Making the impossible, manufacturable

Published on by Component manufacturing. The reading time is approximately 6 minutes.

Wouter Haarhuis is a Project Manager at NTS in Hengelo. He started at Norma, which became NTS in 2016, almost immediately after his graduation. He saw the company change from a small group of people with a cowboy culture to a professional organisation with global customers and strict processes. The combination of streamlined processes, enormous precision, a unique mix of technical competences and a sound understanding of the product, makes NTS unique in the market. The technical complexity is what gives Wouter. "I want to make the impossible, manufacturable. At NTS I get the freedom to do that in the best possible way according to my own estimations."

"When I started at Norma in 2002, I had just left school," Wouter says. “I had completed a study in precision engineering and was in no hurry to find a job. My father was a carpenter, I was helping him with a major project. In the meantime, I was applying and I ended up at Norma. It appealed to me and I could start immediately. It was a very small, fast-growing company at the time and I worked a lot with the owners. It was a real family business, we had a good time together, the atmosphere was open, everything was possible and if we didn't know something 100% sure, then the motto was: when in doubt, just go for it. I have been devoted to this company ever since. "

Change in culture and customers

“When I started working at Norma, it consisted of 60 to 70 people. Over the years it has grown considerably and there have been several acquisitions which has also changed the company culture. "When in doubt, just do it" has made place for well-defined processes and a strict approach. This is accompanied by growth and professionalisation and a different type of customers. You notice that the approach fits a number of customers perfectly and is a total mismatch with some other customers. That is something in which me and one of my colleagues Pieter Smits try to find a balance. Pieter from the perspective of his role as account manager, myself from the point of view as project manager. "

Rock solid projects caused by strict processes

“Our tight project structure is greatly appreciated by specific customers, often operating globally. If we execute it well and exactly go through all defined steps, the total project is solid as a rock. Then we function as the backup of our customers. Then everything is described in detail and the customer knows exactly where he stands. We can do that very well. For example, we recently had a project in which we assisted a supplier of a global semicon company to set up its supply chain and cleanroom assembly. This meant that we had to manage more than 1100 changes in a proper way. Our methods and processes had a perfect fit with the assignment. The customer could really rely on us as a kind of backup.

Strength lies in combination of competences and understanding

“In addition, NTS Hengelo is, like no other, capable of combining technical competences. This combination of competences makes us unique. We can do turning, milling, Wire EDM heat treatment, surface grinding and cylindrical grinding, vacuum soldering, lapping, grade 2 cleanroom assembly and so on. We can realise what seems technically impossible here. We are able to produce and assemble highly accurate products and do so in a highly controlled manner. Moreover, our strength lies in understanding the end goal. In the end, a customer simply needs to have a well-functioning product. This requires that, as a supplier, you have a sound understanding of what the customer really expects and that you fully understand what you are making.”

A unique proposition

“If you have that understanding and you combine all competences and processes, you can do things that no other company can do. For example, we helped a customer with a module that consisted of a stack of lens elements that they purchased from different suppliers and then assembled on top of each other. Time and time again it turned out that it didn’t function. This resulted in many products that had to be returned. On the one hand because it was not well-documented, on the other hand because it was technically very complex due to the many precise roundness’s , flatness’s and surface treatments. We started this project by first taking a critical look at the documentation, next we updated it together with the customer and started production from there. The result was that the first two systems worked immediately after we had stacked the elements and it could also directly be used by the end customer.”

Huge potential not yet fully utilized

“As NTS Hengelo, we have so much potential due to all these qualities, but unfortunately this potential is not yet fully utilized. For example, we are known for being able to use very fine precision, but we also have many machines that are less precise but can run 24 hours a day. Therefore, there must be a sufficient balance between very fine precision and somewhat less precision. And, as I said before, our strict processes are sometimes difficult to explain to some customers. We call this approach "de blauwe draad" (the blue thread). That is not what all customers need. The challenge is to be able to be flexible in our way of working.”

Working on technology gives me energy

“What makes me really happy in my work is the technology, the content. I was a manager for a while but then I noticed that I get energy from technology. I want to make the impossible, manufacturable and I enjoy the freedom that I get to do the best I can at my own discretion. The same freedom also makes it possible to combine my work and private life and find a good balance."

Achieving the impossible with a team

“I also love working with a team. We have achieved something absurd in the past six months. We have succeeded in completing a huge complex project with only five people, worked all summer long and managed it through teamwork. It was on the brink of what can be done, but we did it.”

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