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How do you find a good assembly partner?

How do you find a good assembly partner?

How do you find a good assembly partner?

Bart Smulders of B-Style on working with SixPointTwo:
“You have to understand each other, without having to explain everything”


In 1973, Ad Smulders invented the wheelchair van. That was the beginning of B-Style, the company now run by his son Bart Smulders. In the year 2022, B-Style delivered conversion kits from Oss to selected conversion companies around the world. This allows these companies to convert commercial vehicles of various brands into wheelchair vans, wheelchair buses, city buses or taxibuses. “More than 95% of our conversion kits are sent abroad, including Australia, Asia, the United States and Europe”, says Bart Smulders.

B-Style converted commercial vehicles for many years. The company sold them to customers in the Netherlands as well as other European countries. “In 2017, we decided to focus entirely on supplying conversion kits to conversion companies. This is because the market has changed a lot over the years. More and more conversion companies have joined in, while the legal requirements and certifications have become increasingly extensive and onerous.” The change is in line with the innovative nature of the company. “With a team of 20 people, we concentrate entirely on developing, supplying and servicing conversion systems and solutions for combined transport. We can now focus even more attention to product development: building and testing prototypes.”

Always a complete solution
Any conversion kit that B-Style supplies for a specific commercial vehicle application can be used anywhere in the world. “For this, we look closely at the market and at the legal requirements and certifications. For a Volkswagen taxibus, a conversion company in Finland gets the exact same conversion kit as a conversion company in the Middle East. That taxibus is then rendered suitable for driving on snowy roads and in the mountains as well as for trips in the desert. We thus increase the overall quality of the kit.”

Safety first
B-Style relieves its customers of their concerns. “We arrange all the paperwork concerning certification and legal requirements. Irrespective of whether a customer is located in Spain, India or Australia: they can be confident that our conversion kit will meet all local requirements.” B-Style also arranges all matters with the commercial vehicle manufacturers. “They issue a letter of no objection for the conversion kits we make for their commercial vehicles. Among others, we are a Premium Partner of Volkswagen and Van Partner of Mercedes. If a kit goes to Hong Kong, Volkswagen Hong Kong can immediately check whether it is conformant.”
All these precautions are necessary since we are concerned with passenger transport in this context. “The safety of people is crucial. We have to guarantee that the conversion remains in one piece even if an accident happens.”

The changeover to focusing exclusively on conversion kits has been a major operation. “For instance, we also ensure that the conversion companies we supply to are fully in control. For their part, they must be able to fully rely on the quality of our conversion kits. Each set must therefore be complete, down to the last nut.”
Many parts of the conversion kits, such as sheet metal parts, wiring harnesses and plastic parts, are made by partners. “Because assembly is a time-consuming process, we like to collaborate with partners who can not only manufacture components, but can also assemble larger components. The time we save in this manner can be invested in product development and service.”

Cooperation with SixPointTwo
After an introductory meeting with Iman Landheer in December 2021, a collaboration with SixPointTwo was launched early this year. “We were looking for a new party that can also perform assembly work. As agreed, we started small. We first requested quotations and then placed an order for making simple steel components. Step by step, we expanded that to components in larger series and to more complex components. We have now taken the next step: SixPointTwo now also assembles larger components.”

Assessing assembly partners
What is the basis on which B-Style assesses assembly partners? “The first requirement of course is that their product should meet our specifications. This requires that they interpret our drawing correctly! But we also expect them to think about smarter ways to make the product.” In addition, communication is important. “Do we get quick answers to our questions? Do they respond quickly, jointly examine solutions with us, and in case there are mistakes, do they also have the courage to reach out and follow through?”

Understanding each other is another requirement. “If, for instance, we specify that a product must not be sharp, our partner must understand why we require that and also what we mean by it. After all, everything we make passes through human hands, at SixPointTwo, at our end, in the conversion companies, and at the transporters’ end as well.” Another important aspect: you shouldn’t have to explain everything. “I once heard the story of an entrepreneur who had had components made for a consumer item from a foreign assembly partner. Those components met all the technical requirements. But they had one drawback: they stank beyond belief. That assembly partner was indignant when the entrepreneur called him out on it. Where in the specifications was it stated that this was not allowed? Well, if you have to explain that …”

The future
The phase of exploring what B-Style and SixPointTwo have to offer to each other is over. Bart Smulders is positive. “We will continue to work together. One problem is just that the market is unpredictable at the moment. The market has still not recovered from corona. Vehicles are being delivered with delays. As a result, we cannot look beyond two to three months at the moment. We discuss this with our customers and our partners. But if the market develops as we hope, then the collaboration with SixPointTwo will definitely grow!”

