“Have we ever really stopped to think about a company anniversary? Arjen van Dijk, water storage manager at Nederlandse Plastic Industrie (NPI) repeats the question. “No, not really actually.” Seen in this light, this year’s 65th anniversary is very special for the Frisian company. “We have become more active on social media, so we also have a platform to think about it these days,” adds Berber Bonnema, head of sales and marketing. As part of the anniversary, they walk through current developments in the field of water storage together and also stop to reflect on a piece of history.
What was special at the end of last year was a project “just down the road”, in Friesland. Arjen had not known him for 22 years.
A piece of history
We must go back to the fifties for the origin of the NPI. During these years, Jan Hiemstra traveled from his village of Tzummarum to visit farmers and villagers to sell household items. He welded electrical pipes into hoops, a worldwide craze at the time, and laid the foundation for the company, which also began producing all sorts of other plastic products. In 1957 the name Nederlandse Plastic Industrie was born.
Arjen van Dijk joined the company at the beginning of this century. It is a period in which NPI has just made the transition to an international company specializing in the welding and trading of synthetic sheets for earthworks, road construction, hydraulic engineering and horticulture. Smiling, he says: “My first international trip for work was to Belgium. After that, however, I went to many more exotic countries. The distant hinterland of India, Myanmar, Iraq, Iran, destinations that are not always obvious.”
Foil pulling for Schoneveld Breeding in Tanzania
Local fairs and partners
This raises the question of how a company of Frisian origin ends up in these countries. “Show your face locally,” says Arjen. It sounds very simple and, according to him, it actually is. “I visit local fairs to get to know each other. At the end of May, for example, I will be at AgriTechnica and HortiAsia. I always agree with that. I provide technical training and commercial support. This is how we support new partners.”
Having local partners is very important for NPI, especially internationally. The company does not supply producers directly, but offers a service to customers. “Of course you always want to offer the best quality to avoid repairs and problems in advance. Certifications are important for this. We are working hard to be able to offer such certifications on more and more products. But if some unexpected thing goes wrong, you want to be able to offer the best service through local partners, by phone or online.” This is also true closer to home, of course. This is where NPI was able to deliver another project in Friesland at the end of last year. “This project has weathered three storms recently. Luckily no repairs were needed,” laughs Arjen.
Horticulture is a big branch for NPI in water storage, but the demand for fish farming is also growing.
The products supplied by NPI are always accompanied by instructions for use. Berbère: “Over the years, these instructions have become better and better. Our products are delivered to the customer in kit form, so that he can use them immediately.” All products do not require instructions as if it were a construction kit. NPI also supplies many horticultural supplies from its own warehouse. “We are originally a film processor, but we also have many other products. In horticulture, we are strong in groundsheets, but we also have a wide range of commercial products for fruit growing thanks to an acquisition in 2019.”
Berber and Erik van der Geest at IPM Essen 2020 in a booth full of commercial products
Among the novelties this year, a special water bag for gardeners. “This bag can be zipped around the trunk of a tree and gives water evenly over a long period of time. With dry and hot summers these days, there is a lot of demand for this. The product is also popular with local authorities and the Forestry Commission.
In the area of water storage, Arjen sees demand growing worldwide. “Demand for silos has increased explosively over the past year, but in-ground ponds are also making a comeback.” NPI manufactures the sheets for these prefabricated ponds. “We receive the dimensions and manufacture the foils in our factory in optimal conditions. This saves a huge amount of time during installation. Just unroll it and install it.”
An inground pond for a blueberry producer in Serbia. The film is here ready to be installed.
Over the years, projects requiring water storage, including those in horticulture, have become increasingly important. Isn’t it difficult if you work from your own factory? “No”, assures Arjen. “The limit is not in our factory, which was completely renovated in 2017, but in the transport. That’s why we have our own machines designed to fold large films. The challenge for us is to fold the packaging in such a way that it is suitable for a truck. We also look carefully at the final environment of the project. Can you get there with a crane and/or a forklift? With this information, we determine in advance how the package must be positioned once on site to be able to be rolled correctly and quickly, there is no longer any need to worry about it locally, shooting a few thousand square meters of film is not a piece of cake.
NPI’s mill is designed to process large sheets. To do this, they mainly use specialized machines developed in-house.