The innovative Sleegers Experience Center
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The innovative Sleegers Experience Center

  • 08 March 2021
  • By: Dominique van den Boogaard

Imagine, you are a food producer and need to buy a new machine. Of course you would like to test it first. Preferably with your own product, otherwise it does not count. That turns out to be difficult. Besides, in no other place are conditions exactly like those in your factory. Nowhere? Well, there is: with the realization of the Sleegers Experience Center the Netherlands will soon have a real-life test location.

"When demonstrating and testing our machines, we ran into limitations every time", says Huub Sleegers. "Customers want to see the machine in operation in a real situation, similar to their production process. Producers, however, do not allow competitors into their plant. So I took a cheese producer to visit a meat producer who was working with the desired modules. I would say: 'Something like this,... but different'. Or it went like this: 'Suppose you put the frozen meat here - now we'll just take these rubber slices...' That doesn't work. In the new Experience center, no surrogates and rubber alternatives. The operation of a machine is shown with real product in a realistic test environment."

Focus on the customer

But Sleegers wanted more. It was not just about showing the operation of its own machines in a better way, it was also about taking it a step further. In the Experience Center, the complete production line is set up, from start to finish, from cutting to packaging. "We involve the companies that supply the modules for packaging and labeling, for example, in the sales and development process. How? By having their machines come to Nieuwkuijk. The companies we work with are determined by the customer. We are independent in that respect. Some people want brand A, others want brand B. It does lead to interesting combinations! Right from the sales phase we work in a team, which makes communication run smoothly."

Together with the partners Sleegers builds the production line, exactly as the customer wants it. "We optimally attune the machines and modules to each other, so that it becomes a well-functioning unit. By building up the line here in its entirety, we immediately notice if the process is stagnating somewhere. We also push the technical limits and, together with our cooperation partners, ensure that the promised quantities can actually be achieved. Start-up problems are tackled here, whereas previously this only happened in the factory. We test and refine the line before the customer joins us. 

During the demonstration, the focus lies on the customer. He can ask questions and spar with our R&D team about possible adjustments or additions. Each manufacturer explains its own machines. Any adjustments are discussed directly with the engineers. This working method saves the customer a lot of time and effort." 

Test area for fresh products

In order to be able to test fresh products optimally, the room must of course meet a number of conditions. Hygiene is number one. It must be possible to clean the room and the machines properly. This is one of the reasons why there is a high-quality floor comparable to the floor in a food factory. The room also has a constant temperature of 4 degrees. "Previously, during testing, we worked with freezers in which the products were approximately at the right temperature. Approximately, because the outer bacon pieces were -6 degrees Celsius, and the inner -3. That still gives a distorted picture in the production process. Now we have 3 cold stores and we make sure that all the fresh products have exactly the right processing temperature", explains Huub. 

Win-win-win through optimal teamwork

Every innovative machine builder has its own specialization, focused on a particular part of the production line. The strength of the Sleegers Experience Center lies (among other things) in the cooperation with and between these parties. "In fact, we all have the same customers. The question is: 'Can we form a team that is beneficial for everyone?' Networking, helping and strengthening each other; with that approach, we have already found several parties we can connect with. By doing so, we create win-win-win situations: for our customers, the cooperating parties and for ourselves."

With the realization of this innovative Sleegers Experience Center, Sleegers shows the total solution. Add a relaxed atmosphere and you have a successful recipe for doing business. That 'Huub sauce' has to go over it. "I take all the time I need to get to know a business relation in a personal conversation. It's essential to lay that foundation, to gain trust in each other. There has to be a connection." That personal touch is essential to everything Huub Sleegers does. "My drive doesn't stop at developing machines. There is more. This whole concept was born purely on intuition," he explains. "And on the urge to want to be a step ahead of the market. That mix makes my brain come alive."

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Source: Vakblad Voedingsindustrie 2021