Are you curious about what SixPointTwo can do for your company as an assembly partner? If so, please contact Iman Landheer, tel +31 6 4224 3466, e-mail


How do manual welders and welding robots work together effectively?

How do manual welders and welding robots work together effectively?

Aleš Pokoj: “Short preparation time and fast execution make the difference”


Sheet metal processing is one of SixPointTwo’s core activities. Welding is an important part of that. SixPointTwo deploys welding robots as well as skilled workers for this purpose. The combination of humans and robots has a clear added value, according to Production Manager Aleš Pokoj: “It allows us to meet our customers’ requirements quickly.”

“For each job, we think about the best way to execute it: manually – or using a welding robot”, Aleš explains. “We use the two welding robots for large production series. Our team of manual welders mainly works on single pieces and small series.”

Own welding jigs for greater efficiency
The welding process is completely set up to ensure efficiency. All the tasks of the welding robots, for example, are programmed offline on the PC, and consequently the welding robot never has any idle time. Another time-saver: “We design and make all welding jigs, both for the welding robots and the manual welders, ourselves. This makes us very flexible when we plan and execute orders. Because we are not dependent on others, we can respond immediately to customer demand. This saves us a lot of time.” Some recent examples illustrate the short lead times: “We delivered 500 components to a new customer in intra-logistics. This included the making the welding moulds; we completed this order within two weeks. For a new customer in agribusiness, we recently made five items, in series of 250 to 500 pieces. This order took three weeks, which included three days for preparing the welding moulds.”

State-of-the-art technology
Besides efficiency, quality is obviously a priority. When designing welding jigs, SixPointTwo uses the poka-yoke principle for good reason. “Each welding jig is designed to ensure that the welder cannot position the materials incorrectly.” It also employs state-of-the-art equipment from renowned companies. For instance, the welding robots are from Panasonic. Both manual welders and operators of the welding robots use Siegmund welding tables, which guarantee short preparation times. Cloos welding machines are also used.

Methods and materials
SixPointTwo has eight welding boxes and three sanding booths. “We can guarantee consistent quality since the eight welding boxes are identical.” The modern work areas are fully equipped in conformity with the requirements for safe and healthy working. The techniques used are MIG/MAG welding, and TIG welding with and without filler rod. The materials welded are steel, stainless steel and aluminium. “For example, our manual welders have worked on the aluminium frames that form the basis for Boat Lifts.” Components for cars are also manually welded. “These components have to meet specific requirements. We conduct penetration tests according to a checklist, to verify that the components are watertight.”

Investing in people
SixPointTwo’s two welding robots are operated by well-trained operators. SixPointTwo’s manual welders are selected with great care. “They must have the right qualifications, but that is not all. We also ask applicants to perform a trial job. The leader of the manual welders’ team puts together the trial job and assesses how the candidate performs the trial. He then decides whether or not the manual welder can be hired.” If the welder is hired, he is intensively supervised and familiarised with instructions and working procedures for the first few months. “The team leader also participates in this process; in fact, he is responsible for onboarding the new employees.”

The in-house advantage
The welding department contributes to SixPointTwo’s competitive edge in sheet metal processing, Aleš concludes. “Welding is something we do totally in-house. In the same manner, laser cutting, powder coating and assembly are also done in-house at SixPointTwo. The fact that we use manual welders and welding robots and design and make the welding jigs ourselves is a major advantage in this regard. This ensures that we are fast and flexible. Moreover, we need very little preparation time. If we have a good 3D model or a clear drawing, we can get straight to work.”

Wondering what SixPointTwo can do for your company with welding? If so, please contact Iman Landheer, tel +31 6 4224 3466, e-mail

How do manual welders and welding robots work together effectively?
Behind the scenes of online shops and parcel delivery …

Behind the scenes of online shops and parcel delivery …

Behind the scenes of online shops and parcel delivery …

Every link is indispensable


In December, children look forward expectantly to what Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus will bring. Grown-ups are equally anxious: will the presents arrive on time? Those making ‘normal’ purchases from online shops also want to know whether they will be delivered normally in the last month of the year. Millions of orders and millions of parcels are processed day in, day out in the Netherlands and in surrounding European countries. SixPointTwo is also a link in the logistics chain that ensures this. A look behind the scenes …

In the sorting centres of Amazon and DHL, among others, many parcels are transported by the sorting lines 24 hours a day. These lines contain numerous subcomponents and modules produced by SixPointTwo. They are part of large sorting systems and perform their work inconspicuously within them. They have in the meanwhile become indispensable …

Sorting system for parcel dispatch
Automated, fast parcel handling that limits human activity to the minimum: that is what parcel dispatch is all about. A good example is the bulk sorting system used by an international logistics service provider in a network of regional mail sorting centres. SixPointTwo has made several components like roller conveyors with side guides, for this sophisticated system. These roller conveyors ensure that parcels move steadily and smoothly. The side guide prevents parcels from falling off the track. We also made other systems with powered rollers for this bulk sorting system, to shift parcels to another conveyor.

