Building Machine Controls and Trust
The collaboration between Eltra and Agristo:
- Agristo manufactures potato products including fries, potato flakes, and rösti rounds.
- Eltra has been working with the company since 2002.
- Eltra designs, implements, and maintains control systems for Agristo’s production lines and building installations.
How many people manage to build a career without ever writing a résumé? Karel Hendriks, Site Manager for Eltra at our client Agristo Tilburg, has pulled off this rare feat. He has been a part of Eltra since the very beginning of his career. In his current position, he works closely with Agristo’s technical service team on the maintenance, modification, and expansion of machine controls. Karel tells us about his work at Eltra, the most memorable job he’s undertaken for Agristo, and the longstanding partnership between the two companies.
How did you come to work at Eltra, and what does your current role entail?
“I began as an intern at Eltra 21 years ago. As my internship was drawing to a close, I started to get a little nervous about whether I would find work afterward, but, to my relief, Eltra offered me a job. So I’ve never even had to write a résumé! They recognized that I worked hard and was fully committed. The fact that this is acknowledged and rewarded is one of the great things about working at Eltra. In the early years, I worked on-site and travelled extensively. When my family situation changed, I wanted to work closer to home. Since then, I’ve been responsible for the execution and delivery of projects, as well as smaller tasks at Agristo.”
Can you briefly introduce Agristo? What are your primary responsibilities there?
“Agristo operates in the potato processing industry. They primarily produce fries, but also products like mashed or flaked potatoes. We implement modifications and extensions on the control systems of production lines and facility installations, in close collaboration with Agristo’s technical service. For example, we recently installed sensors to prevent overheating of the high-voltage transformers, an issue that sometimes occurred in the summer, shutting down the entire factory. Now, a preventive alarm goes off if the temperature gets too high. What this process entails? It starts with a customer request. I map out their needs and the available options, and draft a plan. Our team designs the electrical schematics and we order the parts. Then we carry out the work: installing and cabling the sensors. Altogether, this project took over four weeks. I am responsible for scheduling, quality assurance, and customer communication.”
“That can only happen because there is a very strong bond of trust.”
What characterizes the partnership with Agristo?
“We enjoy a great deal of freedom at Agristo. That’s only possible because there’s a lot of trust between the companies. When the client gives us a task, they have the peace of mind of knowing it will be done right. Building such trust takes years, but it can be lost quickly. That’s why we constantly focus on providing quality work within the given timeframe!”
“My peak was two weeks ago.”
What has been a high point in your 21 years at Eltra?
“My highest point was two weeks ago when I was standing on the roof of the freezer warehouse at a height of 45 meters. Jokes aside, every project that I complete on time and to the client’s satisfaction feels like a new high point. I also have very fond memories of our team-building trip to Lapland six years ago. In fact, that trip was such a hit that we formed a staff association, in part to plan a getaway every five years. Our most recent trip coincided with Eltra’s 25th anniversary, so the staff association and Eltra pooled resources to make this trip extra special. We made a five-day journey to Athens with 58 staff members. While these aren’t the most important aspects of my job satisfaction, they certainly make working at Eltra a lot of fun.”