Gain: there’s still so much to be gained!

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The issues in the market for industrial automation are becoming more complex all the time: shorter throughput times, ready-made solutions and lots of support. ‘That calls for intelligence on the supplier side’, says Arnold de Goederen of Gain Automation Technology, South-east location. ‘The number of specialisms required for a project is increasing, whereas there is often less expertise in control technology on the client side.’ As a specialist in industrial automation, Gain aims to support manufacturing and process industry with innovative hardware and software engineering. ‘Our mission is to keep these sectors in the Netherlands and help them grow. Previously, the manufacturing and production industry accounted for around 25 percent of Gross National Product; as a result of outsourcing to low-wage countries, that has fallen to 10 percent. That needs to change, and we believe it can.’

More robust chains and more flexible factories

Amplification factor

Gain helps its clients to improve their production and project results by supplying smart solutions and services in the realm of technical and industrial automation. Arnold explains: ‘In the controls industry, our company’s name Gain means amplification factor. Plus of course financial profit, but even more important are the gains our clients achieve in

their production and project results thanks to our solutions. With those solutions, we want to help build a foundation for the future: more robust chains, more flexible factories and a smarter way of working.’

Regional strength

Gain offers a combination of flexible engineering, consultancy and support for clients and projects, assured by a permanent core. ‘We are a cooperative of companies with locations in Best, Amersfoort, Gorinchem and Drachten. The management, all with industrial automation backgrounds, work with the locations as partners. They apply the same working method, focused on the specific region. Because we strongly believe in the regional strength of our employees and clients and in working closely with them.’ Because Gain has access to important and sensitive company data, trust plays a big role. ‘You don’t build a relationship like that in a day; it takes time and effort. But once you’ve got a foot in the door, that relationship will often last.’ Arnold also prefers to keep his chain partners and suppliers close: ‘The weakest link will determine when your product or service reaches the market and what the quality level will be. We therefore want to be independent of foreign firms and work with reliable regional players.’

Learning curve

Arnold doesn’t want his company to grow in size. ‘I have previously worked for big international companies, but I prefer working in a flat, small organisation with short lines of communication. So above all, I want Gain to grow in terms of quality and to take on exciting and challenging projects with our team.’ With the extensive knowledge and experiencegained at various corporates, Arnold was ready to go into business for himself around ten years ago. ‘Some people are ready to start a company immediately after they graduate; however, I needed to gain experience and complete the learning curve before I was ready to be an entrepreneur. But I see that as an advantage: I am a committed manager with a lot of experience in the workplace. I know better than anyone what it is like to work deep into the night commissioning a machine. As a result, I have a close bond with our people.’

Choosy

Arnold regards his employees as the company’s key asset; as such, Gain is very choosy about who it takes on. ‘Anyone can call themselves a programmer; but how do you make really good PLC software? All our 110+ employees plus selected freelancers are subject to the same extensive screening, which involves engineers selecting and testing each other on their knowledge. That way, the quality inside our organisation is assured.’

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What’s more, all employees complete a course in structured programming. ‘We all want to follow the same working method and talk the same programming language, so that our solutions can be rolled out in the Netherlands and abroad.’ The programming training is also offered as an external course. ‘So for instance, we were asked to train employees of ASML; I regard that as a big compliment.’

Pulling up weeds

Alongside various SMEs and big companies like Shell, Nuon and Vanderlande, Gain also likes working with start-ups. As an example he cites Odd.bot, a start-up that works closely with Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University and Research. This young company has invented a robot that pulls up weeds. ‘European regulations permit the use of ever fewer herbicides. And organic farmers who weed by hand are short of workers.’ This gave rise to the idea for the ‘weed whacker’, Arnold explains.

Gain engineered the software for the project. ‘Contributing to innovative, sustainable and cost-saving solutions gives us a kick.’ Arnold calls on entrepreneurs to continue to invest in knowledge and product innovation, even during the pandemic. ‘Make sure you maintain your lead, that you keep supplying quality and that you have something unique to offer that is not so easy to copy. Because you won’t win on cost price; you’ll only retain your lead if you really set yourself apart from the rest!’

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