Drenthe industry works on strength of collective

Drenthe industry works on strength of collective

Quartermaster Patrick Brouns expects to have the establishment of Samenwerkende Bedrijven Drenthe (SBD) completed by the time this NOMMER appears - in early March. In this business association, industry in Drenthe will join forces on themes such as innovation, employee mobility and external safety. Brouns also expects more business to be done within the region because of the networking function.

In Drenthe, industry - particularly the process industry - accounts for more than 11 percent of jobs. The production of semi-finished products, plastics and ingredients for further processing at home and abroad is done in places like Assen, Beilen, Coevorden, Emmen, Gasselternijveen, Hoogeveen and Meppel. 'Geographically, the industry in Drenthe is pretty spread out,' observes Brouns, who previously led the charge at Samenwerkende Bedrijven Eemsdelta. 'At the same time, there are major joint challenges - from an aging workforce to the call for sustainable production - where it makes sense to operate as a collective. You need each other within the region to maintain that strong international competitive position. Companies are well aware of this, which is why the time is ripe for Drenthe industry to unite.'

The call to establish SBD stems from the Process Industry Agenda Drenthe, which was drawn up last year by 20 companies in Drenthe in conjunction with Chemport Europe. The aim of this agenda is to address themes such as energy, digitization, personnel, innovation and the materials cycle regionally. 'To get to work on this together in concrete terms, a business association is essential,' says the quartermaster. 'That's why - despite the impact of corona - we have moved forward smoothly in recent months to make this happen. Challenges facing the industry simply don't wait. Companies that want to get through the crisis well first can always catch on later. In the Eems Delta I have seen that success begets success. As long as you start with the group that likes to take the lead.'

Making bigger steps

Brouns noticed in discussions with several dozen industrial companies in Drenthe that they are all looking for ways to move with social developments. 'From small to large: all these companies want and need to produce more sustainably, while at the same time they have to deal with restrictive regulations, a strongly aging workforce and the difficulty of making necessary investments profitable. It is precisely in challenges such as these that you can join forces and make a fist within the region. As a discussion partner towards the government, but also to investigate how you can approach process and product innovation together. Moreover, as a collective you can make greater strides in energy transition and more sustainable use of raw materials.

'Companies are used to focusing primarily on themselves,' Brouns notes. They often see the benefit of cooperation, but in practice it is quite a change to think more in terms of the collective. A business association asks something of its members, it is a matter of bringing and taking. But investing in a common base saves time and money in the long run. Together you can set in motion developments over which you have too little influence as an individual company. Take the search for technical talent that is only increasing due to the aging population. By working together with schools and institutions and looking at the mobility of employees, you create more opportunities within the region. Instead of emptying the same pond, you then work on new recruitment and the development of current employees in the process industry.'

Other starting point

Working together on themes such as innovation, sustainability, personnel and external safety means, according to Brouns, that more cross-pollination can also occur. 'A number of companies have already found each other, but I discovered that there is certainly still ignorance within the Drenthe industry about what is available in their own region. SBD therefore also fulfills an important networking function and catalyst for mutual business. You will see each other less as competitors if you form a regional collective together. Of course you don't have to share everything, but with a business association your starting point is different. Each has its own strength and you can strengthen each other, for example by involving suppliers within the chain in improving processes.'

'There are many wonderful companies within the Drenthe industry. As quartermaster, my main task was to bring them together to create added value. In a rapidly changing world, the need for order is increasing and SBD also contributes to that. The experiences at Samenwerkende Bedrijven Eemsdelta are an example. Of course, each region has its own dynamics; it is up to the participating companies to find their own way in this, with the association as a framework. In addition to the network and theme meetings, the working groups play an important role in the implementation. Their strength lies in exchanging and sparring on issues together. From urgent social themes we will work towards concrete focal points within the Drenthe process industry that deserve attention and action from the collective.'