Thu, 13/07/2017 - 13:27
Current Issue 34
Going the Extra Mile
Valx is working on an upward trajectory, in the direction of modernisation, large scale production and axle specification for the European market and further afield
Project Manager: Matthew Cole-Wilkin
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Valx is a Company of ever evolving stature, with an impressive reputation when considering its young age; founded in 2009 by a Dutch trading company, with the benefit of a previous 20 years experience as a distributor in the industry.
Two years ago the Company was acquired by Chinese manufacturing giant FUWA, and with the biggest axle manufacturer in the world joining its team, the Company has had to adapt its strategy.
“Our axles were coming across from China, fully dressed with brakes and hubs, with the remainder of the parts provided and mounted locally in Europe,” explains Martin Van Willigen, Managing Director of Sales and Operations. “In order to maximise efficiency, we wanted to make our supply chain as lean as possible in order to be able to carry out the final assembly of products locally.”
This has been achieved by the Company to great success, with assembly hubs in the Netherlands, Spain and looking to build a hub in Poland in the near future. Having made these changes to its strategy, Valx is able to act quickly on customer requests with the assembly being housed as close as possible to the end customer.
“During our period of transition over the past few years, a lot of industry experts have been employed to develop our axle range,” explains Van Willigen. “Around the same time we also worked closely with the leading suppliers in the industry to continue building our strong and respected reputation.”
Expanding product range
It is unquestionable that Valx’s product range has been relatively limited in comparison to its competition, a fact that is quickly changing since FUWA took over ownership of the Company.
“We needed to work with FUWA as much as possible in terms of our product development and regional sales, with the first port of call being our axles,” affirms Van Willigen. “Now we call them the building blocks of our axle, with a modular design which is enabling us to create new ‘flavours’ of axle.
“We have been able to develop a 13 tonne axle as well as our original nine tonne, based upon these building blocks and taking our basic design while upgrading the size we are working with.”
The Company has built up close relationships with its partners and suppliers, especially during the past few years, working side by side within all aspects of the business.
“Our competitors only supply full package with axle and suspension and what we try to do differently is that we are also willing to sell an axle without suspension,” continues Van Willigen. “The advantage then for customers is that they can use their own suspension instead of us demanding they use ours, which provides them with great flexibility.
“Our axles come from China and the suspension from the Netherlands and for big trailer builders, it enables them to do the assembly of the suspension themselves and it doesn’t need to be at a local hub in the Netherlands for example and they can do it on their own which makes the whole process more cost effective for our customers.”
In doing that, the Company has enabled itself to focus on its core strength - creating axles - and utilising its suppliers to support the surrounding needs.
“Previously we have just focused our core strength in axle production in Europe, however, now we are looking to branch our operations outside of Europe to areas that currently require European specifications of axles,” adds Van Willigen. “A prime example of this is in China where our mother company is based; it is now following the European specifications and selling axles for the domestic market, enabling the end users to be privy to the use of low maintenance axles.”
Other markets that Valx is looking to branch into outside of Europe are South Korea and South Africa - among others - while also exploring the other areas that currently require European specification axles that the Company can work on establishing.
“Excitingly, we are also looking to open up our own branch of the Company in Dubai, in order to look after the Middle East,” explains Van Willigen. “From that point we see a lot of growth potential for the use of our European specification axle, however, for now we will be placing the majority of our investment in China where the manufacturing takes place.”
Research and development focus
Instead of spreading itself thin in too many areas, Valx has steered away from carrying out its own manufacturing, allowing itself to focus on research and development and sales, subsequently being able to take time to hire the right people for the job, looking for those that have built a solid network in the industry over time.
Van Willigen continues: “We try to employ locally for each region, a recent example being the new team member we have working in Germany and we believe it is important to have these locals working in their area.”
In researching its potential employees closely, the Company is able to recruit skilled and incredibly experienced workers to join the Valx team, a good example being the new members of the sales department.
Ulrich Donauer, a new member of the Valx team mentioned: “I decided to join Valx after seeing huge potential for the product. Its axles have been developed by the most experienced and qualified professionals in the European axle industry.
“With the addition of FUWA - the biggest trailer manufacturer - Valx is a serious contender in axle supplies and I strongly believe in the success of the Company.”
Another exciting new member of the team is Bart Sloot, an automotive engineer, who began his career as a Valx supplier at VDL Weweler.
“I’m very much looking forward to beginning this new challenge at Valx and returning to the trailer business,” comments Sloot. “From experience I have seen the excellent quality of the Valx products and together with the experienced team, I will do my best to further expand the market share of the Company.”
Through these experts and hiring similar people to cover each sector of the Company, Valx will be able to continue its positive growth in the industry.
“We hope that in time we will have a wider range of products, at present we are focused on the nine tonne segment which is our predominant market, sitting at around 90 percent,” concludes Van Willigen. “It will be exciting to progress into a full nine to 13 tonne programme, it is something we are aiming to achieve while also building our network across Europe and further afield.”