Cross-sorting system
An international parcel delivery service provider processes hundreds of thousands of parcels from more than 1,000 collection points every day. This is done in two automated sorting centres. Together, these huge sorting centres cover more than 10,000 square metres and are equipped with fully automated conveyor belts, robotics, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and high-quality image recording. We created modules for this logistics system, with which the flow of parcels can be slowed down or accelerated as required. This ensures streamlined delivery of parcels to the sorting station, from where they can be sent to the appropriate distribution points. From there, they are then distributed to recipients.

Reliability is crucial
In a sorting system, every link is important. This is because the whole line comes to a standstill the moment even one part fails. The result: delays, extra costs and disappointed recipients. Obviously, this cannot be allowed to happen. SixPointTwo has built in extensive quality control to prevent downtime. All the subcomponents and modules we deliver are carefully assembled according to work instructions. They are then fully tested according to a test protocol based on the four-eye principle. Products equipped with motors pass through additional functional testing before they are released by our Quality Department. We use a FAT (Factory Acceptance Test) for this purpose.

The final component in SixPointTwo’s quality assurance is our own track-and-trace system. Although our customers do not make this a hard requirement, we consider traceability a must. With the track-and-trace system, we can trace the corresponding batch numbers of all components and raw materials used for the final product by means of the unique product number. We can also always retrieve the assembly date and release date from the quality department.

We make sure that things run smoothly …
The flow of online orders and packages is constantly increasing. From the consumer to the delivery person: everyone in the logistics chain wants to ensure that the process runs smoothly, literally as well as figuratively. Not just in the month of December, but on all days of the year. SixPointTwo is happy to contribute to that!


Working at an internationally oriented company

Working at an internationally oriented company

Pascal Claessen: “Each day is a learning experience”


Lots of variety and lots of contacts, with colleagues and with customers. That was stated in the vacancy for Commercial back office at SixPointTwo. That was the reason why Pascal Claessen decided to apply. Now, one and a half years later, he has another job at SixPointTwo that suits him even better.

Pascal had just completed the MBO (secondary vocational education) Transport and Logistics course in Venlo. Previously, he had had part-time jobs in the hospitality industry, did internships at several warehouses and did transport planning, among other things. “Commercial back office at SixPointTwo was my first real job.”

Future-oriented agreements
Pascal had just commenced his associate degree in Technical Business Administration.
At SixPointTwo, the agreements were clear. “I started off with the intention of progressing to HBO (higher professional education) level within the company. I have regular meetings with my supervisor Willian van Eerd about what is going well, what the areas for improvement are, and how I can develop further.”

Combining work and study
Pascal works four days a week and attends school/college on Thursdays. “If I have a test on a Monday evening, for example, I can take time off during the day. That is never an issue; we have clear agreements about that as well, as my supervisor also considers my development important.” Working and studying is tough. “I was very busy, particularly when I started off. I was often busy with school during the evenings and weekends. That has now reduced, since I have nearly completed my course.” He will graduate in February 2023.

Next job
Thanks to his education and development, it has already been possible for him to take a new step. “Since February 2022, I have been working as a calculator/work planner. That ties in nicely with my education.” What does the job entail? “The sales manager submits customer requests to me. We discuss these together and/or jointly with the customer. Using our programmes and my knowledge, I calculate the cost price. I then present it to the sales manager. Together, we discuss the calculation and work out a quotation based on the same.

Work preparation requires a lot of consultation. “I maintain close contact with the buyer in Weert and the buyer in the Czech Republic. I also consult with my Czech colleagues about engineering, planning, manufacturability and the specifications of the product to be made. I also frequently interact with customers, especially about specifications and delivery times. I like to know exactly what the situation is. Once the customer’s requirements and specifications are clear, we can, if necessary, present the customer with a recommendation, in order to optimise the design to improve their products. This may involve improving physical aspects such as product strength and material selection, as well as cost savings for the customer.

Greater challenges
“Commercial Back Office was nice to start with”, says Pascal. “But as a calculator/work planner, much greater demands are placed on me. That’s even more challenging for me!” He handles several requests simultaneously. He also answers questions from customers and colleagues. “It’s therefore important to work in a structured way. I did have to learn that. I discussed with my manager how I could tackle that. Things are constantly improving on that front. Calculating prices has been going well from the start. Communicating with colleagues and customers is something I enjoy and also do well; that is a strong point.” After graduating with an associate degree in technical business administration, he already has plans to take up a 3D drawing course. “Because I also do a bit of engineering, it is useful if I can make drawings myself and adjust customer drawings where necessary. This will allow me to assist and advise the customer even more directly. In addition, I am provided opportunities to develop further in the technical field through other training or courses.”

