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A fresh view on commerce, employment and the future: an interview with Commercial Director Klaas Jan Bijker

A fresh view on commerce, employment and the future: an interview with Commercial Director Klaas Jan Bijker.


Last Juli, Zuidberg’s new commercial director started. After a couple of weeks of introduction, we interviewed Klaas Jan for his findings.


Can you introduce yourself?

Of course. My name is Klaas Jan Bijker. I live in Nijeveen, a village approximately 30 kilometres from Zuidberg. I’ve got a wife and three daughters. Before Zuidberg, I worked at Smurfit-Kappa for 19 ½ years.

Here, I worked in several commercial positions before starting as Smurfit Kappa’s commercial director for the Benelux. Smurfit Kappa is an multinational corporation that offers paper-based packaging.


Why did you choose Zuidberg?

Well, it’s because of several factors. First of all: I grew up on a farm. Although that was a long time ago, I do not believe one loses that experience. That’s something that you keep for all your life. Next to that, I studied mechanical engineering and am a bachelor technical business administration. I can use this more technical experience too.

The company’s size is something that really grabbed my attention. At my previous position, the size made for long communication and slower decision-making. At Zuidberg, I was hoping to enter a management team in which decisions can be made more quickly. I already experienced that that is possible here. For that I am glad.

Not everthing is perfect, of course, but decisions are taken more effective. This means my role is more active as compared to my previous job.


It might be a bit early on, but… what is your goal here at Zuidberg?

That’s pretty quick! Well, a lot of things are going the way they should, but there’s always some processes that can be more formalized. That’s something I take with me from my previous job. By adding more structure left and right, I expect we can all work in a way that helps each other.

We shouldn’t change things just because, but we have to keep our eye out for making processes more efficient. That’s my first goal, to work on this.


What’s your take on Zuidberg as a global player?

That’s a hard question to answer. I know we are market leader in front linkages and PTO  systems. We have to defend and develop that position.

I do expect a shift from Aftersales to OEM-related sales. But you have got to maintain your position. How? I cannot give an answer to that question yet.

Our Tracks also require a strong place in their market. That’s something that I am also looking to accomplish. The application will probably be a bit different then we initially thought. There might be a shift to specific markets or continents, but I certainly do see it’s potential.

Maybe we should also invest in development, because the front linkage long rests on the same ideas. It’s about time there’s new development in that, too.

Next to that, we have to look at the common interests our planet on our production. We have to consider the environment and make our products more sustainable. Lots of markets also shift to electrical: should we do something with that too? Can we? Does it fit us? These are all questions that require further research.


What caught your eye here at Zuidberg?

What struck me was the enthusiasm of all the employees. From management to the workplace employees: everyone is involved in the developments of the corporation. I was happy to hear some critiques too. That is another way of showing involvement.

When people stop expressing themselves is when you have to get worried.


The past couple of years, we put a lot of effort into LEAN work processes. Did you notice that yourself?

I did! The structural starting of the day is of course a reaction from LEAN. I have been able to participate in a couple over different departments. What fascinates me is that not only the team manager or director participates, but everyone in the departments gives their input.

I am also glad to see the application of 5S in our work processes. Our metal working factory is one of the cleanest I have seen. That certainly will show profit. It is still hard to say what projects will achieve over time, but I do see a lot of starts of projects.

Jeroen and the company does well is offer a big group of colleagues a course for a green, yellow or white belt. They do not necessarily have to be part of an improvement project, but if they get a question they at least know what it’s about.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m quite active in Nijeveen, our sporting village. I’m telling this specifically because I am chairman of the local skeeler and iceskating club. Next to that, I like to be busy: we are living in a beautiful home, so you can find me a lot in the garden. Next to that, I am a real handyman. If something needs to be fixed, I like to do it by myself.


How do you expect to fill in your role within Zuidberg?

I think the employee is one of the most important things in an organisation. I want them to work happily so they can reach their full potential. That is my contribution to the team. We should steer away from an ‘island’ mentality, where everyone just does one part.

I want to commit myself to connecting our team of expert to that of our key accounts. I like to organize our sales to our client’s way of purchase. For example, if one of our accounts always brings an engineer along with him, should we only send our salesman? That for me is key accounting; it can be as big as we wish it could be. In that way we can help each other out much more.

We can produce and develop as good as possible, but if we do need to sell it, too.


We are happy to welcome Klaas Jan as our colleague and we wish him an fruitful and exciting time here at Zuidberg.

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