Industry Services Looking for Solution Oriented Industry Services? Think Outside the Box!

Editor: Dominik Stephan

Big in the East: How industry experts use local expertise to provide customers with high performance technologies — Vekamaf has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a local machine distributor to an international technology services provider. Today, industry expertise combined with state of the art equipment are the specialty of the Dutch company. In the end, it’s all about the customer.

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(Picture: ©Ivelin_Radkov - [M] Alban)

Projects come in all sizes: Some are big, some are small, some require high throughput while other rely on absolute precision. And although the functionality of certain machinery parts is comparable, food grade production and petrochemical plants don’t have much in common. In order to provide added value, machinery suppliers have to understand their customers and their needs. Combining a deep insight into the different industrial applications combined with a can-do-attitude can make the difference in a partnership.

Therefore, technology providers like the Rotterdam based Vekamaf don’t see themselves as a component suppliers but rather as trouble-shooters: “After the first period as a sales engineer in which I had to learn the ropes of a completely new profession, I understood that we were not selling machines, nor information: we were selling our service”, explains Peter Rudolf, one of Vekamaf’s veterans.

For Rudolf, it all comes down to responsibility: “Who is responsible for what? The supplier produces a machine that gets a test run before it leaves the factory where it has been produced. Of course it will run there, as a single unit. But it should be made operational in the production line that is required. And that almost never happens at once.”

It’s no coincidence that Rudolf, who started his career as a technical engineer with Hungary’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, today leads the company’s office in Budapest. Since its beginning in 1959, Vekamaf has seized the opportunity to conquer new markets. As the market for machines was limited, the firm had to expand early on: from Czechoslovakia, to East-Germany, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Poland.

Coming a Long Way

This unique history makes the Dutch experts for the requirements of industry customers in Eastern Europe, Rudolf assumes. The company’s founding father, Cor Aafjes was already a go-getter with a dream of establishing a worldwide organisation. The team served industries from its HQ in Rotterdam, but his son, Rob Aafjes, opened offices in Hungary and the Czech republic as soon as the political situation allowed it.

Vekamaf’s philosophy has always been to never walk away from a project or client, Rudolf states: “We keep at it until it works and keep an eye on it after the delivery. We are good at looking at the overall picture. Listening carefully to the client, hearing what they need, and finding the best solution for the available budget. And if there are problems with a certain line, you should talk to the technical engineer working with the machine on a daily basis. Hear him out, because you will probably find the cause of the problem in his description. If you know what goes wrong, you can find a solution.”

Understand your Customer

The combination of solution-oriented thinking and an understanding for the customer is what sets successful service providers apart from the competition, says Robert Zdral, Vekamaf’s expert for the Polish market. This also has to take into account that not all markets are the same and regional conventions and habits differ. Zdral enjoys operating in this international environment: “It allows you to stay open-minded and see how people in other countries solve problems. You need to understand the different mentality of people. For example, it’s hard to define what is particular about Polish customers, but one characteristic is that they do not have so much trust in promises. Polish customers like to see a reference. They want proof that the company has the proper knowledge and experience for their process. We need to build trust.”

As an international organization, Vekamaf can share knowledge from different industries and markets, Director Jorrit Aafjes explains: “We work hard to improve knowledge exchange between our teams and invest in extensive training of our engineers with our manufacturing partners. One of the key challenges of our organization is to attract talented engineers with a passion for real life production challenges. We are proud of our company’s recent growth and our ability to help build careers servicing local industries.”