Van Leeuwen
'Digital or personal contact you don't have to choose

'Digital or personal contact you don't have to choose

Steven Ruijters,
Van Leeuwen Pipe and Tube, Zwijndrecht

Van Leeuwen Zwijndrecht Buizen is the largest operating company in the Van Leeuwen Pipe and Tube Group. In my role as commercial director in Zwijndrecht, I am aware of our customers’ increasing need to be able to contact us digitally. More and more customers find us through web shops, customer portals and social media. This does not mean, however, that personal customer contact is disappearing. I will gladly tell you more about it in this blog.

Fourth industrial revolution

Call it Smart Industry, The Internet of Things or the fourth industrial revolution: today it’s all about digitizing information and connecting the systems in the supply chain. Van Leeuwen adapts to these developments by launching web shops, a customer portal to manage and download material certificates (including custom EDI links) and by cooperating with relevant software companies. We’re also working to renew our ERP system, thereby clearing the way for more comfortable transactions. This benefits our customers and results in a more efficient chain of operations.

Gaining knowledge by being close to the customer

During this process of digitization it is important to be aware of our customers’ needs. The only way to find out what they want is by keeping up frequent personal contact. I am happy to see that this is what happens during most transactions. We call and visit our customers and suppliers, we exhibit at trade fairs and organize events to share knowledge. We also conduct customer satisfaction surveys to see if we’re on the right path and offering the right products and services.

Speed is crucial in steel construction

The need for digitization is especially noticeable in markets where speed is important, like the steel construction market. Steel construction projects often face extreme time pressure. The design phase can take a long time, but as soon as the decision is made, construction should start today, rather than tomorrow. When this happens, maximum efficiency and cooperation within the chain is essential. Digitization can be of great value in this process, because if all systems in steel construction are aligned well, the process from design to material orders can be sped up significantly. Simultaneously, there is a smaller chance of introducing mistakes and errors, which is exactly the idea behind BIM (Building Information Modeling). Because of this, we want our product data to be implemented in software tools like Construsteel, which is used by many steel constructors.

Seminar Construction with Tubes

As a member of the Bouwen met Staal (Building with Steel) association, we are able to meet individuals from the entire construction industry. This is very valuable to us, because it offers us an opportunity to talk to the people who design or calculate steel constructions and are involved in the early stages of a construction process, instead of the people who place the tube orders. In order to make the most of this opportunity we recently organized a very successful seminar titled “Construction with Tubes”. The program was filled with presentations by an architect, a construction engineer, a metal worker, a software company and a steel construction company. We invited one speaker from a leading tube mill to complete the panel. The presentations generated much interaction and new insights.

Orange peel

For example, one presenter stated that architects and constructors prefer seamless tubes, because they assume it will look better. After all, welded tubes have a weld seam and no one wants to see that. However, the surface of the entire tube is much more important for aesthetics. Welded tubes feature a smooth surface because they are mostly cold-rolled from strip steel. The weld seam is always shaved and when coated, it will be much less visible. Seamless tubes, on the other hand, have a rough surface. This happens when the material is moved through a piercing mill at high temperatures. This creates mill scale. The lumpy surface, also called orange peel, remains visible even after coating.

During a tour through our warehouse, we demonstrated the differences between seamless and welded tubes. Participants were subjected to entirely new insights, because they were able to see and feel the differences.

The customer decides

Even though we invest heavily in digital communication in order to adapt to the future, long-lasting, personal relationships with customers remain extremely valuable to us. This is why we opened an establishment in Ulft (in the east of the Netherlands) earlier this year, we participate in trade fairs and organize customer events. In other words, customers are always free to choose to contact us digitally or personally.



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