“If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?”
(among others) Alexander Hamilton
It was Hamilton who put the above question to Arron Burr. Burr, VP of the USA in the year 1805, took the view that it was better to take the middle ground on things you were for or against to allow for little or no resistance to his type of leadership. Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury, disagreed with him on this. If you stand for nothing, then you have no conviction and are more a follower than a leader. Their political rivalry did not end well. What can we take from this lesson in history; who was right?
In my opinion, it is very important for leaders to express just what they ‘stand for’, regardless if to do with the world of politics or business. As an organisation, you must be able to communicate your convictions, your vision, your commitment. Both to the outside world and to your own employees. Clients who recognise themselves in this, are more likely to connect. Employees who believe in your vision will be more motivated.
Practically speaking, this is not quite so 1-2-3. It is likely, at least, if there is sufficient agreement over the direction you’re taking, that your vision, your opinions, are well-known among loyal employees and clients – not just through words, but also through deeds. People feel ‘at home’, at ease, and that makes for pleasant collaboration. Improved communication could also enhance this feeling.
That’s why I think there is an opportunity for all of us, including myself, to disseminate our standpoints better. Particularly in times of crisis, like the war in the Ukraine or the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that employees and partners know exactly where you stand. Crises = Woes, and just sometimes, you can take all those cares away. Do you go anywhere the wind blows, or do you dare to take a stand when you need to? Do you dare to spread the word on that?
This Annual Report is our chance to show you just what we stand for. Loyal customers know that we stand by our agreements and that they can trust us with any necessary challenges. They know that we know all the challenges in the building trade and in this industry and that we are flexible when it comes to changes to requests. They know that we endeavour to save the environment through reduced CO2 emissions and promote ‘circularity’. Employees know that our care for their wellbeing also means that we respect the wishes of all. They know that solidarity means togetherness and not division. As a family affair, this is deeply rooted in our DNA and the seeds were planted a long, long time ago. It’s our job to nurture those seeds and to allow them to flourish. Sure, they need the sun and the rain. They need fertiliser and they need weeding now and then. This is our contribution to society, our legacy if you will.
Will it work? Well, this year once again, we can be proud of our results. Read all about it in this Annual Report for 2021.
General Managing Director
This Annual Report is our chance to show you just what we stand for.
We assist clients in benefiting from valuable solutions
New slackening structures from Nauta protect this bridge on the Prinses Margriet Canal (NL) from collisions and make this canal suitable for larger vessels.
Board of directors
Although all the companies are active in the market under their own name and in their own regions, and also run independently via own management teams, collaboration and synergy within GB Steel Group is an ever-more important theme. There are various umbrella teams continually developing, for example in the area of human capital, QHSE management systems, automation and IT. This allows us to work efficiently for the future – spearheading automation, talent development, sustainability and the extension of services for our clients.
GB Steel Group is run by a Management Team consisting of MDs from all the divisions, a group comptroller and a General Manager. The administrative organisation is under the supervision of the group comptroller and procedures and reports within the group are very detailed, standardised and formalised.
To facilitate a continued growth, a three-man Board was formed in 2019, above the MT that, besides Bob Soetekouw as General Managing Director of GB Steel Group, also includes Rieks Jansen as Commercial MD and Wouter Faber as Technical MD of GB Steel Group. Rieks Jansen will mainly focus on exploiting synergy on a commercial level and Wouter Faber will coordinate the technical innovations within the group.
The Board will report to the Supervisory Board (still to be established), as per the law pertaining to two-tier companies. The Supervisory Board will be formally appointed in 2022. A Works Council is already active. The GB Steel Group Board and the MT is currently comprised of men only. The divisions’ MTs, in GB Steel Group management and the Supervisor Board, women are already active. Attention has been given in the HR policy to this disparity and we strive for a more balanced gender mix.
To us, enterprise is like a trip with no destination, one long unending game going on and on. The world continuously changes and if you can adapt, you’ll continue to succeed. Society ensures various, elaborate challenges. Climate change, job scarcity, energy transitions and the fast growth and magnitude of technological developments. As a family run business, we want to make a valuable contribution to all of this. We set ourselves goals along our way, but we realise that it doesn’t just stop there. That’s what makes the difference.
