Moving with the market: bridge builder Groot Lemmer of Heerenveen has been doing it for almost a hundred years. Director Eugène Dekker guided the company through the crisis with his focus on quality and innovation. "Thanks to our development into a material-independent bridge builder with ICT and data power, we are ready for the current market opportunities," says Dekker. To capitalize on those opportunities in the coming years, he is taking advantage of funding from the NOM.
"This is the momentum for Groot Lemmer," NOM investment manager Ruud van Dijk also observes. "Whereas other infrastructure companies were mainly concerned with survival by winning work at any price, the organization has continued to focus on quality, sustainability and innovation. Now that the market is picking up, Groot Lemmer wants to be at the forefront of both the infra and housing markets. To be able to continue to do so - from marketing and sales to materials purchasing, stock management and a flexible team - working capital is needed. Moreover, the upcoming move to the adjacent property is an excellent opportunity to further improve the machinery and efficiency."
As a player in the ground-, road- and hydraulic engineering Groot Lemmer mainly acquired fame with the design and construction of wooden bridges for pedestrians, cyclists and light traffic. Under Dekker's direction - since 2010 - the focus has been deliberately broadened. "From a material-independent position, we are able to give honest advice and move more easily with demand," Dekker states. "Every material has certain properties that suit a situation to a greater or lesser extent. For us, wood remains a specialty, but these days we build just as easily with steel, composite or a combination of materials."
To do that as well as possible - in quality and efficiency - Groot Lemmer makes smart use of ICT and data. "Software is at least as important as machines and technical skills," says Dekker. "Via built-in sensors, we collect data on the 'behavior' of bridges, for example when temperatures or loads change.This provides insights to further improve engineering and contributes to appropriate maintenance and a longer lifespan." That engineering, by the way, the company does entirely in-house. "Here, too, we focus on an advanced ICT environment so that we can exchange as much relevant data as possible between the chain and the clients."
Besides bridges and lock gates, Groot Lemmer also manufactures decking and galleries for residential construction, a market that is also picking up. Moreover, the company runs a wholesale business in hardwood and enjoys fame for its mechanical pre-processing for the construction industry. In addition to the additional salespeople already hired, Dekker expects growth in employment in the coming years. "We are now working partly with a flexible shell. The Dutch team consists of an average of 40 professionals and in England we have a branch with 5 people." Groot Lemmer exports to all surrounding countries in Europe, but production takes place entirely in Heerenveen, in its own 4,000-square-meter production hall. "That size will remain almost the same when we move to the neighboring lot, only we will set up the new construction site logistically a lot more efficiently."
With the funding from the NOM, the organization has sufficient leeway to continue on the course it has set. "From a rather unwieldy tanker, Groot Lemmer has changed into an agile sailing ship with which we have created a healthy basis for growth. Growth at home, but also across borders. Heerenveen remains our anchorage, because that reliable and down-to-earth northern approach mentality suits our company. That is why NOM as a connector in the Northern Netherlands is also such a valuable partner to actually start realizing that intended growth."