'Collaboration, I firmly believe in that'

News | December 19, 2018

For most, it's their first look at the high-tech industry. Others experience a new acquaintance with the companies of Innovatiecluster Drachten. On Tuesday 20 November, a high-tech safari will take a delegation from the Smallingerland city council to our companies. With the added bonus of stories from enthusiastic partners.

Taking a bus out irrevocably evokes a school trip feeling. The atmosphere on board is therefore relaxed. Most council members are not familiar with the high-tech companies in our cluster. So time for an introduction. And what better way to do this than with guided tours on location, so that you can see with your own eyes what is happening in the high-tech industry in Drachten.

packing machine

The first stop is at Neopost, where Piet Fellinger talks about 6,000 employees and branches in 32 countries who together provide customers in 90 countries and an annual turnover of 1.1 billion euros. By which? Especially with machines that automatically pack envelopes. ,,But that market will come to an end in a few years'', says Fellinger. "That's why we came up with something new, a packing machine that packs packages to size so that considerable savings can be made on transport and packaging costs." The first prototype is at Bol.com and has provided a lot of useful data for new versions of the machine. to fine-tune further. Fellinger says that he has had a lot of support from colleagues from ICD in this process. “Particularly in the field of big data and sensors. We generate information from all the data to further improve our product, to be able to predict maintenance and thus to serve the customer even better.” At the moment Neopost has delivered 30 automatic packing lines worldwide, two of which to the Bijenkorf in September.

Saving lives

How technology can help people prove BD and Variass. Smart computers and robotic arms enable people to do their work even better. At BD, the councilors see how visual intelligence can be used to determine within 24 hours whether a bacterium is causing an infection and which antibiotic can treat the disease. ,,This takes a traditional laboratory six days'', explains Bas Nieuwenhuis of BD. He and his team are responsible for the operation of the system, with smart cameras and sophisticated software helping doctors and lab technicians to make a diagnosis much faster. ,,This saves lives and that's exactly what we do it for.'' BD has also developed from a local company into an international player that supplies equipment to hospitals and laboratories worldwide.


While the councilors at BD see a fully automatic system, at Variass they are introduced to the cobot. A robot arm that, together with an employee, can place small precision parts exactly in place. ,,This is your new colleague'', says Henk Smid of Variass about the introduction of the robot arm in his company. “It took some getting used to, but employees now find it nice and especially useful to work with the robot arm. They can now perform precision work that previously seemed impossible.”


After all the impressions, Whisper Power is the last stop of the safari. A buffet is waiting here and some enthusiastic speakers are waiting for the council members. Among them is Klaas Jan Hutten from ING, who talks about our cluster with infectious enthusiasm. According to him, the technological change of our time comes together in industry: innovation, digitization and production. “SMEs will face a major challenge in the coming years. How do I keep track of all innovation? Can I invest enough in new techniques? And above all, how do I keep good employees involved in my company?” According to Hutten, if you look at today's world, you need each other to innovate. ,,The companies of Innovatiecluster Drachten understand that well. The ICD inspires other entrepreneurs and makes all kinds of connections, but is above all focused on new business, which creates more work. As a result, the companies of Innovatiecluster Drachten give the region a future, so that it remains liveable for my children. I firmly believe in that.”