Frisian injection moulders connect manufacturing industry with ideals

Frisian injection moulders connect manufacturing industry with ideals

What started out of passion with an old injection molding machine in the garage grew into serious business in just a few years. Founders Wietse Elzinga (27) and Arjen van der Krieke (35) first combined their company in Drachten with excellent jobs at Philips, until they realized that they could make a difference with Elzinga & Van der Krieke. 'We bring innovation to a traditional sector,' states Elzinga. 'Our ideals align with what is becoming a global necessity: circular working with plastics.'

Pretty bold, to use plastic of all things to achieve your ideals at a time when pollution from plastics raises concerns ...

'We think the question of how you use raw materials is particularly relevant. Plastics are all around us. According to TNO, sustainability without plastics is even impossible, because replacing them with other materials is often not feasible or costs too much energy on other fronts. The solution lies in working circularly. Because there are endless types of plastics, recycling them is still quite a challenge and current methods are not yet cost-effective. Yet that is where we need to go in the future. We are contributing to this with innovative trials alongside our usual production. For example, we are doing a project with the Nationaal Testcentrum Circulaire Plastics (NTCP), in which we are going to develop a product with waste plastic from the canals of Leeuwarden.'

Injection molding is not a well-known phenomenon. What kind of products do you make?

'What goes out of our factory ranges from plastic molds for cookie factories to air conditioning parts to sensors to building materials. Anything is possible. We even make tiny elements for an artificial pancreas developed in the medical field. Invent it and we make it. For plastic injection molding, we work with molds we developed ourselves. These are metal molds that we also make on order for customers who need a specific mold for machines in their own production process. Everything we design and produce is custom-made and not available as standard.'

We believe it is important for the manufacturing industry to regain the place and appreciation it deserves, including in the region.
Wietse Elzinga

Is customization special in the injection molding world?

'The industry is quite traditional and most injection molding companies only run large volumes. We start from one, which means we take orders from innovative startups as well as multinationals. Our injection molding plant is distinguished by the combination of engineering and production. It involves high-quality engineering and everything affects the end result, which is why we do everything in-house. We have extensive knowledge of plastics and their properties, as well as of metal molds. And we know how to optimize products. The fact that Arjen and I started our careers at Philips laid a foundation that now gives us an enormous head start, both in terms of knowledge and network.'

Frisian injection moulders connect manufacturing industry with ideals

How was it possible to set up this company alongside your work at Philips?

'It started as a hobby. At Philips we could not fully express ourselves, because the possibilities we saw everywhere were often too far removed from our core tasks. To still be able to play around with our ideas, we bought an old injection molding machine and informed our network that we had a kind of pilot factory. As soon as we got started, we rolled from one thing to another. So very organically a company emerged, with employees on the payroll. Philips knew about it. Their focus is different from ours: they develop devices, we make plastic parts, so we are not direct competitors. We had agreements about what we could and couldn't do, but the combination eventually started to rub off. When our customers started asking how serious we were about Elzinga &
Van der Krieke actually took and we realized where our hearts lay, we went full steam ahead with entrepreneurship.'

In addition to staff, two new partners joined. Why?

'We think it's important to have sufficient knowledge as a board, and the four of us know more than the two of us. We all have an equal share in the company and each fulfills our own role. Arjen is the absolute Willy Root of injection molding. As a technician, I am also well versed in that area, but I focus mainly on networking, customer contact and commercial tasks. Ruurd Harthoorn joined us because he is ironclad in mold construction, and Dennis Mous is an asset as the only non-techie, because from his background he has very different concerns and questions. Important, because to develop as a company you need more than technology.'

Frisian injection moulders connect manufacturing industry with ideals

Isn't four captains on one ship too many?

'My entrepreneurial family and the FOM also asked critical questions about that, but this composition works very well for us. Look, conflicts can also arise when there are two of you and with us nobody can push something through on his own, because there always have to be three votes in favor of a decision. Philips has also been a good school for this, where I sometimes lost my temper while leading large projects. That is why it is important to be able to discuss the content and to hold up critical mirrors to each other.

Do you also see FOM as a sparring partner?

'Certainly, as soon as you go around the table after a funding request, you are already critically interacting. The great thing about the FOM is that it's about more than just money. Of course they look at the figures, but also at the entrepreneurship and impact of companies. We think it is important that the manufacturing industry regains the place and appreciation it deserves, also in the region. FOM sees that, values that, because as a Frisian development company they are committed to the strength of the region. Furthermore, it is nice that FOM has a large network and a portfolio that may contain interesting contacts for us.

View the FOM website

Will it succeed in making the manufacturing industry nearby attractive again?

Since the 1990s, the Netherlands believed it was better to outsource manufacturing to low-wage countries, but the market is now turning back. Our competitors in Asia are only winning on price, and that criterion is proving far too meager. Customers are increasingly demanding quality. Those who need high performance products run the risk with injection molding companies that only go for cheap and large volumes. Asia is therefore becoming less interesting and, since corona, uncertainty about delivery has been added, which only makes us busier. Customers look at what is available nearby and discover the added value we offer in terms of knowledge, engineering and customization. Moreover, we can switch quickly and that too is worth a lot.'

Can you handle the rapidly growing demand?

We are fully committed to that. Partly thanks to the growth capital of the FOM we will soon be able to expand and renew the machinery in our new building. The production process in injection molding consumes a lot of energy, which is why the obsolete energy-guzzlers will not be moved to the new building. Because we want to work as sustainably as possible, we will use modern machines that consume much less energy and we will heat the building with residual heat. We are expanding to six injection molding machines for plastic production and three milling machines for metal molds. That is an excellent basis, although there is a chance that we will outgrow our new premises by the end of this year due to the rapidly growing order book. We have options on the adjacent lots, so if necessary we can expand further.'

Frisian injection moulders connect manufacturing industry with ideals

Even before the move, expansion is already a theme?

'We expect to be able to move to the new premises in April, but because we had this built ourselves, the plans have obviously been there longer. It seems we are being overtaken by developments. There is a big market and we are ahead of the times. In a fairly traditional sector, we stand out with our courage to strive for ideals and translate that into concrete improvements. We have everything we need to work towards a circular future. The biggest challenge is team expansion as we grow, because good employees are scarce. This is partly because the manufacturing industry has long been unpopular, but we are going to change that.'

How do you get the new generation excited about injection molding?

'Showing what we do. Make contacts with schools. Establish a breeding ground for trainees, as we did at Philips. More important than a background in mechanical engineering, mechanics or hardware is that someone really likes the job. You sometimes hear that young people don't want to get their hands dirty, even though they loved technical Lego as a child and have a 3D printer at home. Then be sure to come check us out! The manufacturing industry is moving with the times and in the pursuit of a future of circular work, you can make a difference with machines, knowledge and creativity. Moreover, you achieve tangible results: what you thought up yesterday, you can make today.'

Investment Manager Sybo Zijlstra:

'Elzinga & Van der Krieke stands out as an injection molding company in a traditional sector by being innovative in both the production process and the use of materials. These entrepreneurs know exactly what they stand for and what they are going for. The fact that they are leading with a strong focus strikes us as FOM and makes us happy to invest in the growth of this company.

View the website of Elzinga & Van der Krieke
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