Chinese investors have recently acquired a large German robot manufacturer. Are the Dutch colleagues next in line?
I asked this question to Remco H. Valk, CEO of the welding robot integrator Valk Welding Group.
ES: Hello Mr. Valk. More and more robot manufacturers and integrators are being bough by Chinese investors. When is it your turn ?
Remco H. Valk: (laughs) So far we have not received an offer from a Chinese investor. But we wouldn't sell our company either. Valk Welding is a second-generation family-run business and I hope it will remain in family hands for many generations to come.
ES: But a Chinese investor has just joined one of your colleagues from Germany. Does this change the market situation? And a large robot manufacturer based in Augsburg has been majority owned by the Chinese Midea Group already since 2016. Do you see a strategy here ?
Remco H. Valk: I think that our colleague from Haiger had a reason to sell and leave the company to Chinese investors. There are always many reasons for such a decision. We at Valk Welding go our own way and expand using our own resources.
ES: Yes, we have heard about the expansion and the new purchase of buildings. Do you have anything to say about this ?
Remco H. Valk: Well, with our present buildings and offices we don't meet the daily requirements and tasks. We are growing continuously and the employees need decent offices and space for our modern and open work. It also turned out that a building in our street was offered for sale. I didn't think long about it and bought it. After the reconstruction we will move in in January 2020 with the service and engineering department. We were able to rent another building and also here we are lucky and can use this. The construction of our new building in the Czech Republic will be finished next month, so we can start-up our capacity increase of 35% beginning of next year, we need this to respond properly to the growing market demand. We are all very happy.
ES: When I hear you like that, the market is positive and growing. You also read other figures in the press.
Remco H. Valk: Yes, we also read the figures, but don't notice it in our order intake. That may be due to our products. We built welding robotsystems, automation and plant engineering. We provide a solution for a customer problem. We talk to our customers, listen and deliver a special solution.
ES: And this is not in the interest of Chinese investors ? Maybe US American investors would like to join Valk Welding after the Greenland deal has been broken ?
Remco H. Valk: (laughs) I think we are too small for such a deal. Valk Welding supplies about 200 robotsystems per year, plus welding accessories, spare parts and welding wire. We have a super great team, great employees of whom I am very proud and a clear mission: "The strong connection". We have a strong bond with our employees, customers as well as our suppliers. As a family-run company, this strong connection is very important to me.
ES: Is that your success, The strong connection ?
Remco H. Valk: The people - the team brings success. And the will to find a solution together with the customer and to fulfil the customer's wishes. This is where our success lies.
ES: And where do you see the boundaries to the colleagues from Haiger ?
Remco H. Valk: Well, I know the company, the mentality and some of the employees quite well. I spent a period of my technical education there and still have a friendship with some people. With others less and with the company itself there is a friendly competition. I think that Valk Welding offers the more innovative products and works much more agile, faster and customer-oriented on the market.
ES: Isn't the former Chinese also a danger for a company ?
Remco H. Valk: I can't conclusively answer that. However, I think that customers in Europe will be very cautious. We had seen something similar when Chinese people entered the robot manufacturer in Augsburg. Many customers were afraid that key technologies, specific know-how and manufacturing & production knowledge could be subtracted from Chinese competition.
Investors expect returns. Of course, they can be very different. Especially when a state invests in a company and specifically in key technology and future markets.
ES: Do we in Europe have to be careful that we remain technology leaders?
Remco H. Valk: I'm certainly not the right contact for this question. Here you should ask other experts. I can only confirm once more that we as Valk Welding and our family business are striving for a leading position in robotized welding technology in the European market and even in some areas of the world, we are looking for new ways of expanding.