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Whether it concerns shipping, aerospace or agriculture & horticulture, our society cannot function without the manufacturing technology industry. That this industry is deeply rooted in South Holland will soon become obvious in March to those who visit ZIE 2023, the central meet-up spot for the tech industry. One of the keynote speakers is Jan van der Tempel, CEO of Ampelmann Operations. He spoke to IO about how his company, a supplier of offshore gangway systems, grew from a start-up to a global player. “Collaboration with other companies is exciting and challenging, but ultimately brings you much further.”

As the Netherlands continues to ratchet up its climate goals and ambitions with regard to digitalization, the demand for innovative technologies is also accelerating at a rapid pace. It comes as no surprise then that at present, the technological manufacturing industry is a real growth engine within the Netherlands. This is particularly evident in South Holland. The region is now home to more than 30,000 manufacturing companies and suppliers.

Stronger together

Yet highly promising innovation calls for structural, cross-sectoral collaboration as well as the sharing of knowledge between all concerned parties. That is the philosophy underlying the event ZIE 2023: the technology industry, which Hi Delta and Mikrocentrum are jointly organizing on March 21 at the Van Nelle Factory in the Dutch city of Rotterdam.

The program is broad in scope. In addition to lectures by various keynote speakers, visitors will be introduced to dozens of companies and organizations on the expo floor. For instance, in the Space, Robotics and Metal pavilions. A Start-up & Scale-up square has also been set up. In addition, Rabobank, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and several schools will also be present at the event.

Van der Tempel is looking forward to the event and stresses the need for it. “We are all faced with an enormous task. The transition to a sustainable future is not going to happen overnight. The event is the perfect opportunity to hook people up with each other to tackle this challenge.”

Another branch of sport

Collaboration has been a key theme at Ampelmann from the outset. That is one of the messages the CEO is keen to convey during his presentation. The company that once started as a spin-off from TU Delft, builds gangways that are hired out for crossings between ships and drilling rigs at sea. Van der Tempel, inventor of the system, drew his inspiration for the design from an entirely different field: that of aircraft simulators. “A presentation at a conference in Berlin led us to the issue of safe transfer at sea: ships move in all 6 directions. An aircraft simulator can mimic those same movements, but also countersteer. The concept of Ampelmann was thus born. So you can see that the start of Ampelmann actually began with a cross-sectoral idea.”

Grand ambitions

Since then, Ampelmann has grown into a true global player with grand ambitions. “Currently, our sights are set on making the gangway more energy efficient. We are now busy working on electrifying the Ampelmann, as the system is called. At the moment, it still runs on diesel but it turns out that it can achieve exactly the same performances with 90 percent less energy. In other words, it’s a giant leap forward.”

For that to happen, the company is working with TU Delft and companies in the area, among other things. One example is Airborne Composites, design and construction partner of advanced lightweight composite structures and among other things, also active in the aerospace domain. “We can learn a lot from each other where design processes and certification are concerned. In aerospace, they’ve gone through this in these processes, we’ve done that in offshore. Both of which are extremely challenging and demanding industries, yet also different. In this respect, we complement each other pretty well.”

Ampelmann and Batenburg JB Systems have also been loyal partners of each other for many years. Batenburg focuses on industrial automation solutions for customers in machinery manufacture, offshore and process industries. “They are really strong in the area of software engineering. Our strength lies in concept design, which they’re able to program in a robust way.” So you see once again: “Collaboration with other companies is exciting and challenging, but ultimately brings you much further.”

Only in South Holland

To put it bluntly, Van der Tempel is convinced that Ampelmann could not have grown into a successful company with global reach anywhere other than in South Holland. “We can accomplish so incredibly much together here. Moreover, Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam, which connect us to the rest of the world, are all within easy reach. As such, the region has all the components needed to take the manufacturing industry to the next level.”

More than just dirty overalls

Also, ZIE 2023 is an indispensable ingredient to reach that level. “We need to get people, especially the younger generation, enthused about the manufacturing industry. Over the next 30 years, we are going to turn our energy system inside out and we need an awful lot of hands to pull that off. Fortunately, that’s something that we’re good at here in the region. Visitors to the event will get to experience that for themselves.”

At the end of the day, more and more people will recognize that work within the manufacturing industry is so much more than the standard image of people in dirty overalls working in factory halls. “I can tell you from personal experience that it’s really enjoyable work. And ultimately, you can earn a good crust this way too!”


This story is the result of a collaboration between Mikrocentrum and our editorial team. Innovation Origins is an independent journalism platform that carefully chooses its partners and only cooperates with companies and institutions that share our mission: spreading the story of innovation. This way we can offer our readers valuable stories that are created according to journalistic guidelines. Want to know more about how Innovation Origins works with other companies? Click here