How entrepreneurs in the Dutch manufacturing industry see the COVID-19 crisis

April 26, 2020

What effects does COVID-19 have on the manufacturing industry? And does the situation provide opportunities for circularity? De Circulaire Maakindustrie spoke to four Dutch entrepreneurs about their visions. We translated it to English for our international network.

De Circulaire Maakindustrie is Dutch for the Circular Manufacturing Industry, one of the programs that are part of the execution of the Dutch transition agenda to a circular economy by 2050.

See the original article in Dutch here.


An interview with four circular entrepreneurs in the Dutch manufacturing industry

Dionne Ewen – Manager Circular Economy at Ahrend
Ahrend produces and supplies office furniture.

“From a circular perspective, this crisis does not change very much for us. Our production and design continues and that is simply according to the same circular principles as before. We are good in terms of security of supply as we have many local, Western European suppliers. They may suffer from a stop in supply from other countries, but factories in China are now opening again as well. We also have different models of products. We can usually tweak a bit in consultation with the customer, so that we can solve delivery problems. But I understand that not every company has this option.

The demand for revitalized products is increasing enormously during this period. Customers mainly buy chairs so that their employees can work well at home. We can supply these revitalized chairs quickly via Ahrend Reuse, because the chairs are already there: they don’t need to be produced. This is one of the perks of the circular economy, because it allows us to act quickly. There is a need for this in a crisis like this.

I hope that the Corona crisis is a wake-up call for companies and people, so that we can prevent a climate- and raw material crisis. The example of toilet paper hoarding is very exemplary. The fear that it will be no longer there causes panic. The problems can become many times greater if we really can’t make products anymore, because the raw materials have run out. The crisis also shows how quickly we all have a problem when China, the world’s factory, comes to a standstill. I hope this realization shakes companies up and I hope that people discover working according to circular principles as a mitigating measure to prevent problems in the future. If people treated the climate problem and the depletion of raw materials in the same way as Corona, the approach would be a lot more decisive. ”


“I hope this crisis is a wake-up call, so that we can prevent a climate and raw material crisis.”


Edward van Dijk – General Manager of Altis
Altis is a manufacturer of high-quality panels and elements for desks, tables, cabinets and interior construction.

“The Corona measures absolutely affected us. First we produced 4,000 sheets per week, but today we have to be happy if we produce only half. Many projects come to a standstill. For instance, schools are important customer, but they don’t order anything at the moment. I am also concerned about the financial support measures that have now been discussed. Reimbursing wage costs works great for organizations where wages are the largest cost item, but for us as a capital-intensive company, wages are only one third of our costs.

On the other hand, the crisis gives us a break from the regular day-to-day routine and with that comes time to sort things out. For example, we are investigating the possibilities of ECOR, a fully bio based sheet of recycled paper without harmful binders. We are also looking at whether we can work with Brink Industrial to make a product for home workers. Something that is 100% recyclable, that people can return at the end of the crisis or take back to their office. Now we have time to figure this out. Because of the space that is currently available in production, there are opportunities to pick up new things and put them on the market at a competitive rate. Then my machines will not stand still and we can start with this. ”


“Since people now work from home a lot, we see opportunities to develop a product for this.”


Wido van den Bosch – Director of Brink Industrial
Brink Industrial makes metal products from sheet material.

“We see a fall in the order intake, but things are now rising again. It is what it is, we have to make the most of it.

I think one of the effects of the crisis will be de-globalization. A lot of companies will dive into their strategy and realize that being dependent of suppliers far away will endanger their business. They will probably reconsider what their critical components are and whether they can organise the supply of them in a different way. The Dutch manufacturing industry will play an important role in this. Back to local, collaborating in the chain and careful handling of raw materials will become more important. So that we become less dependent on foreign countries and can do more ourselves. This makes all elements of Circular Economy applicable.

Industry 4.0 and robotization are also important, as we cannot directly compete with low-wage countries. For example, we have made an investment of 2 million in a machine that allows us to produce autonomously. If you were not already working on the circular economy and Industry 4.0, now is the time to get started.”


“If you are not yet working on the circular economy, now is the time to start.”


Roelof Vedder – Director of Revamo B.V.
Revamo B.V. solves wear problems through thermal spraying, laser cladding and machining.

“The mechanical engineering market to which we supply new parts is somewhat declining. Repairs are also slightly less, especially repairs that have to be done for the first time. Communication with the buyers that work now from home is starting to resume. In terms of supply, some materials are more difficult to collect than before, but we can still manage.

We see opportunities with companies whose production resources are now stopped. People now have time to think about repairing parts rather than buying new ones. They can send it to us and ask what repair would cost. Governments in particular should lead by example and repair much more. It still mainly happens because it is cheaper and the large CO2 reduction that you achieve with repair as well is often not even taken into account. Also, repair could help companies that aren’t receiving their parts in time because of the Corona situation.”


“If your means of production are at a standstill now, use this time to learn about the benefits of repair.”