EB: What is the reason for WPHaton’s reputation as a premium brand in bread production?
Stefan Kleijngeld: Until 1990 we used to be a traditional machine company and did not have anything to do with the actual customers who used our products. But customers want personalized machines. We came to the conclusion that the first and most important thing to do is to know what the customer wants and needs. Do not think in steel but think in bread!
EB: How did you translate this idea into real production?
Stefan Kleijngeld: We asked ourselves questions like: How can we convince customers? How do we line up machines to smoothen processes? This is why we hired dough technologist bakers who could help us become the best in dough production machinery.
EB: How do your customers see the new approach?
Stefan Kleijngeld: Our international customers come to our training center where they experience for themselves how to use our equipment and bake wonderful bread. We have their home flag hanging in front of our building, which adds a personal touch to their visit.
EB: In what way do industrial bread-making customers benefit from this unique experience?
Stefan Kleijngeld: Together with our dough technologists, they can talk through their recipes and ingredients, and exchange their personal baking experiences and requirements. The experts show them all the lines, how to mix ingredients and advise on where to adapt more comfortable and easier procedures. It is all about experimenting.
EB: Which lines do you offer?
Stefan Kleijngeld: We think about their processes and have in mind a machine’s life span of 15 years. We have now introduced the Blue Value Approach, which focuses on proactive service and maintenance. The Blue Box is an emergency kit that contains a concept for production lines. We know about their daily wear and tear and provide our customers beforehand with the part that will need to be replaced in about 15 years.
EB: What other aspects does the Blue Value Approach focus on?
Stefan Kleijngeld: We have introduced the Blue Control system, informing customers about replacements of special parts after a certain time and usage. In addition, we have implemented our Blue Camera methodology. By using this tool, we can link directly into the customer’s machine and visualize any problems. So about 98% of technical problems with a machine can be solved from our premises.
EB: Which other measures have you implemented to develop into a service provider?
Stefan Kleijngeld: We have set up open plan offices with glass cubes, all on the same floor and facing each other, where our core divisions are located. In addition, we have shifted people to more appropriate places in order to dissolve any hierarchical structures. We have changed our organization and have given people more responsibility. We want to give our employees a better life quality and work life balance.
EB: What about changes in supply?
Stefan Kleijngeld: We have introduced the Kaizen principle. We have cut the number of suppliers from 200 to just 30 key suppliers and have made agreements on quality, logistics and total costs. Our lead times are now 80% of the old ones.
EB: Have there been any reactions from outside the company?
Stefan Kleijngeld: We have won the award for the best managed company, probably one of the most prestigious awards in the Netherlands, which is not easy to achieve. Our new approach is all about drive and ambition, not just about age and experience. We have added new service features and a customer-driven business model. We will now focus on more efficient lines.
EB: Thank you very much for this enlightening interview.