In the village of Roden in the Dutch province of Drenthe, VDH Products BV has been developing and producing mechanical and electronic instruments for measuring temperature, pressure and relative humidity for over 40 years. VDH Products is a modern, customer-oriented organisation with loyal customers all over the world.
The products that VDH develops and produces are based on the latest technologies and innovations. A certain degree of specific know-how is required to set up these advanced products. For example, new controllers and systems have Ethernet connections and communication protocols, which are technologies that require support of one type or another. Some time ago, Ralf Smit was asked to join the Service & Support department at VDH Products to do exactly this job.
Every day, Ralf (25) happily commutes between his home in Assen and his job in Roden and enjoys working in the Service & Support department. “We serve a huge number of markets with our products and solutions, ranging from luxury yachts and car-spraying booths to controls for cooling and freezing systems. Every day here is completely different, and that makes my job really dynamic and interesting. Added to that, I’m also an engineer in the Research & Development department, which means I can use my knowledge in many different ways,” says Smit.
To an increasing extent, users require technical support and specific know-how when installing and commissioning our systems. Because the demand for our products is growing and we operate worldwide, this is becoming more and more of a full-time job.
Besides telephone and online support, our customers can also take part in a free workshop/training on the job at VDH Products so that they learn all about the systems and can easily give themselves the support they need. Smit: “At VDH Products, we always go the extra mile to provide the best possible service. This intensive training takes around one day and teaches our customers how to install VDH systems easily and efficiently.”
Smit and Nijmeijer work hand in hand every day – not literally, of course. “We complement each other really well. Henk specialises in connections and I’m more of a software person, but we’re both very flexible too. In practice, we’ve discovered that we’re a perfect match for the business,” says Smit. “Because I’m not person who’s happy sitting at the computer all day. After all, there’s a reason why I followed the technology study programme Advanced Sensor Applications, ASA, at the Institute of Engineering in Assen. I like puzzles and don’t just focus on the problem but also try to rule out possible causes little by little. So it’s basically a combination of thinking, solving puzzles and trying out different solutions. After all, if something is broken I can’t break it even more.
We can support our customers in many ways and help them with the necessary knowledge and expertise, but at the end of the day they themselves are responsible for their own systems.”
Another quality that typifies the young Smit is the way he gives all his customers a detailed and substantiated answer. “I always want to solve the problem for the customer and I generally manage to do that.” Smit has already had some enlightening experiences in the two years he has been working at VDH Products.
“Every day, I see the strangest things, but there was one particularly ‘interesting’ malfunction when the network on a ship was slowing down at certain moments and nobody could find the cause. Little by little, we worked together to isolate the problem. The cause turned out to be in the galley and it always happened when the chef was busy cooking. The malfunction had been causing problems for several years so it was great to help solve it as a newcomer.
But I’ll also never forget the problem at a banana ripening centre in Germany. The temperature was fluctuating all the time, whereas it needed to be as stable as possible. In the end, we detected a problem with the cables. These are the types of memorable problems that start big but can ultimately be solved easily enough, with a satisfied customer as the end result. And that’s what we do it for.”
In order to provide the best possible support, a distinction is made between ‘basic support’ and ‘comprehensive support’. The former are requests from customers that can easily be resolved within a maximum time frame of one hour and include free telephone and online support. “Comprehensive support involves more complex requests,” Smit explains. “Of course, more time is needed to solve these problems and this type of support is provided by specialised technical experts.”
Smit describes his job using words such as ‘different’, ‘challenging’ and ‘versatile’. He feels very positive about the future. “I hope we can continue working in this way and keep giving our customers the right knowledge and support.
We recently started making videos (tutorial films) with explanations for our customers. And I have lots of other ideas too,” says Smit proudly. Besides our great products that we supply, good service and support are also becoming more and more important. I think that in the future we’ll see even more puzzle-solvers at the Service & Support department.