When the workshop caught fire barely a week before Van Werven’s 65th anniversary, it looked as though all hopes of celebration had gone up in smoke. Inside the workshop was an antique Volvo H10 loader — the first machine ever purchased by the Dutch equipment hire company — which was to be the star feature of an anniversary party held at the company headquarters in Oldebroek, Central Netherlands. It had taken seven retired engineers 20 weeks to renovate the machine in time for the party.
Hearing the news, the engineers pledged to work extra hours to repair the machine in time. But miraculously, the H10 survived the fire without a scratch. It just needed a good clean after turning from bright yellow to ash-black. The crisis was strangely fitting, because it highlighted that team spirit is what has seen the company through the last six-and-a-half decades.
Bringing the Past Back to Life
Van Werven has grown from a one-man venture to a thriving franchise. The late W.J. van Werven started the business in 1945 to trade in agricultural machinery and materials. In 1969, Van Werven bought the company’s first loader from Volvo Construction Equipment — then called Bolinder Munktell.
The Volvo H10 was an innovative back-end loader, based on a tractor design with a loader unit over the bigger wheels. The new design created possibilities for heavier loads and higher breakout forces and it paved the way for future wheel loader designs.
The purchase formed a relationship with Volvo that has lasted ever since.
Today, Van Werven has 45 Volvo wheel loaders (L120, L90, L70, L50), 19 Volvo crawler excavators (EC140, EC180, EC210, EC240, EC290, EC360) and Volvo wheeled excavators (EW140, EW160, EW180), and two Volvo articulated haulers (A25D) supplied by Kuiken, Volvo’s dealer in the Netherlands. Kuiken supplied Van Werven with the old H10 for renovation.
“The business partnership between Kuiken and Van Werven is one that we are very proud of,” said Jelle Bosscha from Kuiken. “I look to the future with great confidence that we will be able to continue this relationship for the next six decades.”
Machine rental for infrastructure is Van Werven’s biggest area, but it also operates in two other divisions: waste collection and recycling (recycling of synthetic materials for new products), and sustainability and environment (production of biomass chips to generate green energy).
By acquiring several companies in the area of waste collection and transport, Van Werven has expanded from 75 employees to 250 and today it has six offices, including the head office in Oldebroek. Although the company has grown, it still remains a family business. The late W.J. van Werven’s three sons: Hendrik, Gerrit and Jan joined the company in 1977. Today, only Jan still works for the company (alongside Hendrik’s three sons Wilfred, Herbert and Cor) and he was managing director until Ton van der Giessen took over in January 2011. Jan was heavily involved in the H10 restoration project and the keys to the machine were presented to him at the anniversary party.
“It is a real achievement for us to celebrate 65 years in business and we couldn’t have done it without all the hard work from our employees,” said Jan van Werven. “Van Werven’s management team truly appreciates everyone’s efforts in making the celebrations possible. Particularly the efforts of our previous employees in renovating the H10. It shows that they still have a connection with the company.
“We would also like to thank Volvo for providing us with the machine and for their support over the years. This project has further strengthened our relations.”
More than 6,000 visitors came to the head office to celebrate with Van Werven, including local press, customers, company employees and their families and children.
“Before the H10 was stripped, it still ran like a well-oiled machine, but it didn’t look like one. So, our task was to make it look beautiful and I took great pleasure in doing that together with six old-colleagues,” said ex-engineer Jan Sijtsma.“We were very lucky that the H10 wasn’t completely destroyed in the fire. It was so satisfying to see the final result. It was a real eye-catcher at the anniversary celebration”
As a reward for their hard work, the seven engineers and their families will be flown to Sweden for three days courtesy of Van Werven and Kuiken. Some of the engineers have never even been on a plane before.
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