By 2024, we want to:
Have raised our turnover by 35% compared to 2020
Work in accordance with the Safety Culture Ladder phase 3
Be the preferred choice of partner to all the big, relevant client bidders out there, within the Netherlands
Increase our share of the work abroad
Want to know how we plan to do this? Read here about our strategy.
Health & Safety
Safe working conditions are top priority at GB Steel Group. Safety mode is always ON at GB Steel Group. We are committed to continuously improve safety awareness within our organisation. We share knowledge, apply strict safety policies and encourage employees to always be aware of safety risks. Where necessary, we take measures to prevent dangerous situations and we endeavour to reduce the number of unsafe events, with fewer incidents (absence, accidents) as a result. In addition, the group considers the employees’ health, safety and job satisfaction of great import. We continue therefore to invest in creating a safe working environment.
Passion for steel
We just love constructive challenges in the utility build sector as well as infra, transport and industrial sectors. Our passion ensures that we help our clients with all their requests and challenges. We know only too well that the amount of requests at the start of a project can be huge, with lots of questions still unanswered. No problem: our design engineers and project managers help our clients to find solutions that finalise the designs. We use this same passion to ensure that the design comes to fruition and that the client is able to profit from valuable solutions just as they wish.
Flexible and reliable
We just plain get it all together and never renege on any agreement, even when circumstances change. We have many years of experience in bringing about tailored end-results. We understand that there are unknowns from the start and that requests can change. Our engineering and production environments are flexible and are capable of handling changes, fast. We not only build attractive projects, but we also build long-standing relationships with our customers. We create trust, by showing our customers that we deliver quality and that we are an experienced partner to work with. It is important to us to be open and honest in our way of doing business. We listen to our clients, make clear agreements, and execute and fulfil them. We don’t just attempt this, we insist upon it.
Quality through craftmanship
Our clients are given the leading edge through our vast knowledge of steel usage. We don’t avoid challenges. We DO look for fitting solutions. We are driven and open to new challenges and hope to continuously expand our knowledge. We need to be, as our sector is constantly changing and we are also increasingly confronted with complex social issues. As an organisation, we set high-quality standards and want to realise high-quality and sustainable products for our customers, as efficiently as possible. We manufacture our products entirely in-house. This enables us to continue to guarantee an exceptionally high level of quality in addition to good service and appropriate customised solutions.
Respect for man, respect for the environment
As a group, we wish to contribute to a greener and more wholesome Netherlands. This means building towards a future-proof living environment in the most sustainable manner possible. We do this by making well-considered choices in our business operations, based on our initial concepts of sustainability and responsibility, and with respect for man and the environment. In addition, we pay great attention to good working conditions for our employees, conducting our business fairly and engaging in social activities by supporting charities and good causes.
Let’s put engineering
on the map
It’s important to us to really put the engineering that goes on in our region, on the map. This is needed – in the construction sector, there is a high demand for (technical) staff and the actual supply is under pressure. This makes it a major challenge to attract new employees and this is so very important to us. The rapid growth of our organisations and the growth in number of projects in both size and complexity, both require additional, skilled and technically trained staff. We therefore really want to promote the manufacturing industry in our part of the country. We want to show the young and the not so young, just how great it is working in engineering.
How do we plan on doing this?
Within the GB Steel Group, we wish to attract talented students and employees. We want to keep them with us and help them develop their skills. We will attempt to do this not only by strengthening our own position as an attractive employer, but also by working together with other companies in our line of business to improve the image of the construction sector.
The manufacturing industry in the north-east of the Netherlands needs a push and in 2020 we initiated the Innovatiecluster Noordoostpolder. We are nine companies in the manufacturing industry and we have joined forces to tackle this challenge. In addition to the goal of kindling enthusiasm in school children and students for a future job in engineering, we also want to share our knowledge, encourage our employees to develop and to innovate together.
