Go Big or Go Home; JASA thinks big in America
A boy’s adventure book, The American Dream, Mitchell Schoorl's life is a little bit of both. In February 2013, Mitchell was hired at JASA in the service department. Ten years later, and at only 28, he now storms the U.S. market for JASA."
Last year, I was asked to become Director of Operations for North America and answered with a resounding yes. In 10 years, I have gone through quite a few steps.”
Electronics form the basis
"I have a background in aviation, a graduate degree in aircraft avionics. This implies I have knowledge of all the onboard computers and electronics aboard an aircraft. I specialized on the F-16 in the Air Force. To be honest, it was quite a turnaround, moving from jet fighters to packaging machines. So, in terms of construction and controls, I find JASA's machines quite manageable. It became one of the reasons for my service colleagues to frequently sent me out in the field. For me, it felt great to go to a customer and fix the breakdown. When I joined JASA, the company was still relatively small. I came in as employee number 45. In the workshop, I was trained to gain machine-specific knowledge. Pretty soon after that, I was sent out in the service van on Friday afternoons. Already at that time, I traveled all over the place. For instance, a quick service trip to Venlo, a three-and-a-half-hour drive one way to fix a breakdown."
International growth within JASA
"Working at JASA has actually become more and more fun, as well as more professional. As a result, the challenges have also increased. By the end of 2014, I was asked to take on the role of international project leader, and I couldn't pass up that chance. It presented the opportunity to see a lot of the world. From Mongolia to China, much of Europe, North America, half of Australia, and Russia. By the end of 2018, I was asked to work dedicated to North America and, if so required, with a broader remit than a project manager. And as of January, I officially took on the role of Director of Operations.
We started this journey in 2019 and have been Team America from day one. I have consistently handled every technical aspect, from trade show transportation to selecting warehouses. I relocated from the Netherlands to the U.S. to fully dedicate myself to that market. I find it very important that most customers know me personally. Not only the big companies but the smaller ones too. Even though I am not the sales rep for JASA, I am involved in all areas, and everyone knows me by name.”
Challenges in the USA
"Here in the U.S., the mentality is Go Big or Go Home not only in terms of packaging size but also in terms of packaging lines and projects. In the Netherlands, people start small and gradually build up their business. In the U.S., people look for investors and set up large packaging lines before securing customers. We talk about massive projects, on average consisting of three packaging lines. The projects
are also diverse, from tomato mixing lines to sleevers for vegetarian products, especially leafy greens packaging and other specials like vacuum packaging lines. All in all, it’s definitely challenging.
We are fans of indoor farming and a significant player in that field. Lettuce is conventionally harvested in California. The leafy greens are then transported from the west to the east coast. That means it will be on the road for a few days, and that's a costly loss of shelf life. The future is undoubtedly in growing in greenhouses and indoor vertical farms. One of our projects was in the midst of Los Angeles. From the outside, the building looks just like any department store, but inside you'll find a substantial vertical farm there. We arranged the complete packaging section for it. And would a greenhouse be located in New York, the packaging will also be handled in New York. That makes a significant difference in processing time and product shelf life. JASA offers many other advantages. We have quite a few competitors, but our products are way ahead. We set specific standards in the field, and that intimidates the competition.
In certain States, you may suddenly find yourself in earthquake territory. You then have to consider totally different aspects. A packaging line, even if it’s one we've built earlier, immediately becomes an entirely different project because every machine has to be re-evaluated. The technology is different because of the additional safety regulations. It implies other wiring and main switches, to name a few things. Pretty interesting stuff. Appropriately, we can pay more attention and spend more time on these big projects, and because they're bigger projects, it’s essential that we have more project hours available.”
The Netherlands versus America
"The cultural differences started 10 kilos ago, haha! I don't see any problems, but there are definitely differences. For example, I have a customer who is not a big fan of the Dutch; he considers us too straightforward and expected to do business with an American company. When I go there, it's not always delightful. Generally, I can deal with it, but I definitely have to adapt every time we meet."
In the Netherlands, we are advocating to reduce plastic. When paper can be used, it will be paper we use. In America, less attention is paid to the issue. Everything here is in hefty plastic trays, with a top seal and often even an extra lid. Really, everything here is wrapped in plastic, right down to the knives in my hotel. Recycling is still not given much thought here.
A Wingman in the Netherlands
“JASA America was trailing behind for a long time. Now we operate increasingly on the cutting edge with a professional approach and better tools, making it much more stimulating. JASA suits me really well in that respect. The focus on projects became more comprehensive as of January. In the past, I was a project manager, installation engineer, and service engineer, all at the same time. That is gradually changing since we are experiencing considerable growth. I will still have to start up the projects. But after that, I will be less present on site until we start the commissioning.
Since we design, engineer, and built everything in the Netherlands, managing the details from a distance became increasingly difficult. Therefore, I now have a wingman in the Netherlands, Mohsen. He has been working at JASA for over 9 years; he was the chief of the workshop, the team leader. We've done a lot of projects together, and he has now stepped up to project coordinator. Mohsen fights for our projects and became my ears, eyes, and hands in the Netherlands. A great guy that you can rely and build on!”
- You can read here why JASA is your winning partner for the leafy greens industry in America and Canada: JASA packaging machines in America and Canada – JASA
Living out of a suitcase
Our head office is in Richmond, Virginia. I intend to officially move there this year, but I have not yet been able to find a house there. I'm currently hopping from hotel to hotel and living out of my suitcase. Sometimes I rent a house, depending on where the project is and how long the project will take.
Design is not only what it looks like. Design is also how it works.
Actually, a quote from Apple, but it fits JASA even better. Of course, the eye also yearns for some candy. But at the end of the day, a packaging machine is not a beautiful woman; it's nothing more than a "cold" piece of steel. You can make it a little sexier, but only to some extent. The most important thing is that it does what it's supposed to do, and that's what we stand for at JASA. That's why this quote fits so well with what we do."
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