The challenges in his work are important, but he also likes the working atmosphere. “It is extremely pleasant to work at the Weert office. We are a small club of ten people and help each other out wherever necessary. If there is a challenge somewhere, we jointly try to find a solution. We always succeed in the end. The joint lunch and drinks on Friday afternoon ensure that we end the week on a pleasant note.” We also enjoy close contact with Czech colleagues. “The Summer Party is organised in the summer, for which we go to the Czech Republic. That strengthens the bond with colleagues there. I’ve been there several times.”

Continuous growth
How does Pascal see his future? What are his ambitions? “I want to keep developing myself. SixPointTwo gives me plenty of room for that. Guidance, training and courses: you don’t get that everywhere. Besides, the company is growing and I learn new things every day. There are still plenty of challenges here; I would therefore like to grow along with the company!”


Working at an internationally oriented company
Efficient production automation starts with people work

Efficient production automation starts with people work

ERP system and laser cutting machine understand each other

Efficient production automation starts with people work


SixPointTwo has various in-house techniques for sheet metal processing. Laser cutting is one such technique. A Trumpf laser cutting machine was purchased for this purpose in 2018. Before the machine was delivered, consideration was given to the optimum method for the machine to communicate with ECI Bemet’s ERP system that SixPointTwo had been using for many years. Gerrit KleinJan of ECI Bemet and Tomáš Kautcký from Trumpf tell us what that entailed.

Sheet metal cutting is all about quality and cost efficiency. Therefore, the ERP system and the laser cutting machine must communicate well with each other in all phases of production control. “The biggest challenge is to always ensure the correct data gets from the ERP system to the laser cutting machine so the machine can provide feedback. Working with SixPointTwo, it was decided to first define the optimal process of production and control”, says KleinJan. He knows the ERP system through and through. “At the time, I was also involved in its implementation.”

Include outsourcing as an option
Together with the SixPointTwo team in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, KleinJan and Kautcký went through the process step by step. Specific wishes were formulated during this process. “SixPointTwo wanted to be able to decide during the process whether to outsource an order if this offered a more cost-efficient option and/or if it was a better fit after considering planning and available capacity. The decision is made partly on the basis of the information that the machine sends back”, says KleinJan. How does that work? ”The ERP system communicates the orders the machine will execute. One of the things used for this is the start date and the delivery date of each order. The machine must then return information for each order: How much time will it take to complete the job? Is there enough time, or does the job require too much capacity from the machine? In the latter case, the order will be returned to the ERP system and the order outsourced.”

KleinJan noticed the option of integrating outsourcing into the production management process was not being utilised very often. “After internal processing had been chosen in the process, an option to choose outsourcing based on available capacity was still required. This was a challenge, particularly for the programmer. We solved this within the link between ERP and laser cutting machine by including fields within the ERP that state which cutting jobs are already nested in the laser cutting system and which jobs are not. For each of these fields there is a definition about which data must be supplied from the laser cutting machine. This two-way street offers real communication. And it’s necessary for optimal control. As soon as the laser cutting machine has completed a job, the machine returns specific data for a subsequent calculation, such as the duration of the cutting operation and the material consumption.”
Another challenge focused on the exceptions: “What do you do if something goes wrong during the production process, if the order is cancelled, or the order is only partially completed? We also thought about this beforehand”, says KleinJan.

Smooth process
Defining the process was a smooth operation according to Kautcký. “We quickly came to our agreements: we took just two days to decide how we would go about it all. For Trumpf, the challenge was not as great as it was for ECI Bemet. Our first task was to provide documentation about the machine and adequate descriptions of the interfaces.” After completing the programming work at ECI Bemet, the necessary tests were carried out. The link appeared to work from the outset. “SixPointTwo played an important role in achieving this positive result”, says Kautcký. “They had a clear picture of the process and knew exactly what they wanted. You don’t see that often in projects like this.” KleinJan: “They gave us the time to ensure we had good preparation. This enabled us to deliver a great product with Trumpf.”



SixPointTwo has commissioned a second welding robot

The welding robot will never have to stand still again

SixPointTwo has commissioned a second welding robot


SixPointTwo now has two welding robots, both supplied by Valk Welding. Why are welding robots indispensable? Can they get any more efficient? Ad van Boxel, Technical Adviser at Valk Welding, shares his thoughts.

