Leading the charge

From the July 2020 issue.

Dutch manufacturing specialist, VALX, has been enhancing its axles and suspension portfolio since it started business 10 years ago and shows no sign of slowing down. The OEM combines the flexibility of a relatively small company with the manufacturing power of the largest axle builder in the world.

VALX has reached an important milestone, its 10th anniversary.

“Our axle has proven itself over and over again over the years and we are ready to take our business to the next level,” van Willigen said. “We have re-written our mission and vision statement and to be honest we only had to finetune it a bit to make it fit for the next 10 years. We still strive to offer the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) in the industry.”

In addition to its core axle and suspension offering, VALX is committed to maintaining its market position as a leader in the electrification of axles and other components.

“We were first to market with an electronic landing leg and an energy recovering trailer axle.”

Since day one VALX has offered the option to assemble suspensions, brake cylinders and ABS for trailer builders. This, according to VALX Sales Director, Martin van Willigen, makes the supply chain leaner, enabling the business to ship axles directly from China and other parts of the Netherlands.

“This process reduces stock value for the trailer builder because they can mix-and-match components to produce specific trailer combinations,” he said. “This option is particularly popular in export markets such as Russia, Turkey and South Africa.”

Looking forward, VALX has starting working towards its 2025 strategy, ‘Taking Charge’.

“The strategy continues to focus on VALX having control and accepting responsibility for our product,” van Willigen said. “It is the foundation of what has made us successful in Europe, and our loyal customers appreciate our personal, no-nonsense approach, which differentiates us from our competitors. Our mission is to save our customers money as well as lead the way with electrification.”

VALX has set some ambitious targets for the following five years.

“We cannot disclose any detailed information yet” van Willigen said. “We want to achieve our growth targets by further penetrating the classic nine-tonne market in Europe and diversify into other markets and products.”

High on the Dutch manufacturing specialist’s agenda is its digital transformation. 

“We will soon launch a TCO Calculator to show how much end-users can save by using our product,” van Willigen said. “Later this year will also launch a Product Configurator. By answering only 20 questions the right product will be configured for the application, usage and area and the customer will receive their quote in minutes. We call this CPQ (Configure-Price-Quote).”

In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, VALX has adapted its operations well.

“Axle manufacturing at FUWA in China was at full capacity early March and because we always carry plenty of safety stock, we were never affected,” van Willigen said. “Our operation in the Netherlands continued assembling axles and suspensions during the whole period. Our operation in Spain had to be closed for two weeks due to measurements taken by the Spanish Government.”

The latest developments that VALX is focused are its two pillars – the new nine-tonne solution and the E2!HD energy axle.

“Our engineering team is working hard on the design of our new nine-tonne axle and suspension,” van Willigen said. “We expect to achieve a significant weight saving of 30kg per axle row compared to our latest product. We cannot disclosure anything else at this stage, but we aim to put the first prototypes on the road early next year.”

VALX is also ‘freezing’ the design of its E2!HD energy axle with its partners THT New Cool and Carrier.

“We want to put 100 reefer trailers on the road by the end of 2020, beginning of 2021,” van Willigen said. “This all-electric refrigerated trailer does not have any diesel consumption, therefore no emissions of CO2 and particulate matter. Sooner than later cities will close for diesel powered reefer trailers and there we will see greater interest in this technology. Next year we will go into serial production, so we are ready.”

As other OEMs develop their own energy axle systems, van Willigen is adamant that VALX is miles ahead of the competition. “We introduced the E2! axle in 2012 and the E2!HD in 2013,” he said. “In the meantime, we have learned a lot and we will go into serial production next year. What makes us stand out in the market is that we focus on harvesting energy only and not on propelling the trailers.” 

VALX’s dealer network currently has 1,200 service points however the OEM aims to grow to 2,500 service points in the next five years.

“We are expanding fast in France, UK and Ireland because we employed new sales managers over there recently,” van Willigen said. “Also, as our axle population is growing rapidly, and because the first axles are almost 10 years old, we see that the demand for spare parts is growing exponentially. That is why we launched our campaign ANYPART, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME. Our spare parts are widely available through our dealer network, but in case of emergency workshops also have the ability to buy directly from us with our 24-hour delivery service from our spare parts warehouse in the Netherlands.”

