine – formerly a Phillips entity, located in an old Philips building (TX) on an old Philips site in Eindhoven. Plans to build a Brainport Industries Campus already existed, but no progress was made to put them into more concrete terms. This changed when it became known that KMWE had serious plans to renovate TX. ‘Men such as Rob van Gijzel (then mayor of Eindhoven) and Bert Pauli (representative of the province Noord-Brabant responsible for economic affairs) fought against the plans: ‘If you continue, it will be game over for the campus,’ they said. Due to this, we forced the build of the campus. Then SDK Vastgoed came aboard and they turned those beautiful plans into something tangible and the entire project gained momentum.’


Production continued as usual

Well, we managed. First, we had to get all the necessary permits, prepare ourselves, and so forth. Long story short: Construction started in July 2017 and in August 2018 Anteryon was the first company to move to Brainport Industries Campus. ‘KMWE could not move yet, because the building was not completely finished and we could not afford a stagnation in our production. On the contrary: we had to keep going, the entire manufacturing industry was working overtime,’ says Edward Voncken.

In other words: it was an exciting and challenging time. KWME had different ways to solve the issue. Firstly, they stockpiled specific products in anticipation of the relocation. Then they decided to move the investments in certain new machinery forward. These new machines were installed at the new location and turned on. This meant that less capacity was required at the existing location. The machines could then be turned off, disassembled and – after minor maintenance – packed up and transported to the BIC where the machine were assembled and configured again. Moreover, the first products that were manufactured had to be approved by the client. It was no picnic. Twelve trucks were needed to transport the largest machines: in total some eighty machines were relocated.


Dotting the i’s

The relocation began in February 2019. First, the offices were moved, shortly followed by production, starting with the assembly, and then machining. The final machine was moved early November. A major feat, says Edward Voncken. ‘Such a big move is not something you would want to do every year. Executing this while staying operational has an enormous impact. And yes, sometimes things go wrong or you lose things. But all in all, it went a lot better than we had anticipated. Thanks to tight planning, but mainly thanks to the flexibility of our staff. They had to work extra hard, after regular work hours or in the weekend. They deserve a big compliment.’

For some time now all 350 employees who worked at the head office at the Croy business park have been relocated to the BIC, as well as a small portion of the staff of KMWE Aero Engine. It is unclear when the others will relocate from Strijp T to the BIC. ‘We first want to dot the i’s. At the end of 2020, we will see how we can fill the space here at BIC. It holds 500 people, so we can add some more people,’ says Voncken. It is unclear if those will be employees working at Strijp T or the staff in Oirschot that worked at ATM Oirschot/ ATM Mould Cleaning which was taken over in June.


Invest in human capital

One thing that is sure is that KMWE at the BIC has more opportunities to grow. ‘We are more visible than at our previous location. We are already seeing the results of this: we have received more applications of young talent that wants to work for us or do an internship at KMWE.’ However, Edward Voncken still worries a bit. ‘Getting young people interested in engineering and new technologies is a step in the right direction. However, getting the existing staff up to date with everything involving smart industry – digitalisation, robotisation, et cetera, is another story. We must improve our investment in human capital. We, as Brainport region, must take our responsibility in this.’

Read the entire article in Dutch:
Link Magazine | January 2020