SixPointTwo first approached Valk Welding in 2016. The expansion of our production capacity necessitated additional welding capacity. “Especially the welding for serial production runs”, says van Boxel. A further increase in production led to the purchase of a second welding robot in 2021. “Like the first, this is also a complete welding robot system in which the welding robot is mounted on a stable H-frame. We also supplied DTPS: the software package for offline programming.”

Efficient use of time
How does the performance of welding robots compare to the performance of professionals? “Research has shown that a manual welder is actually welding 15% to 20% of their time. The remaining time is spent on other activities, such as loading and measuring the product. A well-managed robot installation, on the other hand, uses 70% to 80% of the start-up time for welding.” If you consider that skilled welders are increasingly difficult to find, and that they stop work every day after eight hours, you will understand why welding robots are indispensable. “A welding robot just keeps going. Depending on the production order, you can press start, turn off the lights and go home.” You no longer need a qualified welder for the human actions that have to be performed on the robot installation. “Any operator can perform them.”

Offline programming for extra production time
DTPS, the software package for offline programming, saves SixPointTwo even more time. “There are two programming options: online and offline programming. Online programming is done on the robot itself. The robot can’t be used for production during programming.” Offline programming doesn’t have that disadvantage. “This eliminates downtime. While the machine is running, you can programme on the PC. And when the programme’s ready, you send it to the welding robot.”

Always find the weld seam
First time right was an important performance requirement for SixPointTwo when choosing the welding robot system. “Our welding robot is equipped with Quick Touch Sensing. This means it can anticipate tolerances. Using the welding wire, it first searches for the product to determine where the weld seam is. The programme is therefore automatically adjusted for each weld seam, which means you get a perfect weld. It always finds the weld seam.” According to van Boxel, this is exactly what metal companies need. “As an example, sheet metal settles and always has many deviations. This welding robot can deal with these easily.”

Measure and check
It’s also important that the robot maintains control over the process. “This is because the welding source and the robot communicate with each other. The robot adds welding wire if necessary, and will stop automatically if there’s a problem or it runs out of welding wire.” In addition, the welding robot is equipped with Automatic Tool Control. “This programme lets the robot check whether the tool (the welding torch) is still in the original position on the robot arm. As a user, you can set the desired frequency of checking yourself. If problems are found, the robot will report them. The user can then repair it or have it repaired.” ATC ensures the robot continues to deliver the same performance from the moment of delivery. “A torch that isn’t in the right position shouldn’t be allowed to produce abnormal results.”

Under development
Valk Welding has offices in Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. The company only supplies welding robots from Panasonic. “Our relationship with Panasonic dates back to 1988. Our management team forms a part of the Panasonic development team. We’re therefore thoroughly familiar with their systems. All our technicians are trained to work with them. If a customer has a problem, we can solve it.”

Developments are moving quickly. Valk Welding is committed to fully automated offline programming. “To make it even easier for our customers, we want to shorten programming times for a large number of applications. In our steel construction, we’ve already reached the point where programmes can be generated offline using 3D packages.” In a new step forward, if all our production programmes can be made offline, the welding robot can also be considered ideal for single-piece production and it will never have to stand still again.


SixPointTwo has commissioned a second welding robot
Will blockchain become the source of truth in the steel market?

Will blockchain become the source of truth in the steel market?

Will blockchain become the source of truth in the steel market?

Tom Meulendijks: “SteelTrace is changing the supply chain!”


It takes thousands of hours to manually check a product for customer specifications, legal rules and standards. The result is often a PDF document confirming that the product meets all requirements. But do you really want to take a PDF document as a watertight guarantee? Tom Meulendijks, CEO of SteelTrace, spotted an opportunity and room for improvement.

“A few years ago, I worked on a tool for managing these PDF documents for a supplier to the petrochemical industry. At the time, it was assumed that changes could not be made to such documents. And I thought the control process could be properly secured using blockchain technology. This allows you to store all the data about standards, regulations and customer specifications. You can then translate that data into algorithms with which you can check and secure the data.”

Quality assurance is crucial
To achieve his idea, Meulendijks founded SteelTrace in 2017. The company is active in Asia, the United States and Europe. “We focus on the market for the high-end steel used in the (petro)chemical industry.” The quality of the steel and its associated certification is crucial in this market involving vast sums of money. “You can’t tell the difference between good and bad steel just by looking at it. In addition, steel often only arrives at the end user’s location from the factory after travelling through various suppliers.” With paper documents, this is a process that’s wide open to fraud. “Suppose someone buys high-quality steel pipes from a good steel manufacturer. They can then buy cheaper pipes of inferior quality and easily copy the certificate and heat number of the high-quality pipes. They can then use this certificate and send it with the inferior pipes that they resell.”

