Diesel-Holland is the smallest of the three companies I visited in writing these articles about the machining industry. I spoke to Frans Moerland, owner and Director. Diesel-Holland’s name comes from the days when they manufactured Diesel engines, nowadays its precision component machining including hydraulic components. Customers are primarily Dutch engineering companies.We launched right away into a discussion on how Frans runs the business and of course I wanted to know about the software tools they use. It was a big surprise to me because Frans immediately told me how they deployed Seiki DNC, a software solution normally used by much larger companies. Frans said “actually I decided to use it to make sure that we had a full back up of all the NC programs we write, we can download programs through the network to the CNC’s and because they are saved on the server and backed up daily we can never lose any programs”
Frans took over the company in 2001 and from the period of making diesel engines they still make very large atomizers. However Frans feels that their unique selling point is fast turnaround of low volume products. He said “We actually bought Edgecam software so that we can turn solid models into NC programs very quickly. Edgecam supports our fast turnaround business model; we can turn an order into a final product in just 3 or 4 days, although we have a number of customers who regularly order with a 6 week delivery agreement. This gives us production flexibility”
I asked Frans how he wins new business. “I used to visit new prospects intensively but cut back when I realised we get most of our business via via. It’s better to provide an outstanding service so that our reputation wins us more business rather than running around trying to convince people of our high quality” As the whole business runs on people I asked him about his team, it was a surprising answer. “The young people want to program, not operate a machine; that means our current team are really valuable to us, it’s not enough to just program, they have to know how to operate complex equipment”
The last years have not been easy for companies in the machining industry. Despite this Frans has continued to invest in new equipment. “I replace equipment to improve our flexibility as we focus on low volume products. That is more important to us than the ability to product large volumes with very low margins”
We started talking about 3D printing. Frans has taken a close look at the current state of the technology but thinks it is still too expensive. Not only the cost of the machines is a problem but the cost of materials like 316 and Titanium make it unviable for us he said, plus the problem that the heat causes the product to deform requiring further machining. Potentially more interesting is using robotic loaders on new equipment, that would allow us to run 24/7 more easily and is more likely to deliver a decent return on investment he thought.
Frans talked about a new opportunity. “The customer wants a crate of all the parts he needs to build a new machine. It’s low volume of complex parts but it’s an interesting idea as we have regular business and our customer has a complete set of the parts required, delivered just in time”
Then we got onto the subjects of investments, cash and banks. Frans has been able to make all his investments from the company’s cash flow, as with many entrepreneurs he feels there is no value in asking for bank funding as they just do not support the sector. A comment I keep on hearing but Frans is a “can do guy”, he just does what needs to be done to keep developing Diesel-Holland. He then invited me to take a tour of the shop floor. It was quite a surprise. Firstly Frans pointed out the wireless network they use for delivering the programs to the NC’s through Seiki DNC. Then he went on to say “When we bought Edgecam we only planned to use it for complex parts but in fact we now use it for all our products. The team were trained at ATS EdgeIT and took to it very quickly. A compliment to ATS is that the support is superb” Nice to hear I thought and said !
After walking through the plant Frans took me into a clean room with a hyper modern CMM. Frans said “We bought the CMM to be product perfect, it gives us a competitive edge in the market, we can prove our product quality and in the long run that will lead to more business”
I must admit I really enjoyed the visit, Diesel-Holland are only just around the corner from my office in Haarlem and it made a real change to meet a genuine entrepreneur in my “home” town.