Through investing in young talent
We also endeavour to enthuse young talent within the GB Steel Group to towards a job in engineering. We offer challenging apprenticeships and work places and map out suitable learning paths for students. Students can come to us for an apprenticeship (BBL-2 NL) and positions all the way through to higher professional education (HBO NL). We are also trying to kindle enthusiasm in the very young target group. That is why we want to open our doors regularly to primary and secondary school pupils so that we can proudly show how wonderful a job in engineering can be!
Through the development of training courses
We have also once again worked closely with schools and various training institutes on diverse technical courses in the past year. Specifically because we have realised that the work in this sector is becoming more complex through huge changes in the field. We have therefore committed to developing our own training courses wherein the focus lies as much as possible upon theory actually hooking up to practice. It was our perception that regular education did not hook up to the lateral flow of potential employees and that there was more need of modular lessons instead of the traditional wide-ranging classes, because lateral flow students often already have beginner qualifications.
Tailor-made lessons in our own training courses
to match lateral entry students’ requirements.
Here are some of our great projects in 2021
2021 started well with a well-filled order book. We started with a number of special projects including data centres, bridges and (modular) car parks. In addition, we have worked hard on the construction of recycling plants, braking works and customised solutions for the transport sector, among other things.
Build of Datacenter Diemen
New construction Koninklijke Saan in Diemen
Opbouw voor Transportbedrijf Te Loo
Build of 150kV-station for Tennet TSO
Transport sieve drums Šibenik Croatia
Results of the preceding financial year
We are satisfied with the results of 2021. Turnover increased by more than 8% compared to the year before. This can mainly be explained through the fact that the full year’s results of MF Emmen are now included in the GB Steel Group’s financial year, while last year their results only counted from the month of June.
Net result compared to last year was down a quarter which was predicted in a lower budget. This reduced yield is principally due to higher material costs of steel and higher energy charges which can be blamed on the global macro-economic circumstances that are particularly related to the pandemic.
Absences due to sickness were also higher, meaning we had to outsource more jobs. Added to this, orders, particularly in the first half of the year, were lower while at the same time, large projects were running behind schedule. In a capital-intensive project-led organisation as ours, the occupational results are directly under pressure. These can only with great difficulty be compensated by project results. We see the effects of this in the group, specifically in utility construction. In the transport sector too, results show a drop. There is less faith in the market, which resulted in the smaller size of orders, which had a negative effect on Vossebelt’s results.
Our presence in various segments of the market helps keep risk limited. Positive results in waterways construction (for instance) compensates somewhat for the lower results in utility construction.
Turnover and profit on equity capital
Construction and recycling transport Steel construction infra-industry
Commercial-industrial structures & cladding
Return on equity
In these times of global crisis, our risk management is primarily aimed at keeping our assets fluid. We have kept things healthy and completed the year with a current ratio of over 2. Solvency increased to 60%. Our high equity increased with a profit of more than 12%. This profit, in times of a global pandemic is particularly satisfactory to us.
This high equity is also part of our risk management policy. Higher loan capital too can indeed give more possibilities for a fast growth and potential higher profit to equity, but it gives more risk for controlling key competencies when attracting new employees. Choosing to maintain craftsmanship, directly results in lower failure costs for both our loyal customers and for ourselves. It is particularly this control that ensures us as reliable partner to our customers and keeps us so. Especially in these times of crisis, we see steady and autonomous growth as the optimum strategy.
We have further expanded our management system that controls risks as well as opportunities. In addition to our current group system for ISO 14001 (environment) and 9001, our CE EN1090 systems and VCA systems, we introduced the Health and Safety Ladder (SCL phase 2) in 2021. We are determined to further improve the culture for health and safety in the years to come and indeed to climb this safety ladder.
