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How to combine craftsmanship with digital technologies


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Bouwbedrijf M.J. de Nijs en Zonen (De Nijs) is a building contractor and property developer constructing all types of buildings: industrial premises, offices and public structures, schools, hospitals and private homes. Based in Warmenhuizen in the Dutch province of North Holland, the company operates in Randstad, North Holland and the regions of Amsterdam, Alkmaar and Haarlem.

In addition to property development and construction, De Nijs offers renovation, restoration and maintenance services. Founded by Matthias Jacobus de Nijs in 1920, the company will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next year. “One important factor in our development is that in the area around Warmenhuizen, north of Amsterdam and Alkmaar, we’ve always been blessed with very good carpenters, masons and so on,” says CEO Winfred de Nijs who joined the Dutch construction firm in 1980 and represents the third generation of what is a family business through and through. “Warmenhuizen is a traditional village, with a population of hardworking people with entrepreneurial spirit: down-to-earth, no-nonsense folk. For many people it was normal to come and work for us, and many of our employees grew up here.”

In the late 1980s, De Nijs set up its own project development unit. “We develop projects and build them,” explains Mr. de Nijs. In the 1990s and in the first decade of this century, De Nijs was asked to be involved in several, prestigious projects like the EYE Filmmuseum and the Hermitage Amsterdam in Amsterdam. “These projects ensured our name became more widely known,” states Mr. de Nijs.

Focused on inner city construction, including housing projects, utility structures, hospitals and religious buildings, De Nijs combines real craftsmanship and advanced digital technology. “Everything is prepared digitally and executed in modern ways, and with an eye to optimizing logistics processes to and from the construction sites,” says Mr. de Nijs. “Everything is planned beforehand, worked out in BIM, and made in prefab elements wherever possible, so that movements to and from the building site are minimized.”

Digitalization enables us to construct buildings that would not have been possible in the past. Winfred de NijsCEO

At present, De Nijs is working at the Gelderse Kade in Amsterdam, and the only way to get the materials on site is by water. “Amsterdam city center presents us with unique challenges, but we are very much at home there, and we have a good relationship with the local authorities,” explains Mr. de Nijs. “Thinking things through beforehand, calculating everything, prefab elements: all this improves working conditions at the construction site. Digitalization enables us to construct buildings that are quite striking and would not have been possible in the past.”

Despite the use of modern, digital tools, De Nijs is primarily committed to delivering excellent craftsmanship. “This includes artisanal work, but also excellent planning and calculation as well as passion. If you don’t like your job, you can’t keep doing it for decades. Moreover, you need to do what you’ve promised. An agreement is an agreement. Sounds easier than it is, but that is our guiding principle, and our workers embody it.”

Next year, De Nijs will be celebrating its 100th anniversary with the family, employees and with clients. “Not just celebrations with drinks and food, but also showing how we see the future,” says Mr. de Nijs. “It’s nice to look back at the past every now and then, but looking forward to the future is more important.”

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