Heras has a rich history. In a series of articles, we look back at some of the key developments in our history. In part 4 we talked about Heras’ development into a professional sales organisation, a period in which turnover reached unprecedented levels. In part 5, you can read about the company’s relocation to Oirschot and how Frans Ruigrok succeeds in attracting skilled workers.
Heras – a flagship fencing company
In the early 1960s Heras becomes market leader in its segment. Customers such as the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), the Dutch Railways and the Government Buildings Agency depend on the company from Eindhoven to meet their fencing needs. Heras is bursting at the seams and starts searching for a new location.
Aside from its rapid growth, there are other factors influencing Heras’ decision to relocate, such as the company’s export plans and the fact that it is struggling to find qualified workers in Eindhoven. Talks are held with the municipalities of Geldermalsen, Zevenaar, Didam and Culemborg, but the Eindhoven region turns out to be the most ideal. Its excellent road network connections to Belgium and Germany make it a prime location for future export activities. Heras founder Frans Ruigrok eventually discovers Oirschot, a town situated where the Wilhelmina canal and the yet-to-be-built A58 motorway meet. From here, raw materials for the concrete factory such as sand and gravel can be delivered cheaply by water, and the final products can be transported by road in every direction.
The new concrete factory is completed in 1964, followed by the metal workshop in 1965 and the office building in 1966. The entire operation goes as planned, smooth and without a hitch. On Friday, the office staff finish their work at the Rondweg in Eindhoven and on Monday they start their new week in Oirschot. Heras presently has 60 employees and a turnover of six million guilders. At the official opening of the new building, Ruigrok in his speech refers to Heras as the Netherlands’ flagship fencing company. Jan Franssen, chairman of the staff association, is next to speak. He seizes the opportunity to elaborate on the words of the big boss. ‘Heras may be a beautiful flagship with a good captain, but without participation in decision-making there’s always a risk of sailing off course.’ These words would mark the starting signal for the establishment of Heras’ Works Council.
A sceptical, wait-and-see attitude
In the run-up to the 1964 relocation, Heras decides to stop hiring staff from Eindhoven. Instead, the company attempts to find new employees in Oirschot. Informational evenings are held, but they are not well attended. The residents of Oirschot are not familiar with the industry and worry about the effect of Heras on life in the village. Fathers visit the evenings to check out the company before letting their daughters apply for a job. The people of Oirshot are sceptical, to say the least. Sales leader Herman Wijn recalls: ‘People applied for a job up to two years after we opened our doors in Oirshot. These were the same people who had sized us up at the informational evenings. The few locals who dared to jump on board received a full travel allowance and were sent to the Rondweg in Eindhoven to learn on location.’
Working with subcontractors
In the year in which Heras prepares for the move to Oirshot, Ruigrok introduces an assembly concept with regular subcontractors. The idea came to Ruigrok after a rival company was bought up. Heras is asked to install an extremely heavy, seven kilometre-long fence around the BP refinery in Europoort with square concrete piles. Ruigrok hires a subcontractor, Van Lierop from Heeze, to do the job. The installation takes place under very difficult circumstances, but Van Lierop’s staff are inventive in coming up with effective solutions, present themselves well and stand for what they do. From that time on, Van Lierop is hired for assembly work, which is carried out under the Heras flag, using Heras cars and material. Van Lierop receives a fixed assembly price for each type of fence. From now on, Ruigrok works with independent assembly teams which, at a stroke, resolves his personnel problems.