CO2 emissions for the group came to 1,138 tonnes – a drop of 43% compared to 2015 (MF Emmen is not counted in this measurement).GB Steel Group generates a large part of its own power needs via solar panels, but supply and demand do not always match, meaning that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The electricity we pay for is actually supplied via wind power, which does mean that the energy we use is 100% sustainably produced. Reducing our emission is increasingly difficult since most measures such as sustainable energy, electric vehicles and LED lighting have already been introduced. We therefore obviously need to find more means of preservation along the chain and implement more circularity through promotion of the recycling technology by MF Emmen which is discussed, further. We have also signed the Steel Construction Agreement of 2021.
Just under €3.5M was invested in 2021. Half of this was investment in machinery. Kampstaal has a new pretreatment production line now, part of which was finalised in 2021. This line gives Kampstaal the opportunity to grow. The line consists of various ‘stations’ where employees can bore, saw, blast and cut. A lot of attention was paid to routing the material, and flexibility. This project is a good example of our strategic plan for the introduction of robotics and automation.
The establishment in Meppel (NL) also bought a new punch-cut production line. The delivery of these machines in Emmeloord and Meppel is expected in the second half of 2022. Kamplacon too invested, in a new slitter. This enables flat steel coils being unrolled and cut to length, then in another department, using various methods, parts can be produced for use in the finishing of roofs and facades.
A new IT system was also acquired in 2021. This strategic investment aims to enable independent work regardless of time or place, even in the graphical sector. In addition, collaboration between the divisions has been improved. This is down to all software and information from, for example, the ERP systems, being accessible from the central platform making information more easily accessible now. Risk of data loss is also now easier to control from a central location. System implementation is expected to take place in 2022.
Finally, 2021 saw final delivery of Kampstaal’s and Kamplacon’s new assembly halls. The very characteristic corten steel facade along the motorway, makes this a real eye-catcher for the group. The tall halls are capable of really heavy lifts by crane so is particularly suited for prefab production of modular construction systems.
Investments 2020, 2021 en 2022
X € 1.000
2020 2021 2022 (prognosis)
Debt / EBITDA
Return on equity
This all went on in GB Steel Group in 2021
MF Emmen at the Recycling Trade Fare in the event space in Gorinchem (NL).
Last year, with divisions Kampstaal and Kamplacon, we collaborated once more on several data centre projects both here and abroad.
We built the very 1st crane-skip dumpster combo in the Netherlands, on an entirely electric vehicle!
In 2021 we started up with our new strategy period 2021-2024 The focus in this strategic plan will be on:
- strengthening our position in various markets
- investing in sustainability, digitisation & innovation
- organisational and talent development
A leading market position
GB Steel Group has aspirations to continue as acting lead of the Dutch manufacturing industry. We want to reinforce our position in a number of markets (wherever possible) and conquer new markets. We aim to achieve this by giving excellent construction leadership and engineering, and by developing smart, sustainable and future-proof solutions as well as improving our marketing as a whole. In addition, we want to collaborate even more intensively within the group, with our five divisions. By utilising economies of scale and combining knowledge, we can better serve our customers, with appropriate and sustainable solutions. Together, we have an overview of the entire chain, from concept to realisation. We can relieve the customer of all worries and, by continuously investing in innovation and digitisation, we can also continue to respond to our customers changing demands.
Sustainability and innovation
Working sustainably remains an important theme within GB Steel Group. We want to carry out our customers’ wishes with solutions that have as little impact on the environment and our society as possible. We do this by developing sustainable solutions for (as an example) the recycling industry, using smart technologies and ‘circular’ steel construction.
Making our own activities more sustainable also plays an important role. We organise our business processes as efficiently as possible and actively endeavour to reduce our own CO2 emissions. We generate sustainable energy by means of solar panels and promote the reuse of buildings, products and (raw) materials. In this manner, we minimise our own environmental footprint and can continue to successfully build a future-proof living environment.
We also build upon this future-proof idea, by implementing everything possible in the field of digitisation and automation. We work with specific projects to implement hardware and software within IT which enables our employees to collaborate regardless of time and place – effectively streamlining all processes along the way. We are also preparing our production processes for the implementation of robotics in order to speed up our tailored production processes.
