One generation later: the first welding robot from Valk Welding

A laptop today cannot be compared to a computer from 20 years ago, and the same goes for welding robots. "Technology has become so much more", emphasises Remco Valk, CEO of Valk Welding. The family-owned company integrated its very first welding robot in 1979 at sheet metal supplier Kemi B.V. One generation later, the partners embark on a new, but entirely incomparable, collaboration with a fourth installation: "I was amazed when I saw the robot weld for the first time," says Fons Smits, former owner of Kemi, "it was a real pleasure to see.”

Photo: Remco H. Valk (left), Fons Smits (centre) and Anton Smits (right) with the very first Valk Welding robot.

A leap of faith

In 1979, a welding robot was something quite unique. Remco H. Valk explains why: "We had many customers in the metalworking industry who were already interested in a robot, but they did not have the products for it or did not dare to invest in it." As a manufacturer of smaller series, Kemi took that first leap, guaranteeing the required precision for certain complex products. Fons Smits adds: "We had a vision back then: if you can automate, you should not hesitate. That was definitely something for those times.”

How we position ourselves in the market, that is how Valk has always operated as well: optimal, up to date and persistent. That creates a connection.

Fons Smits, former owner of Kemi B.V.

Times change, satisfaction remains

While precision remains a key issue, the transition to robotic welding has evolved with the times. Where efficiency and productivity were once the main drivers, there is now a focus on the shortage of manual welders. Technology also continues to advance, and at Kemi, online programming is giving way to the tranquillity of offline programming. According to Anton Smits, son and current owner, one thing that has not changed is their satisfaction: “The old setup with the H-frame and now the new E-frame just works perfectly. The robots have almost no malfunctions and require very little maintenance. That is why it was never really an option for us to choose a different type of robot.”

Photo: Valk Welding's first welding robot: a hydraulic 5-axis Unimation 2005 arc welding robot.

Like father, like son

In the meantime, both family businesses have been handed over to a new generation of management. Has the partnership changed as a result? Not at all. CEO Remco H. Valk looks back with pleasure on a partnership that is now being passed on: “I am very proud of it. It is very rewarding to see the familiarity continue in a company you grew up with.” And both parties do not see any changes in the future, as Anton Smits makes clear: “The experience with Valk Welding and Panasonic is simply very good. Being there for the customer and actively following up on service, that is the strength of Valk.”



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