VALX is also seeing great success throughout Europe with industry-leading innovators and fleet operators specifying its quality componentry.

A2B-Online – a specialist in short sea services to and from the UK, Germany and Benelux, has also adopted the use of VALX axles in its trailer builds.

Business Unit Manager, Edward Spaans and Equipment Manager, Jaco can Eijk, advise that the fleet offers a professional and flexible trailer, container and shipping service for full and partial loads from and to Great Britain. From Benelux and Germany A2B-Online provides a daily service using company-owned trailers and containers. “We have daily departures on our container vessels from the port of Moerdijk to different ports in Great Britain and vice versa.”

A2B-Online has offices in Hazerswoude-Dorp (NL), Moerdijk (NL) and Ipswich (UK), boasting a fleet of 400 trailers. The most recent trailer order was 50 Kässbohrer curtainsiders and it has been specifying VALX equipment (particularly VALX drum brakes) since 2015.

French family business, Réseau Poids Lourds (RPL), specialises in the sale and rental of heavy goods vehicles. It has a fleet of 1,000 vehicles and has used VALX axles for the past four years.

“We have 336 Lecitrailer trailers that are equipped with VALX and we achieved 450,000km in four years,” said RPL CEO, Didier Gruau. “We mainly specify standard disc brake axles. “With many of VALX’s competitors, the quality of used materials decreases and prices rise. Regarding VALX, the manufacturing quality and the accessibility of the spare parts is very good.”

There are three important features of VALX axles according to Gruau. “The easy assembly / disassembly which allows quick and inexpensive maintenance,” he said. “The robustness of the axle (breakdowns are rare) and finally the price of spare parts which is very affordable. We are satisfied with the quality of the manufacturing of the axles. The VALX service and our stock allow us to be reactive in the event of an intervention.”

Meanwhile, Twan Heetkamp, owner and founder of THT New Cool in the Netherlands, also supports VALX and its portfolio of products. In 2005 he started a trailer rental company, THT in Venlo, which was eventually sold to TIP in 2016. In 2007, he came up with the concept for The New Cool trailer. After selling his rental business he was able to focus on his latest all-electric reefer project.

“The New Cool trailer is a reefer with a E2!HD axle from VALX that generates energy when the truck-trailer combination slows down,” he said. “The generated energy is stored in a custom battery pack and is used to power the cooling engine from Carrier.”

THT New Cool is currently based in an office building in Venlo but will be moving to a new site by the end of July 2020 to prepare it for future expansion.

“At the moment we have a fleet of 47 trailers,” Heetkamp said. “In Q3 of 2020 we are rolling out a new and improved version of the The New Cool trailer. This will be a series of 100 trailers, which will be delivered to our customers by end of 2020, beginning of 2021. We have already reached an agreement with our customers for a large part of this series. But there are still some trailers available.”

For the last series, Heetkamp ordered mostly Krone and Schmitz Cargobull trailers and one Lecitrailer. For the next series, though, he has also ordered a couple of Chereau trailers.

Heetkamp has specified VALX axles since 2013 when he built The New Cool prototype. “This trailer is still driving every day,” he said. After that, all the trailers we order are now delivered on VALX axles (E2!HD energy axles and VALX axles with disc brakes).

It is interesting to note that when Heetkamp ran his trailer rental company, ales were not his most important consideration for the fleet. “I noticed that it made little difference to our customers which axles were underneath the trailer,” he said.  “With THT New Cool, however, we need an axle manufacturer that is future-oriented. VALX is at the moment, the only company that can deliver an axle that generates energy. If we are talk about the specifications of the trailer with our customers and mention we need VALX axles, this is never a problem.”

Fast Fact
The transport industry is becoming increasingly competitive and sustainable according to VALX. The OEM strives to deliver the lowest total cost of ownership in the industry and be leading with the electrification of axles and components.

Fast Fact
According to VALX’s mission statement, traditional industry needs to be challenged by offering a fresh business approach and more value for money. The Dutch manufacturing specialist chooses to be different in everything it commits to while keeping simplicity, reliability, sustainability and agility in mind. VALX develops, manufactures and supplies axles and other components for trailers with the best performance for its customers.

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