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“Permanent innovation to stay in the forefront”

The poultry processing industry around the globe is strongly consolidating. Moreover, consumer demands vary a lot, which requires highly specialised machines. “Permanent innovation is essential in this respect,” says Meyn CEO Han van der Broek. “That keeps us in the forefront.”

By Ad Bal 

Meyn Food Processing Technology celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Founded by Piet Meyn in 1959, the company began as a small shop, supplying small pieces of slaughtering equipment to regional customers in the village of Oostzaan in the Netherlands. Today, however, Meyn off ers complete processing plants to all corners of the world. Additionally, the company also provides maintenance solutions, which form a large part of the business, says Meyn CEO and President Han van der Broek.
 
“We have grown tremendously, particularly over the past 10 years,” says Van der Broek. “In 1999, our turnover was around €50 million, whereas nowadays it is well over €200 million. To a certain extent, that has come from acquisitions, amongst others Systemate, but for the major part the company grew organically. Over the years, we have seen double-digit growth, which was over twice as much as market growth. As a result, we have gained market share and now claim to have reached the number one position in poultry processing solutions today.”
 
Permanent innovation essential
“We needed to make choices,” Van der Broek states. “Up until 1997 Meyn was still a family-owned company.” Other kinds of businesses were also a part of the group, apart from the poultry processing division. A private equity investor then took a 50% stake in Meyn, after which in 1999 the entire company was taken over by external shareholders - Talon from the US, and later Altor from Sweden. The latter now owns the majority of shares.
 
“We claim to now have a share of around one third of the global market. We believe that this number-one position can be attributed to our ability to continually innovate. Over 5% of our turnover is spent on research and development. We firmly believe that it is an absolute necessity to stay ahead of market developments,” Van der Broek continues.
 
A good example for such innovation was the introduction of the Maestro eviscerator in 1993, from which the company enjoyed much success. The same holds true for the recently introduced Rapid HQ deboner. “In the months to come, we will again introduce impressive new products. This proves our progress in this business. However, this can only be achieved if critical mass is available, which is essential to enable such progress. Companies that are too small simply don’t have the power to maintain and innovate a complete product range.”
 
Two brands remain
In 2006 Meyn made the decision to acquire Systemate, which is a company also based in the Netherlands. Particularly given the current economic conditions, one might think that this brand would be turned into one of the Meyn product lines. “That was not our objective,” says Van der Broek. “On the contrary, Systemate offers a very different product range to Meyn. To a large extent that is because the customers for both brands are different. We can serve both highly developed and mature markets with Meyn products, but also offer Systemate to the less-sophisticated markets. Additionally, making a smaller machine is something completely different to simply downsizing a bigger machine. That presents an entirely different approach. It’s like developing a small car, which is a completely different project to taking out two cylinders from a big model and making the chassis much smaller. The same principle applies to the processing machines of our two brands. They serve different customers.”
 
Sometimes, these two approaches, even though completely different, compliment each other very well. In the US, for example, the company is currently selling under the Meyn brand name only, which has proven to create the best possible synergies, Van der Broek believes.
 
Manufacturing apart from brands
“Offering two different brands does not necessarily mean that we have separate locations to produce our machines,” Van der Broek explains. “We still have five locations, two of which are based in the US, one in Poland, and two in the Netherlands. It is our intention to close the manufacturing facility in Numansdorp, the Netherlands, and build one new modern facility in Oostzaan, also in the Netherlands. We will produce parts and assemble our machines wherever that will fit best. So we will therefore disconnect the brands from the plants. From these four locations we will be able to serve our customers around the globe. Although our products find their way to all corners of the world, the biggest markets remain to be in Europe and North America. Eastern Europe, South America and the Middle East are markets that have shown strong development in recent years. Asia is of course showing tremendous growth within the market, however, the level of automation in the region is still limited.”
 
Integrated wall-to-wall solutions
Given the situation described above, it becomes obvious that consolidation in mature markets will further increase. As a result, the number of processing plants will decrease, as will the required labour force. “This means that the level of automation will steadily increase, as goes for the capacity per hour,” says Van der Broek. “Consumers become more and more demanding, which results in an increase in the variety of processed products on the market. Poultry processing, therefore, becomes a more sophisticated business than ever before. We at Meyn are convinced that we must be specialists in this field, supplying integrated wall-to-wall solutions to industrial processors around the world. Also, it becomes extremely important to continue innovating, and keep up to speed with the demands of the consumer.”
 
Given this situation, processors worldwide will find it increasingly challenging to keep their plants in optimal working order themselves. “They are specialists in poultry processing, whereas at Meyn we are technical specialists as well. The focus for the future, therefore, is to permanently keep such plants under control. This can be done by remote diagnostics through electronic intelligence. Moreover, we offer complete maintenance packages, preventing major breakdowns in such highly automated high-capacity plants. Imagine that a facility that runs 12,000 birds per hour comes to a complete standstill! In order to keep such operations permanently running, we maintain our focus on supplying both properly designed processing lines, and preventive maintenance. That is our strategy for the future. We have achieved a high standard over the past 50 years and we will certainly continue doing so in the years to come.”
 

Marlous Ziggers

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