Organisational and talent development
Our people are our major strength. We therefore see it as our responsibility to create a safe and healthy working environment in which our employees can perform at their best and continue to develop themselves. We offer plenty of opportunities with lots of room for development. This way, our organisation can contribute to the talent development of our employees and they, in turn, can contribute to the further growth and development of our organisation.
We consider social innovation to be an important requisite for technical innovation. In order to grow into a learning institute that actually learns from previous experience and where knowledge is stored that can later be applied, we find that the art of reflection is an important tool. We understand just how important it is for the management system that controls risks and utilises opportunities. So we also stimulate a culture of continuous improvement.
In addition to investing in our own people, the organisation’s growth also requires the recruitment of new talent. It currently remains a major challenge to find and bring in professionals with the right expertise. This is why we are professionalising our recruitment activities and increasing our focus on employer branding and job market communication. We want to be one of the most attractive and safest employers in our sector. In addition, we want to continuously promote working in engineering and support the fortification of educational courses to better match the needs of the job market.
Market developments and a glance at 2022
War broke out in the Ukraine just as the COVID-19 pandemic was waning. Besides the humanitarian disaster there, it has all created new economical turmoil. Geopolitical relations are on point and with all the turmoil, free global traffic and trade is seriously affected. The direct consequence on scarcity because of steel factories in the Ukraine and in Russia soon became clear; the price of steel rose exponentially. Still, the complexities of world trade and global supply chains is an even bigger problem. These chains are so intertwined, effects are felt across the globe. Scarcity and the price of many commodities and parts, continues to rise. This is also intensified by companies hoarding things in order to be able to supply their own customers. It is probably not even an actual dearth of supplies but more likely the fear of one which sustains this process. Upon writing this Annual Report in May, most of the steel for GB Steel Group is fairly accessible – this as a result of timely arrangements and through reliable relationships with suppliers.
GB Steel’s order books were piled high to a record degree at the start of 2022. Demand was high and our commercial success ensured a high intake in data centres at Kampstaal and Kamplacon, recycling at MF Emmen and Kampstaal, and in the energy sector for Kampstaal and Nauta. We also see a rise in foreign projects, entirely in keeping with the strategic plan. The transport sector’s demand for Vossebelt skip dumpsters in 2021 was also high, although the number of series lags behind. Demand for bridges and lock gates in 2021 was disappointing. The whole COVID-19 pandemic probably put a spanner in the works of development and tender processes. This all did not, however, lead to any lower occupational levels due to the big orders in water-ways construction in 2021. Fortunately, we are happy to report conservative signs of recovery in the infra market in 2022.
Since the outbreak of war in the Ukraine, our priority lies in controlling delivery times. Reliability and sticking to agreements are, as always, top priority for us. We therefore only close on a job once all materials are available. Thanks to our healthy financial situation and our reputation for reliability, we are still able to make good purchase agreements, which only adds to our reputation for good delivery too. It is, however, unclear how things will develop throughout the year. Not just steel, but also electro-technical components are harder to come by. This could lead to problems for Vossebelt if chassis cannot be delivered on time, for MF Emmen if there is a shortage of components for switchboxes for recycling plants and for Nauta (and again MF Emmen) for switchboxes for bridges and lock-gates. We strive to the utmost to foresee problems in a timely manner, in order to prevent any delays.
Delivery reliability and strictly abiding by all agreements
are still at the top of our list of priorities.
We have also dictated new priorities in our investment plan. In other words, we aim to make better choices for projects that contribute to our strategic mission, meaning that the route followed and the end goal is more important that the actual time line. 2022 is especially dedicated to the introduction of a new assembly-line for steel joists (beams) and casings at Kampstaal. The customisation of the buildings and the installation of a sandblaster, saw, drill and trimmer robots should be completed end 2022.
These adjustments will markedly heighten production capacity and speed, freeing the route to the next step in the automation of production processes. These technical innovations of course go hand in hand with our other strategic projects spoken off in this report.
You can see, we never sit still. The world is constantly changing and we change along with it. Want to know just where these developments will bring us? Follow us on social media!