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How envelope manufacturer Koninklijke Van der Most is becoming future proof
Apart from being a printing works, Koninklijke Van der Most is also the largest envelope manufacturer in the Benelux area. However, the envelope business is shrinking. ‘In order to continue innovating, we are looking beyond our current products.’
Millions of pre-printed forms and envelopes are flying through the machines of Koninklijke Van der Most in Heerde. The company is still the largest envelope manufacturer in the Benelux area. However, envelopes as a product have a limited lifespan. While all of us still receive plenty of envelopes in the mail (including the Dutch tax authority’s dreaded blue envelopes that are produced here in Heerde), the numbers are most definitely going down. The company is well aware of that, so Marriël van der Most, 4th-generation member of the family, wants to make the company future proof.
Things started back in 1904 with the printing works owned by W. van der Most, Marriël’s great-grandfather. The small factory in Heerde mainly produced cards, labels, notes and adress cards. After the war, envelopes began to rise in prominence. Before email and the Internet arrived on the scene, pre-printed envelopes served as the calling card of every company.
After the turn of the century, a change began to manifest. ‘We realised that we would not make it another century if we stuck to printed materials and envelopes alone,’ says Marriël van der Most. ‘We asked ourselves the following question at the time: alright, then what do we do? My father and uncle have always been good at thinking beyond just envelopes.’
Marriël is part of the management team nowadays and is responsible for the company’s direction with her father and her cousin. ‘We want to develop from a graphical service provider to a full-service communications company,’ says Van der Most. That may sound vague, but what it comes down to is that Van der Most wants to be able to produce all possible means of communication and provide all related services, both online and offline.
This new strategy seems to be bearing fruit. The new services and products, such as magazines, make up nearly one third of the total turnover nowadays. ‘Our reputation has helped us out a lot. We have been the dedicated printer and envelope supplier for some of our clients, such as banks and insurance agencies, for 40 years now. We have established a reputation as a reliable partner that always delivers on time. Well, nearly always,’ Van der Most laughs. ‘And because they trust us, they are willing to stick with us and try the new services we are supplying. Some great examples of such companies are KLM and Sodexo.’
Convinving the staff
The biggest challenge for Van der Most is not so much its clients, but having to convince its staff of the dire need to change. ‘Originally, we were a factory, and now all of a sudden, we are hiring people to be web developers or DTP artists. This development is sometimes met with some resistance – even from my father. He will complain about a certain developer’s salary – way too expensive! – while spending a million euros on a new machine without blinking an eye, so to speak.’
Interestingly, Van der Most is not experiencing a staff shortage. They are having a relatively easy time filling vacancies, even for positions for which it is very hard to find people in the Randstad metropolitan area nowadays. ‘I think that’s because people like to stick around in a town like Heerde, or come back after a while,’ says Marriël. Web development and design – Van der Most is starting to sound more like a provider of business services than a manufacturer. However, Marriël is quick to refute that assumption. ‘We are not turning into a hip advertising agency. Our focus will remain on manufacturing beautiful stuff here in Heerde.’