For MechDes, innovation is everyday life. As a mechanical engineering firm, they have been developing and designing complex machines, tooling and equipment for machine builders for almost 25 years. Founded to carry out these activities for AWL-Techniek, but now also for many other machine builders.
A excavator deep in the sea
About 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by seas and oceans. The soils of these contain many raw materials. One of the partners of MechDes, who wants to mine these raw materials, came up with the question of how they can be brought to the surface in an environmentally responsible manner.
Raw materials are sucked up with a kind of large vacuum cleaner (crawler) and a long tube. The crawler runs on electricity and that presented quite a challenge. The cable may not be carried along by the sometimes extreme currents. MechDes developed a clamp that ensures that cables automatically (without human intervention) remain attached to the pieces of pipe, without damaging them during the extension of the pipe. Within six months, our engineers were able to turn the idea into a working system.
Innovate customer specific
“If a standard machine is not sufficient for a customer, they come to us,” says Erik van der Woude, Commercial Director at MechDes. The engineers of the company from Harderwijk deal with very specific customer questions. “If a customer wants something specific and innovative, he doesn’t quickly go to a standard supplier. With the large suppliers, there is a greater chance that a competitor will run off with the same solution. That’s why they come to us. We engineer and the customer produces itself, with a subcontractor.”
The customer and also subcontractor(s) are closely involved in the development process. “From day one, the companies involved have been sitting around the table together,” Erik continues. Every customer chooses partners himself, but it is also possible MechDes itself involves the right parties. “A full table from the start is not unique in the market, but it does distinguish us from a large number of other engineering firms. The intensive collaboration ensures that project management is becoming increasingly important within the organization. A theme in which MechDes is investing more and more.
The number of projects is growing and that is why MechDes continues to innovate on their business model. “We recently took over TT Engineering in Zwolle. They partly serve the same market, with the difference that they second engineers. A good addition to what we do. In this way we respond to the needs of the customer, but also the needs of employees. One would like to work on a project basis and the other in-house at the customer. Both options are now possible.” Erik continues. MechDes invests a lot in young talent: interns can work on challenging projects and there is an internal training program for school leavers.
The growth of the company brings with it an increasing demand for employees. “Attracting the right people is an important spearhead for us in the coming years,” says Erik. But they see offering a pleasant working environment for current staff as at least as important. “We are trying to grow step by step. We value self-managing teams and autonomy, but this is not always consistent with project-based work. Joint projects often really have to be done here in the office, and that sometimes demands a lot from people.”
Over the past year, MechDes invested a lot in the personal development of its employees. “Everyone has done an assessment that shows strong and less strong characteristics. These help to put together teams in which the relationship between different characteristics is in balance. We notice that this is becoming more and more common among our people and that it has a positive effect. For us, innovation is not only product and process related, which it often is for our customers. The social innovation within our company helps us to achieve even better things with motivated employees!”
Source: De diamant van Nederland