Platform for transparency and certainty
From steel manufacturer to end user, SteelTrace makes the supply chain transparent. “Our platform has four certainties built into it: real-time structured data, traceability, protection against fraud and automation.”

Real-time structured data: efficiency
Control processes can be slow. “I know of cases where ships were unable to sail because the quality manager was only able to review the paper documents a week after the lab tests, and then a few problems appeared.” When the supply chain works with SteelTrace, things are different. “Control activities take place in one go. Quality managers, labs and inspectors enter the data directly into the platform and sign it digitally in real time. If test values deviate from the specifications and/or standards, this is immediately detected and logged.” Reviewing paper documents is no longer necessary, all platform users can see exactly where the process is at any time.

Traceability: every step is visible
The SteelTrace platform ensures every step is visible. “Who conducted the test? Was the person certified to do that? Was the machine certified and calibrated? Was the inspector authorised to sign? Everything is visible. In addition, all the data is secured with blockchain technology and can always be traced back to the source.” Data can be easily checked via a smartphone. “Every platform user has a secure digital identity to identify them.”

Protection against fraud
The identity of everyone who plays a role in the control process within the supply chain is checked in advance and their powers established. Quantity tracking and transfer of ownership are other built-in protections against fraud. “During sales, certificates are simultaneously transferred with the ownership of products. Certificates are always linked to products. There are always as many certificates as there are checked products within the SteelTrace platform. This removes the financial incentive for fraud.” See the example in the insert for more information.

Unnoticed fraud is not possible
A manufacturer makes 1,000 high-quality steel pipes. They are entered into the SteelTrace database. The 1,000 pipes are certified and checked. Whenever the manufacturer sells a pipe from this set of 1,000, ownership of it passes to the buyer along with the certificate. Suppose someone buys 19 inferior pipes on the black market and one high-quality pipe from the set of 1,000. This person then requests the certificate for the high-quality pipe from within the SteelTrace platform. The step is digitally registered. If they then mark the 19 inferior pipes with the heat number of the high-quality pipe, they’ll have a buyer for each pipe. But before the transfer of each pipe can occur with a certificate, each buyer must request the digital certificate in SteelTrace. Once they do, the 19 buyers will receive a message from SteelTrace informing them that the certificate is no longer in the seller’s possession. They’ll then know that something is wrong.” 

Automation: compliance by design
All the standards, requirements and data supplied by suppliers are automated. As a result, all the control and monitoring processes are automated and the data is immediately available in its entirety. Tests and test values can be checked automatically. Manual, error-prone checks are no longer necessary. Meulendijks: “The result is that customers save tens of thousands of man-hours, which equates to millions of euros. That’s our business case.” But even more savings can be made. “Because the company’s risk profile is improved, the insurance costs go down. A reliable supply chain also pays for itself in incident reduction: there will be less premature perishing of materials. As part of due diligence, assets will be valued higher.” Meulendijks has long since ceased to receive sceptical reactions to the blockchain technology. “Our target group is interested in any secure, digital solution that makes it possible to work even more effectively.”

SteelTrace is changing the supply chain
Meulendijks sees many more applications in the steel market. “We can also make processes and additions to the base steel material transparent and secure. These include welding, forging steel or adding plastic to pipes. We can also make information about the carbon footprint and ESG scores visible.” He also sees another useful application: “Making the country in which the steel operations have been carried out visible. This allows you to demonstrate in which tax bracket your company falls, which means you can avoid excessive tax assessments.” And Meulendijks looks even further ahead: “SteelTrace’s ambition is to become the single source of truth for the entire steel supply chain.”



How are you helping Ukrainian colleagues and their families?

How are you helping Ukrainian colleagues and their families?

Jiří Vepřek: “We’re doing everything we can”


SixPointTwo in Humpolec employs 16 Ukrainian people on permanent contracts. “When the war broke out, we immediately said: we want to help them. We asked what we could do for their family and friends in Ukraine”, says Finance Manager Jiří Vepřek. He tells us how SixPointTwo offers help and how the Ukrainian colleagues are doing.

As a result of the war, many Ukrainians fled their country. In addition, Ukrainian men have returned to help defend their country, either voluntarily or at the behest of the Ukrainian government. What makes Humpolec different? “Returning to Ukraine is particularly important for people who work for companies in the Czech Republic on a temporary basis through external agencies.” Returning to Ukraine is not on the cards for a number of the permanent Ukrainian employees at SixPointTwo. “Before the war, they already lived here and had no plans to return.”

