De Nederlandse economie wordt hard geraakt door de coronacrisis. De ene bedrijfstak heeft het zwaarder te verduren dan de andere. PIANT BV Waalwijk levert vooral aan de industriële sector; een branche waar de eerste klappen vielen. ‘Door snel te anticiperen op wat wél mogelijk was, konden we toch door blijven draaien.’
Wethouder Ronald Bakker (Economie) bracht een bezoek aan het Waalwijkse familiebedrijf dat stans- en laserwerk verzorgt voor zowel de industriële-, kunststof-, grafische- en leersector. Robert Brekelmans vertelt dat nadat de leer- en schoenindustrie zich uit de Langstraat terugtrok, er noodgedwongen een verschuiving heeft plaatsgevonden naar andere sectoren met name de grafische- en kunststofsector. ‘We stansen, laseren en snijden vandaag de dag voor verschillende bedrijven in allerlei vormen en gewenste materialen.’
During the press conference in March, where a lack of face masks was reported, Robert Brekelmans (Owner PIANT) started thinking. “We had to do something about this. The medical facemasks had too demanding production requirements. Anyone could make the regular variants. So, we came up with the idea to produce a different type of protective equipment: the face shield. Coincidentally, the RadboudUMC approached us at the same time to join in on the development of a plastic screen that medical professionals in an operation room could use. China could not supply, and there was a high urgency.”
CHEAPER THAN CHINA
No sooner said, no later done. Patrick van Oosterhout focused on the CE-marking. A blueprint was developed, the first prototype produced. The headband with sheet plastic was a fact. “Partly because we were able to show a prototype very quickly and were ready to produce immediately, we got the order. From that moment on, around 100.000 pieces came out of production every week. At its peak, this number was easily doubled as dentists and other medical professionals started ordering the product too. The nice thing is that we were able to supply more quickly and more flexible than China. We have the technology in-house. With the way we currently work, we can readily compete with “low-wage countries”.
Ronald Bakker appreciates that the gentlemen managed to stay innovative, even during a crisis. “First of all, you realize that you should never bet on just one horse. Smart initiatives are often born in times of emergency, but it is important to keep an open attitude towards new ideas. In the 1990s, Piant started to orientate itself more broadly. Next to punching and cutting leather, they started to branch out into plastics and paper.” Patrick confirms this. “I think it is indeed important to stay focused. How can we make the business more profitable? We have developed machinery able to scan leather hides on imperfections. The software calculates how to cut as optimally as possible.” Robert adds to this: “That way, we can punch more out of one skin. We want to improve continually. We have seen a lot within Europe, analyzed different production processes and discovered where we could be more efficient. We have also used the production chain during this time: To minimalize our waste processing, we have found cooperating partners within the Waalwijk community. We would like to have Maton recycle the plastic waste so that Naber Plastics can reuse it. Then the chain is round again.”
Leather Made Smart Ronald: „This is a nice example of the circular economy, where you see that by working together, you can achieve more. The project “Leather Made Smart”, in which Piant takes part as a local company in the Langstraat, responds to cooperation within the region.” Ronald is involved in the Langstraat initiative. “Leather Made Smart is a cooperation of entrepreneurs that aim to put the shoe and leather industry in the region back on the map. This can be done in multiple ways; not only in the form of labour but also in knowledge sharing.” The fact that the Waalwijk company has moved to a completely new and larger location in Haven 8 next to bol.com shows much trust in the own business, according to Ronald. Robert: “Our old location at the Industrieweg became too small for our storage needs. With the 13.000 m2 of the new location, we have much opportunity to expand.”