Published 14/08/2016

A day on the road with Laurens Besemer

Svensson’s sales managers are the point of contact for our customers throughout the world. We spend a day following Laurens Besemer, Sales Manager for the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.


We visit installation firm Steetec and Concorde Orchids in Honselersdijk, where three new Svensson screens have been fitted in a four-hectare greenhouse.


We meet Laurens at the office of the ever cheery men from screen installation firm Steetec, where the coffee is always percolating. The point of this meeting for Laurens is to get an idea of the progress of a major project at Concorde Orchids. And whether the new Svensson screens that Steetec has fitted for the Phalaenopsis growers (with the exception of a couple of roofs) are fulfilling expectations.

We speak with directors Hans and Paul van Steekelenburg and salesman Wilco van den Bos. They seem relaxed, as the job at Concorde Orchids is nearly complete. Over the past 17 weeks various teams have been on the go day and night removing two old screens and replacing them with three new ones.

It’s a comprehensive renovation, including wires, cables, motors and profiles. There was no shortage of complicating factors. The greenhouse is just four metres tall, for instance. Furthermore, it had to be possible for the work with robots to simply continue, even though the room for manoeuvre was exceedingly limited, says Wilco, responsible for customer communication. “We proposed replacing all atlas wires at night, between 18:00 and 03:00. The new screens went in during the day. Our planning also had to take the weather into account, as the customer had elected to replace the screen system in the winter. But fortunately things worked out really well. We barely had any cold weather. A couple of other things that help are good communication and a flexible mindset. And, of course, a good team.”

“You put energy into a relationship and if you get it right then it’ll yield great things.”

Concorde Orchids was visited by a consultant from Svensson beforehand to chart all wishes in advance. The old screens – LUXOUS 1347 FR and TEMPA 6965 FR  - were a decade old and needed replaced. Laurens: “Their stated wish was to control the length of the day precisely. Moving forward, they wanted to work with three screens: one translucent screen for energy saving (LUXOUS), one blackout screen (Obscura) and a diffusing screen (New Harmony). What's more, they always use chalk on the covering, giving you plenty of options. Then you need to consider what screens  work best with the painted covering, , and what the effects of this will be on CO2, light, climate, etc. Daring to grow differently is imperative. They’re really innovative in their efforts and we didn’t have many objections. After a few discussions we were out of there.”


We get in the car and head to Concorde Orchids’ greenhouse, just over a mile down the road. It’s sunny spring weather. We are cordially welcomed by the brothers Ad, René and Ed van Marrewijk, who are working at their computers . Mother’s Day has just passed and their happy faces reveal that sales have been robust. Concorde Orchids is in the top segment, on a par with Optiflor and Ter Laak.

Steetec’s team is now busy putting in the final screens. Project Manager Remco joins the discussion for a while. Youngest brother Ed pays him a compliment: “Thanks to Steetec’s team, the job is nearly complete and all challenges and issues have been remedied in proper harmony. You could, of course, still come up with a good plan like this in advance. But at the end of the day it’s about having the right people in the right place. For a job like this you need experienced guys who are keen to contribute to the thinking process. I have to hand it to them - they excelled themselves.”


A good screen system is extremely important for cultivating top quality, says grower René. “The greenhouse climate has to be as constant as possible. We also want to subject the plants to a 12-hour day/night rhythm, like it is in nature as well. If you expose the plants to light for too long, then they don’t get enough rest. And that results in paler plants with fewer twigs in the autumn. The Obscura screen enables us to render the greenhouse pretty much lightproof. At the same time we’re ready for any more stringent lighting regulations. This screen means we’re futureproof.”


Laurens explains that the New Harmony sheet wasn’t actually in the tender, but it was nevertheless possible to deliver this on time, even though a bit more persuasion was required. Incidentally, the growers are delighted with the New Harmony screen. “You can see that the distribution of light is much more even over the entire roof, even if the screen is not completely sealed. As a result, I’m anticipating less unevenness in terms of drying out”, says Ed.


Among growers the expectation is that the higher level of light and the better light distribution will benefit plant quality. René is expecting an additional energy saving of 10-15%. Ad adds: “We don’t have to cultivate more rapidly, but we do want to grow plants that are better and better, heavier and heavier. We’d rather have 10-15% more twigs than an increased rate of cultivation. That's something you can only achieve if you have a better plant. In any case we’re about a month to six weeks longer in terms of shelf life than the competition.” We take a peek into the processing room, which is a hive of activity.


We see a really colourful pallet of Phalaenopsis plants in 12 cm pots rolling through the greenhouse. We check out the robots, the cooling system and the cultivation areas with brand-new screens. I ask René whether he now thinks that he has discovered the perfect system: “Things are going swimmingly so far!” Ad talks about such things as the latest trends in colour (yellow is out, lilac is in), the provenance of the young plants (Anthura) and a passer-by lets slip the secret of perfect plants after several days in transit (ethylene blocks in the cold store).


Following the visit we drive to Laurens’ house in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, where he reflects upon a good meeting. He states happily that everything is going according to plan. His schedule this afternoon involves a couple of phone calls to customers, a quotation and a full inbox. Tomorrow he will be attending a clinic to undergo an operation for a hernia, which he has been walking around with since last August. I ask him what he likes about his work. “The variety, the freedom and the commercial aspects - the latter being something you need to have in your blood to a certain extent. The fun thing is that you can reap what you sow, putting energy into a relationship and if you get it right then it’ll yield great things. That’s our philosophy too: ‘If you nurture it, it will grow.’ You nurture the relationships with the grower and installer, and if a solid cooperation is the result then I’m happy.”

What does he think of family firm Svensson? “The culture here is completely different to what it is at a company listed on the stock exchange like Intel, where I worked for six months. Svensson - where I’ve been working for eight years now - focuses on the long term and does a lot for its people: training, coaching, career planning and suchlike. They get involved too. If you’re off sick then the top boss calls you to say get well soon. I like that.”


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