VDL Weweler, a Dutch company, produces parabolic springs for trailers and trucks, and its innovative power is as resilient as its springs. The company has managed to effectively automate its production process and make it more sustainable, with constant support of WBSO, the R&D tax credit scheme.
"We have been gratefully using this support for the past 20 years ," director Dick Aalderink says. For the last three years, VDL Weweler has been active at a high-tech location in Apeldoorn, where robots are successfully integrated in the production process. "A robot can perform highly constant operations before the material has cooled down too much. And, robots cause relatively few production disruptions," according to Aalderink.
ICT as a core competence
This innovative production process has a long history. "10 years ago, we started thinking about what our ideal factory would look like. Since then, we have introduced elements of this ideal, one step at a time. It basically came down to automation. ICT has become so interwoven with our specific production process that we now have the required know-how in-house. Alongside the production of springs, automation is our principal competence."
45% increase in energy efficiency
"The basic principle for our ideal factory was to consume the least amount of energy possible," Aalderink says. "For example, this could be done by heating up the material just once and eliminating the need to do so a second time. We also use a salt bath instead of oil to harden the material. Salt unlike oil is not a fire hazard, it produces no combustion emissions and salt allows you to create multiple material structures. All hot remodelling steps are linked, yielding a energy reduction of 45%. We use some of the residual heat from the cooling tower for the underfloor heating of our logistical spaces and storerooms."
WBSO is consistent source of money
Due to its energy-saving measures VDL Weweler was also eligible for the Energy Investment Allowance (EIA) scheme. "Even if we had received no EIA subsidy, we would still invest in sustainability and innovation. The only scheme we have used consistently is the WBSO R&D tax credit scheme, which we have indeed been happy to use for the past 20 years. It’s great that you can count on it. It is a consistent form of subsidy. Consequently, it is a fixed part of our R&D,which forces you to think carefully about how to use your development capacity. It lends a sense of focus to your innovative activities. For example, we are currently concentrating on product innovation. New production processes will allow us to make springs with other properties and functionalities. The WBSO can support us in this endeavour, too."
Are you also engaged in future innovation?
Would you like to benefit, just as VDL Weweler did, from the advantages offered by the WBSO? You can easily apply for WBSO support for your R&D project.