Paul Nederlof – Managing Director, VandeGrijp – Netherlands
Paul Nederlof discusses VandeGrijp’s history in the dredging industry, its diversification into the offshore industry providing customized equipment, and specific projects such as the “Blue Hammer.”
Can you introduce VandeGrijp and its activities in the Netherlands to our international readers?
Most simply, we take steel plates and convert them into round pipe structures. However, the company does have more advanced capabilities and can produce specific structures to match design specifications.
VandeGrijp originated as a company supplying the dredging industry with piping produced in its pipe mill. There are many such companies in the immediate vicinity of VandeGrijp’s plant, from Boskalis to IHC Merwede. Specifically, we supplied those companies with pipelines for the dredging process. However, over time the dredging companies have designed and operated successively larger vessels leading to lesser demand for pipeline on a dredging operation. Large dredging operations are now more in the Far East so production of ‘throwaway’ items as dredging pipelines are increasingly supplied from China. VandeGrijp has reacted to this by diversifying into different markets, providing more customized equipment to the offshore and shipbuilding industries, or to provide part-fabricated units. We supply jacket-producing companies with these parts, ready for fast integration into an offshore foundation for example. VandeGrijp delivers even more specialized units, such as demonstrated when we recently received an order for a hammer called the “Blue Hammer’. This is a piece of equipment- effectively a pile hammer without steel block- that relies on water for its driving force. We will build the second prototype of this piece of equipment, which is five meters in diameter.
Through precision and agility, the business has the ability to be entirely reactive to client needs. Many projects are won by Vandegrijp exactly because we can return an order to the client very quickly. The business is highly responsive.
Where does your principal demand come from; where do you expect to grow?
Around 60 percent of our activity is focused on single item projects for offshore and shipbuilding industry. The rest is from dredging related supply, though this is no longer driven by supplying dredging pipelines. Nowadays, most of the equipment is for single items for the dredging industry, for example spud poles for cutter dredgers and repairwork.
VandeGrijp Group consists of two subsidiary companies but both companies operate under the same name. The rental unit leases both barges and pipelines to dredging companies and general contractors. A frequent use of these assets is the temporary use to reduce downtime caused by maintenance or replacement of piping in older facilities.
Production of equipment is the far larger aspect of our work and we aim to deliver the highest quality we can- this is what our customers demand.
Part of this quality focused strategy has seen VandeGrijp gain ISO qualifications as well as accreditation from Lloyd’s Register. What do such credentials mean for the business?
All these awards highlight different strengths of the business- ISO, for example describes the management process and guarantees that our business is one with effective management standards and competences. Quality is very high in the offshore industry because equipment there has to last to a far greater degree than, for example, pipelines constructed for the dredging industry- such dredging pipelines are designed to be used until they are worn out!
The company was also recently recognized by Huisman and is now approved to provide parts for structures to that business. They know we are a supplier they can rely on, not only because we are based close to their premises. Indeed it is in both companies’ interests to work closely. Huisman too, has to ensure its equipment is operating at a high level. Ensuring their suppliers are approved and checked means this is easier for them to deliver this quality assurance.
What does your presence here in the Netherlands mean for your business?
Being established in the Netherlands means one is near many of the biggest offshore and dredging companies- the country has a heritage in this field! Such companies make up 85 percent of our clientele, so the ease of communication provided by having the ‘Dutch connection’ is beneficial to our business. Here in Papendrecht, we have excellent access to water-borne transport. We can produce very large structures and load them directly onto a barge for transport.
However with regard to activity here in the Netherlands compared with worldwide, we have moved from a local market to an international one. We need to be far more proactive carrying our message to potential clients, and the whole operation is far more focused on sales effort. We must compete in that international medium.
What is your strategy for growth in the future?
The growth path is focused fully on quality and establishing a framework in the company which means that the highest standards are met, continuously. The business has to be smart with regard to processing its material and a greater degree of automation could be a substantial step forward in this regard, making production more efficient. Currently, much of our production process is semi-automated. The implementation of further automation would also facilitate a far more constant production process. Right now, we have three roll bending machines, 6 SAW welding machines and a pipe mill with a 6 meter roll bending machine. We can construct structures up to ten metres in diameter and more than 100 meters lengt of two- three hundred tons.
You have worked internationally, before returning here. What is the defining appeal of the Dutch commercial character to you?
I only recently returned to this industry by moving to VandeGrijp. I was attracted by the opportunity to work in the heavy industry again, and yes, here in the Netherlands there are some particularly appealing aspects to business. Growing ones’ commercial network is easier – it includes my old student and work relationships, but also I think the close physical proximity that Dutch companies find one another in is an important contributing factor to generating this connectivity.