Project leader Willem Vonk travels around the world for Codema to make sure cannabis projects are ready for production in time. His involvement starts during the design phase, and he makes sure the client can start producing. We talk to him about how Codema makes a difference in various phases in every project. Willem Vonk is a project leader at Codema, but this is not how he would describe himself:
“My position is project leader, but practically I am mostly a problem solver and teacher. Based on my experience I know the solution for almost every problem, and I transfer that knowledge to the teams of the projects I visit.”
Willem lives in Lansingerland, he has been working for Codema for 40 years and as a project leader he travels all over the world. In recent years he has been in Northern America a lot where many cannabis greenhouses are being realized. He gets in at the start of the projects when they are still in the designing phase:
“I try to ensure that the customer has a clear insight into the consequences of his choices. Placing an air circuit on top or at the bottom of a greenhouse can make a big difference for the operation. It is important that the client can focus on the right things and that we unburden our client.”
On time in production
The customers for a greenhouse in which medicinal cannabis is grown differ from, for example, with the horticultural entrepreneurs with whom Codema works in the Netherlands. The Dutch growers know exactly what consequences certain choices will have. This is ingrained in the years of experience that have been built up in the Dutch horticulture, sometimes even for generations. While the customers in the medicinal cannabis market are often starters in horticulture. The last group of clients learns quickly during the process, leading sometimes to adjusted decisions.
Because of the many years of experience in horticulture, Codema is extremely suited to guide the client in this dynamic. The high-quality staff combined with local knowledge and experienced project leaders ensure that adjustments are properly supervised during the process. That is why Codema can properly fulfill its responsibility for the production-ready delivery.
“We always work with local teams that are managed by a project manager. The composition is also always different, sometimes we work with contractors and sometimes with individual specialists. That, of course, depends on what the customer wants and on what the project needs in every phase. We are proud of our qualities and are happy to pass them on to novice growers. Upon completion, we always leave an experienced team behind and I leave for the next project, where the process starts all over again.”
Difference between a cannabis greenhouse and a regular greenhouse
Most of the cannabis projects have a closed greenhouse where all the environmental factors are controlled. This means that cooling and heating are required, water management, sufficient air circulation, and even an airlock to keep the preferred pressure inside the greenhouse are essential. In addition, there are specific health and safety requirements because it concerns medicines. All this makes a cannabis project extremely demanding, a field in which Codema really excels.
“The installation of the climate control system, automation, and transport within a greenhouse need to be as good as possible. We know this like no other. After all, when everything is operational the least disturbance can lead to a standstill, which is very expensive to fix.”
Reliable, Dutch quality
All materials, supplies, and machines are produced in and shipped from the Netherlands. This sometimes raises the question; “Doesn’t this cause a high risk for delay?”. Willem explains that as follows;
“You would think so, but in practice, it is pretty engineered. We know the surface of the greenhouse and the number of work surfaces, tables, support poles and rows of containers that will be placed in the greenhouse. And with our experience, we know exactly which spare parts we might need. We almost never encounter any surprises. So no, it hardly ever influences our planning.”
Codema is one of the few companies in the world that can deliver solutions to this level and with this quality. Manufacturing all supplies in the country concerned requires many different suppliers and ensures a degree of uncertainty in terms of quality and planning. In addition, the lead time is usually much higher.
“We deliver the whole operation and make sure that we build in the right margins and surpluses. This way we are never without supplies on location and we never run into problems. This way, the customer knows for sure that everything will be fine.
This is my life
“There is nothing I enjoy more than building and delivering beautiful projects. And I’ve become pretty good at that in the last 40 years. Clients can literally build on my knowledge and experience. I also like to convey that to my colleagues, but I also want to keep building myself. They only recently asked me: ‘Willem, is it an idea if you stay at the headquarters more and advise everyone in the field from there?’. But staying home does not suit me, so I regularly fly to other Codema projects to share my experience. And of course, I have contact with the other project leaders every day to discuss things or to coordinate. This way, I transfer my knowledge and experience to the rest of the team.”
Willem will probably retire in about three years, but he really doesn’t want to think about that. Besides, he wants to be sure to feel at ease when he retires. Otherwise, he would rather keep on working: He summarizes it briefly but forcefully: “This is my life.”