All Tape Supplies (ATS) in Tilburg does work in Tilburg that other companies outsource to low-wage countries. It was only later that owner Felipe Muñoz Mateu discovered that this is called reshoring. It pays to do it, because he and his employees, day in and day out, look together to see what can be done better and easier. They also have a lot of fun doing it.
“Everything you touch has been in contact with tape. Do you know that a car contains 60 kilos of tape”, Felipe Muñoz Mateu asks. You don’t realize that. The company that he started in 2006 with his father, welcomes the 37th employee in the autumn of 2018.
The more than man-sized rolls of tape in the ATS warehouse come from Asia. At ATS they are processed into tape in the format and in the packaging that the customers need. This enables ATS to deliver much faster than colleagues who import the end product from low-wage countries. Every day, Felipe Muñoz Mateu and his employees work to further improve the processes. They take machines apart and reassemble them so that they do better and are adjusted to what they find useful at ATS. They like it.
“For me this is Disneyland”, says Niels Bakker (22), quality control laboratory technician. He studied technical physics and came to ATS as an operator for holiday work. “Old-fashioned” he found that job. “I like to get involved in everything so I put my thoughts on paper as sympathetically as possible and asked if I could give the process a push to make it more modern.” Although he did not immediately get it his way – he had too little experience – he was allowed to stay. Because what he wants, that’s what they want at ATS: to improve all the time.
They also do this in the area of personnel policy. For example, they stopped working ‘in boxes and compartments’, Felipe Muñoz Mateu says, ‘and they are now working in teams.’ Such a team is made up of marketing, purchasing, sales, planning and IT. The customer who calls no longer has to wait until the buyer has time, for example, but is helped immediately. For years now, we have been busy training our staff and providing them with training. And we do our best to make the work easier, so that you can do your work more cheerfully. You have to work, but you have to have fun.
Niels Bakker confirms that this idea appeals to the employees: ‘For me, growth and learning are everything. I could not live without it’. His task is to let the lab grow, so that it creeps between all processes. “If I have an idea that would be useful or cool, I can work it out. Usually I get a standing ovation. At other companies where I worked and did an internship, you see more caution. Bosses are not open to investments they haven’t thought of themselves.”
Three of the four themes on which Brabants Bests are selected can be found in the working method of ATS: social innovation, including employment and reshoring. Felipe Muñoz Mateu works hard on social innovation, but he didn’t know for a very long time that he also does reshoring and inclusive employership. “We had been working on reshoring for years without knowing that it was called that. It turned out that you could get a subsidy for it.” The same applies to inclusive employment: “For years, we hired people who were distanced from the labour market without subsidies. Now we are working together with the city government to help people who would like to work to get a job’. He thinks that’s self-evidently: ‘I believe that everyone should be given a second or third chance. We got it when we started with nothing’.
Sometimes he meets fellow entrepreneurs who declare him crazy: ‘They say: “Those employees don’t have to be your friends, do they?” I see it like this: you spend more time with your colleagues than with your family. If you then start complaining here, you come home with such a headache. We learn, we innovate, we have fun together.’