Ruurd Schut, Sales Manager, joins JASA in January 2019 with a clear goal: to set up a JASA office in Germany. With success as a year and a half later, JASA indeed established a German office, hired a German employee, and attracted new German customers in the convenience sector.
From the oil and gas branch to the packaging industry
Ruurd feels like a fish in the water at JASA but has not been swimming in the packaging pond for very long. "I stem from the oil and gas field, a completely different world. But I know Eduard de Haan for about twenty years, we've worked together in the past, and through him, I ended up at JASA. When it was time for JASA to take the step to Germany, he knocked on my door. He asked me if I wanted to investigate and work out how we could unlock JASA's potential in Germany". A challenge that appealed to Ruurd.
The Projects department
The Sales department performs two activities: selling standard JASA machines through the dealer network, which is handled by the Export department, and second the Projects department. Ruurd will be responsible for all of JASA's project-related sales, not only in Germany but also in the Netherlands. "We handle the direct sales to end-users. This often entails complete systems, not just a packing system, but it can also, for instance, include, weighers, infeed and outfeed systems". The Projects Department is primarily active in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, North America, Austria, and Switzerland.
The responsibilities of a Sales Manager
While sales representatives take care of today's order intake, Ruurd focuses on tomorrow's orders "I mainly deal with new developments. Things like new techniques, but also, for instance, setting up the new office in Germany. My main focus is on the future, whereby I support the sales reps in their daily business. For example, I may assist with difficult projects or the communication with a customer if that is not going completely smoothly. In those cases, I am the rush goalie.”
The vast convenience-market potential in Germany
Although his activities are very diverse, Ruurd's focus over the past year was on Germany's new office. Why Germany? "Ready to eat packaging, meal packages, sliced fruits, meal salads. Dutch supermarkets are loaded with it. In Germany, this is an emerging market.” Partly because convenience foods are mainly bought by two-person households and people who have the money to spend to opt for convenience. "Nowhere else in Europe is the composition of households growing to single and double households as fast as in Germany.” JASA has a strong position in the Netherlands' convenience packaging market and recognized the increasing demand for convenience opportunities in Germany. "All the essential criteria for JASA's success are there!”
The Netherlands has a good reputation
Another advantage in Germany is the positive reputation of the Netherlands in this market. "You will find that in several ways. In Germany, greenhouses are called 'Venlo Häuser,' since they are familiar with Venlo's greenhouses from the Netherlands. We have a customer in Stuttgart producing tomatoes who only uses Dutch equipment. When I asked him why, he replied: "The Netherlands is spearheading in this area, so if it's good for the Netherlands, it's good for us." Germans see the Netherlands as a benchmark because the Netherlands is the second-largest agricultural exporter globally, which is remarkable for such a small country. "Being a Dutch company, we do stand a good chance there."
Ruurd fully focused on Germany, which resulted in the establishment of JASA’s German branch. "In the run-up to this, I undertook various actions, including direct sales. Last year JASA started packing apples in cardboard trays with cardboard sleeves; by doing so, we managed to attract several leading parties in Germany". Ruurd also started a search for German employees and is the first German JASA employee a fact. "Because we are now officially registered in Germany, we can offer our employees a German labor contract. This is valuable because it allows them to switch within their own collective labor agreement. While at the same time, their pension plan is guaranteed." The site in Germany will have a sales and service organization, for practical reasons, the engineering and production departments will remain in Alkmaar. "yet, in Germany, JASA truly operates as a German entity."
Space and capacity in Alkmaar
As engineering and production for Germany will take place in Alkmaar, it will become a lot busier there. "We have the space and the capacity, and we are well prepared and have equipped ourselves for this; still, it is a challenge. We have set targets for Germany, but if we unexpectedly go beyond those targets, the Alkmaar team will have to respond to that challenge." Ruurd anticipates significant growth in Germany. "I imagine that with new branches abroad we will achieve an increase of fifty percent within the next five years, mainly in Germany and America. JASA is presenting itself in more and more countries. "It's expanding all the time, we recently connected with a company in Austria. And there is a lot of potential in neighboring countries that we are not yet exploiting; that, however, is undoubtedly going to happen!”
Professional family business
JASA's vision of the future is different than Ruurd is used to. "JASA is working on a long-term goal. Our aim is not to become the largest company in Germany but to create a company with proven strength and with a good name. A financially healthy company, while we maintain the family business atmosphere. The packaging industry is dominated by family businesses. In contrast to the oil and gas industry, the world I came from, which is dominated by huge companies with little or no interest in their employees. They are totally focused on profit maximization. JASA is a healthy company that is committed to its employees and wants to offer them a future. "Their employees are one of the reasons why JASA wants to grow in their product program as well as geographically."
When Ruurd looks back at opening the branch in Germany, he realizes that he has encountered very few bumps. "The process went smoothly. Of course, COVID-19 suddenly emerged, which did not help the process on the one hand, yet in a certain way, it did. Last year we experienced explosive growth with all its consequences. Since that is not the case this year, we had more time to create our product configurator. In that sense, COVID-19 helped us. We had our hands a bit more free". JASA also experienced that people eat more at home, another positive development. "People eat more home-cooked meals, which means that they pamper themselves more at home and buy more luxurious items in supermarkets. So now you see enormous growth in tapas sales." However, it's not all peaches and cream. "The companies we serve who, in turn, supply the hospitality industry experienced a drop in turnover of eighty to ninety percent, which, to put it mildly, is tough."
With more time on their hands, JASA started to work diligently on their configurator. "We are now in the final phase of building the configurator. Marleen Bakker handled the graphic design, she made it look fantastic, and it works perfectly!” What does a configurator do? "When we prepare a quotation, we select all the components, which results in a drawing. That drawing with all the measurements is included in the quotation." The configurator's functionalities ensure that no mistakes are made during the process of creating the quotation by choosing the right options for a packaging machine or line. "The configurator is a huge help to us, that's why I wanted it to be ready before we started in Germany. Thanks to the configurator, we can now offer quality quotations in correct German in Germany. It allows our people there to promptly make flawless quotations without being dependent on us.”
The way Ruurd perceives the new development
Ruurd is very enthusiastic about JASA's decision to set up a branch in Germany. "It was time for JASA to take this step. This is the kind of development that allows JASA to take even more major steps after this. I can imagine that over time JASA will become a leading player in a particular packaging segment in Germany. Especially in the convenience sector, we can take on a leading role."
Although JASA has great ambitions in Germany, there are no hard numbers attached to the targets. "The objective is not to generate as much turnover as possible in five years but to bring in projects and satisfy our customers with high-quality products. The goal is to realize projects that earn us a reasonable amount of money". In other words, JASA is committed to sustainable growth with a long-term goal rather than to become a one-hit-wonder.
Ruurd is happy bij JASA
Ruurd is very happy at JASA. "I enjoy going to work again, that wasn't the case in the past. I was 58 years old when I joined JASA; how many people make a career switch at 58? It was quite the decision. The fact that I also received great offers from the oil and gas community didn't make it any easier for me. But I thought it would be nice to do something completely different. Another aspect that played a role is the fact that I know Eduard very well. If Eduard says something is interesting for me, then I'm willing to take my chances. And I'm still happy that I took this step."