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From ‘make to stock’ to ‘make to order’

Heras has a rich history. In a series of articles, we look back at some of the key developments in our history. In part 9, we focused on our innovations and the launch of new business units. In part 10, you can read how business units Heras Construction Site Fencing and Heras Production came into being.

From ‘make to stock’ to ‘make to order’

From a rented garage to an enterprise with foreign branches and new business units. Since its inception in 1952, Heras has developed into a key player in the fencing market. Founder Frans Ruigrok has an eye for new opportunities and seizes them with both hands to grow his business. 

Heras starts out as a centrally managed company. Then local assembly teams are assigned that keep growing in numbers and importance. The teams are better equipped to assess local situations than the employees based in Oirschot. Division of the organisation into regions is the next logical step. Heras branches in Roosendaal, Leiden, Vianen, Born, Dordrecht, Rijssen and Drachten, together with the Heras parent company in Oirschot, drive revenue and profit growth to unprecedented levels. Despite being fairly successful staff shortage still forms a weak point, limiting further revenue growth. In 1989, the company decides to downsize, reducing the number of branches to six larger units. That number is further reduced to four in 1992.

Huge shift in thinking

Until the late 1980s production is a strongly dominant activity within Heras, threatening the company’s ability to respond and adapt to market demands. Heras employee Henk Bouwmans recalls: ‘In determining minimum stock levels, the need to have enough inventory to prevent stock-out always won out over the actual demand. In the 1980s, methods to better regulate the flow of goods were very limited.’ In 1990, the time is right for a new approach. From a traditional, stock-producing company, Heras Production is transformed into a modern business with a make-to-order (MTO) production strategy, in which manufacturing starts only once a customer’s order is received. This transition involves an entirely new way of working and the introduction of a logistics management application. ‘Until then automation was only used for administrative and commercial purposes,’ says Ton van den Besselaar, Head of Automation. ‘This was a huge shift in thinking for us and required a lot of guidance and training.’

New type of fence

Heras Construction Site Fencing is born when Ruigrok brings a new type of construction site fencing to the market. The then widely used safety fences – welded wire mesh fences attached to (often rotting) wooden posts – do not provide sufficient protection. Also, theft of construction materials is becoming an increasingly frequent problem as well as people walking on and off construction sites, leading to unsafe situations. Ruigrok comes up with the idea of a wire mesh panel of 2 metres high and 3.5 metres wide. The concrete base is easily made in Heras’ own concrete factory. This new type of fence is a huge success, not just in the Netherlands but in many other countries in Europe. Heras Construction Site Fencing contributes greatly to the company’s profitability and its reputation in both the Dutch and the European market. In 1999, Heras Construction Site Fencing becomes a fully-fledged business unit and continues under a new name: Mobile Fencing.