Help as needed
Until the war, some employees lived in Humpolec and their families lived in Ukraine. “One of them wanted to bring his wife, mother and two children to Humpolec. Our plant manager drove with him to the Slovakia-Ukraine border to pick them up. SixPointTwo then helped with all the formalities such as applying for a work permit, residence permit and state benefits. A house has also been arranged for them. His wife now works at SixPointTwo. And their two children are already going to school in Humpolec.”
We also managed to arrange a large house for another of our colleagues who has six children and whose wife is pregnant. “Unfortunately, it’s located 40 kilometres from Humpolec. His wife and children live there. The husband is there at weekends; during the week he stays in Humpolec.” Vepřek himself has two young women and a girl staying with him on a temporary basis. “They want to return to Ukraine, but that’s not possible for the time being.”

Single point of contact
In addition to providing help with the arrival of relatives, SixPointTwo also offers support in other ways. “My HR colleague is the first point of contact for our Ukrainian colleagues. They can contact her with all their questions. She does a great job and arranges a lot for them such as taxi transport, communication with authorities and lease agreements. Where necessary, she brings in other colleagues from SixPointTwo. There’s also co-operation with other companies, such as when Ukrainian newcomers are looking for a job. As an example, the heavy work in our production environment isn’t always suitable for women. We try to refer them to lighter work at other companies in Humpolec.”

Initiative for large-scale reception
Together with other companies, SixPointTwo also developed a plan to welcome refugees and help them to integrate. “There’s a house in Humpolec where older, single people used to be cared for. This care home could accommodate about 100 people and was closed last year. SixPointTwo has drawn up a plan with other companies: if the municipality opens the building to Ukrainian families, the companies will offer support in various ways. This includes paying energy costs, having Czech language lessons provided by a teacher, paying the wages of a concierge, school contributions for children, building playgrounds and putting beds in there.” Unfortunately, the municipality is yet to make a decision on the matter. “It’s a shame because this project can make life easier for the refugees and for the residents of Humpolec.”

Positive attitude
How have our Ukrainian colleagues been doing in the meantime? “They were completely in shock when it all started. But they’ve adapted to the situation. Returning to Ukraine is no longer an option for some of them, as they come from cities and villages that have been destroyed. However, they have a positive attitude and appreciate SixPointTwo’s efforts. The Ukrainians also support each other wherever they can. The atmosphere in the company is good: we’re all willing to help each other and we’ll see how it goes.”


How are you helping Ukrainian colleagues and their families?
New style bicycle parking MB Fietsparkeren (bicycle parking)

New style bicycle parking MB Fietsparkeren (bicycle parking)

New style bicycle parking MB Fietsparkeren (bicycle parking)

Maurice Paulssen: “I make products I wouldn’t mind having myself.”


Maurice Paulssen has been developing products all his life. For example, he developed products for the car industry that were sold across the globe. Now he is active in the world of bicycle parking, with the Eindhoven-based company MB Fietsparkeren. Innovation is his passion: “I look at a product and I think: how can I make it better and more beautiful and sell it too!”

Through a relation who rented out bicycle parking spaces for events, he became involved in the creation and installation of bicycle stands in 2009. This gave Paulssen – a keen cyclist in his free time – the idea for better, more user-friendly bicycle parking.

Universal system
“My system is different because it is suitable for every type of bicycle”, says Paulssen. “It works by way of automatic clamps on the front fork. E-bike, normal bike, racing bike, transport bike, or a bike with a crate on the front: every bike is held upright.” This ensures ease of use and orderly bicycle parking. “At bicycle parking locations with traditional wheel stands, you will often see electric bikes and also other bikes parked next to the stand. Why? People are afraid the wheel won’t go in properly and warp the rim. This can never happen with my system.”

Suitable for racked parking
Paulssen patented the system in 2010. All MB Fietsparkeren’s parking locations are based on this system. You can recognise them by the V-clamp with the sloping groove for the wheel. The system is also practical for racked parking where bicycles are placed one above the other. “In conventional bicycle parking, you have to push the bike to the top, which is difficult, the bike becomes heavy. It is much more convenient for the bike to be able to move up and down horizontally. For this purpose, I have devised a lift for multiple racks on top of each other. This just moves up and down. The lift is not suitable for a train station where lots of people come and go at the same time, but it does work well in an apartment complex or company bicycle stands, for example.”

