Van Leeuwen
Substitution is the magic word

Substitution is the magic word

Harold Brinkman,
Van Leeuwen Precision, Deventer, the Netherlands

Van Leeuwen Pipe and Tube is a trade organization at heart with a clear focus on innovation.  A path we recently started exploring is that of product specialization. A claim like ‘just in time’ is not competitive enough anymore these days. Offering added value is what it is all about. In short: thinking along with our customers about alternatives. In this blog I will tell you more about how we deal with product specialization within Van Leeuwen.

I am a Senior Product Manager Sales at Van Leeuwen Precision in Deventer. In this position I am responsible for the Fluid Power segment, for both the domestic market and exports. Furthermore, my responsibilities entail advising about and guiding the implementation of new product group initiatives, such as expansion of stock assortment or new services. This additional focus takes a load off our customer’s shoulders, which they highly appreciate.

Added value

Our customers are mainly producers of hydraulic cylinders. About 70% of our turnover in the Fluid Power segment goes to this category. For the remainder our pipes are used for hydraulic constructions (prefab piping systems) in the aggregate industry, the shipbuilding industry and agriculture. There is a lot going on in the market and competition from low-wage countries is fierce. More and more products are imported from China and Asia in general. We therefore try to distinguish ourselves by offering pipes and bars with an added value. We continuously look for substitution. Which really is the magical word here.

A new direction

It often happens that customers make a product for over 20 years according to a set design. We look for an alternative that is suitable for the same application. The difference is that the alternative weighs less, is cheaper or is of better quality. For example because the diameter or wall thickness can be reduced. Or because corrosion resistance improves, the safety margin increases and cost prices go down. Or it gives our customer a better position compared to their competitors. This is mainly interesting for companies that produce bigger series. Looking for alternatives is a new direction we recently took. An interesting turn that takes up a lot of time. The market is conservative. Using a different quality or norm can be frightening sometimes. At times, unknown is unloved.  

Change of mindset

By offering services that our customers used to take on themselves, or outsource them, we want to take weight off their shoulders. E.g. machining of bars or turning activities in accordance with designs. In particular the OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are interested in these matters. They could be making cranes or garbage trucks, for which machining pipes and bars is not a core business. If we can deliver the pipe including the machining ‘just in time’ things get interesting. We do not want to take over the job of our customer. If you know your customer well, you know what product they make. You also know how you can help them. By proactively offering that, you can really unburden your customer. Slowly there is a change of mindset occurring, especially by OEM’s about what their core business is and what they can better leave to others. Outsourcing has become everyday’s business. Outsourcing to a steel supplier however is something new. This is one of the things we want to focus on.

Logistic link

Our big strength is that we have many different sizes and qualities of pipes, high pressure tubes and bar steel in stock. This way our customers can buy products daily, weekly or monthly as they require. We are mainly a logistic service provider in this process. We will not perform all treatments or machining ourselves, but we bring companies together and act as logistic link between the machining company and our customer. We have profound knowledge of material treatments and machining possibilities and we know the companies that carry them out.

Of course the customer has a final say in what he is buying. However, we can inform and advise about the possibilities. This way we think along with our customer about the product that they are making



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