Richard Bracher - General Manager - VDL Steelweld UK

Richard Bracher has been involved with VDL Steelweld UK almost from the beginning of this new era. When he started working as a project manager the location in Oxford was still very small. VDL Steelweld UK, part of the larger VDL Steelweld, then employed five people. Now they have grown to 45 enthusiastic employees in a large purpose built office in Warwick.

Looking back, to what does VDL Steelweld UK owe its growth?

"Not only within VDL Steelweld UK, but throughout the entire group of VDL Steelweld companies, we are working hard on employee satisfaction. We think it's important for them to be the point of contact for customers. If employees are satisfied, that's what they radiate. This then leads to a pleasant collaboration with our customer, which is certainly important at VDL Steelweld, because most collaborations and projects take an average of two years. In these two years you work just as intensively with the customer as with your own colleagues. The collaboration goes very well, both internally and externally. It may not seem at some stages within the journey but we have the same goal as our customer and that is to bring every project to the best possible conclusion.

So how do you ensure that VDL gets the best out of their employees and keeps them satisfied?

"You notice that people who work in this industry are very happy with the variety of the work. You have to love the challenges that come your way every day because every day can be different, so sometimes you have to be flexible. The instability of the automotive industry holds the challenge, somethings change sometimes, but the employees at VDL Steelweld only see it as a challenge. That's good to see. You can tell from the good cooperation between them that people stick together at VDL Steelweld for a long time. We think that's very important, that's how we retain knowledge and experience within the organization".

What does a day in the life of a general manager of VDL Steelweld UK look like?

"My job is very varied. Sometimes I'm involved in HR issues, then I'm asked to help think about the timing of certain projects, customer escalation, budget and technical issues sometimes end up with me. The nice thing is that you are involved in all facets of a project. It makes me very proud when I see that we have brought a project to a successful conclusion together".  A bodyshop full of automation, coming from a blank piece of paper is always rewarding.

What work is done at VDL Steelweld UK?

"VDL Steelweld has thirteen branches and many different customers at home and abroad. A number of years ago we also set up three branches in America for this reason.  Although we don’t always manufacture the equipment here in Warwick, we have capabilities in Project Management, Controls and Mechanical Design, Simulation, Purchasing, Installation, and Commissioning.  The most exciting things we do now are digital and virtual commissioning. This is testing our projects via 3D setup and virtual buyoff of logic and programming. We join forces with the thirteen branches and together we are one VDL Steelweld. The strength is our employees, who all work in a result-oriented way".

Have you also felt that you are part of a larger group of companies, VDL Groep?

"I certainly have. As a management team we are very well involved with the other VDL companies. I have already visited a number of them and if we can't get something within VDL Steelweld, we can and do ask for help from one of the other VDL companies".