Three systems
MB Fietsparkeren has launched three bicycle stand designs on the market. You can see them all around the Netherlands: at Scheveningen beach, in Groningen at the Hanseatic University of Applied Sciences, and in various Limburg municipalities. You can also see them at several locations in Belgium, such as Aalst city centre. “The bicycle parking systems all work the same way, but are different in design and exterior. The MB ECO is the basic system. The MB BASIC has a more high-end design, with extra sturdy lock fixings. The crème de la crème is offered by our newest bicycle parking system: the MB Wave. This system can be fitted with integrated charging points for electric bicycles,”

Production in the Czech Republic
The stands are made from galvanised steel. MB Fietsparkeren outsources its production. “Drawings and parts lists all get sent to the production partner. I carry out the final inspection of the products supplied.” Experience was gained with various production partners. “We eventually found SixPointTwo. Their head office is close by: in Weert. It makes things easy for the final inspection. The contact is important too. I will get an immediate response to a question, I don’t have to chase it up by phone or e-mail.” Also important – of course – is the quality of the Czech-made products. “Radiuses or weld thicknesses: everything is made exactly in accordance with the drawing. In theory, this should be the case with other partners too, but in reality, there are differences. SixPointTwo just makes very good products.”

Constant innovation
Paulssen expects a lot from an innovation that will soon be launched: infrared sensors. “The idea was awarded the Intertraffic Award in 2014. Now the software is completely ready, and so is the market.” The infrared sensors are placed in the wheel groove. Once a bicycle is parked, a timer is activated. “One person can look at the PC screen and see where each bicycle is, how long it has been there, and when a bicycle is removed. Wardens can take a targeted approach to the issue of abandoned and stray bikes. What’s more, there is a constant overview of the capacity utilisation of the bicycle parking facilities: useful for determining whether they are actually in the right location.” In the event of bicycle theft, camera images can be viewed quickly. In short, very interesting for large companies, student campuses, and local authorities!”


Human resources in times of scarcity

Human resources in times of scarcity

Magda Rajdlová: “Employee marketing? There’s no recipe for it!”


Business is booming. The economy is running at full speed. Naturally this is great, but it also has a downside: companies are having a lot of trouble finding the right people. After all skilled workers have the pick of the jobs right now. SixPointTwo is also struggling with this problem. “Unfortunately, there is no ready-made solution,” says HR officer Magda Rajdlová.

Being visible to as many potential employees as possible is a priority for SixPointTwo recruitment. “Now that professionals are scarce, we cannot expect to come across people with the right qualifications immediately. That is why we decided to focus on people without qualifications as well. We can then train them ourselves”, Rajdlová explains.

Pulling out all the stops for attention
Humpolec and surrounding area saw intensive recruiting. “Among the things we did were a bulk SMS, a direct mailing posted through 29,000 letter boxes, and billboards placed at easily visible locations. Always carrying the main message: if you want to roll your sleeves up you are welcome.” Creative concepts formed the basis for commercials with regional broadcasters, and for advertorials and advertisements in local newspapers. “For example, the advertorials made use of the concept: ‘this is how much fun it is to work at SixPointTwo’, and was aimed at candidates for all roles, from cleaner to member of the board. The concept ‘Grandmas and grandads read the newspaper and tell their children about new jobs’ was used in advertisements.” There was mixed success. “The first time a concept was used, the response was good. As soon as we repeated it, it no longer worked. The reason for this is not clear. We will have to select a new approach every time”, Rajdlová concludes.

In-house training not always successful
Actually, SixPointTwo gained quite a few new people from the recruitment campaigns. Those who had the right qualification were put to work immediately. The others received internal training first. “This also created some informative experiences”, says Rajdlová. In-house training is great for roles such as mechanical assembly operator. However, roles involving welding and sheet folding are more complex, and we noticed that in-house training was less helpful.

Continuing to bind and engage employees
Attracting new employees alone is not enough, of course. “SixPointTwo wants to remain an appealing employer, both to newcomers and existing employees. We try to enhance the group spirit by various means, such as a three-monthly newsletter, birthday cards, and exercising together. We even have our own football team taking part in a regional competition”, explains Rajdlová.

The COVID-19 epidemic imposed restrictions on group activities and more. “We found a solution: the Challenge Cup. Every four to five weeks, we organise an indoor activity that is organised and carried out in a coronavirus-proof way, such as rodeo (with a bouncy castle), go-karting, and shooting. For the Challenge Cup, teams can challenge each other, but individual achievements are also rewarded.”

We Care
Team spirit is also an important part of the policy on Corporate Social Responsibility formulated by SixPointTwo. The policy is explained briefly and to the point, in a leaflet for employees. “The leaflet tells employees what SixPointTwo does for them and what SixPointTwo expects from them. Statements such as We Care, We are professional and We are ambitious make it clear that everyone in a group is responsible and takes on responsibility, and that we want to be the best together. We want to emanate this winner’s mentality both within the company and in our contacts with our relationship.” Team building and performance improvement are a work in progress. “Our HR people can often be found on the shop floor. They talk to employees to find out how they are and what they need to bring the best out of themselves.” Rajdlová is convinced it works: “Employee reactions are very positive.”


Human resources in times of scarcity