Over forty years ago, Hans Bransen and his wife Mariska started their greenhouse construction company Hans Bransen Tuinbouwtechnieken & Adviezen from home. Since the beginning of this year, this legacy has been continued under the name Bransen Group by his sons Niels, Luc and Roy Bransen. As of 1 January, they have taken over the management of the Westland family business, which specialises in horticultural and electrical engineering.
It is a step that had been coming up in recent years, as becomes clear when we sit down at the office in Naaldwijk on a Friday afternoon at the end of January. Luc explains: "All three of us have been involved in our parents' company since childhood. In recent years, together with our team, we have made great strides in the management of the company. We have taken professional steps to bring calm and structure to our team, which has enabled us to take the step towards Bransen Group."
Luc, Niels and Roy Bransen have been at the helm of Bransen Group since 1 January 2022
Within the family
The formation of Bransen Group brings together the former companies Hans Bransen Tuinbouwtechnieken & Adviezen and Niels Bransen Advies & Projecten. Luc: "Since 2018, we have been working together behind the scenes as one company. You see many companies merge, and we did too. Only we kept it within the family."
Through the merger, the renewed company has brought together all the knowledge of horticulture and electrical engineering under one roof. The combination of these two fields of expertise is a bull's eye according to Luc: "In recent years, there has been a lot of demand for electrical engineering in greenhouse horticulture. Niels has the electrical engineering knowledge, Roy the horticultural knowledge and I have a little bit of everything and find my strength in business management tasks."
Hans Bransen set up the company more than 40 years ago
In the past, clients would see buses from both Hans Bransen Tuinbouwtechnieken & Adviezen and Niels Bransen Advies & Projecten driving back and forth on projects. With the transition to the Bransen Group, that is a thing of the past. "By continuing as the Bransen Group, we have created a single point of contact for clients. It gives the company more decisiveness and we have also noticed, since we announced the group name at the end of last year, that we are receiving more requests for total projects."
In father Hans' time, this was not yet the case. He saw a lot of the world by taking on assignments both at home and abroad. "Nevertheless, nowadays about sixty percent of our turnover comes from the Westland. You wouldn't believe what you sometimes hear, such as 'there's not much happening in Westland anymore'. There is a large grey area between the very large greenhouse horticultural projects and the smaller projects, where there is a lot of activity. And that is the area in which we operate. Think of more complex horticultural projects, a few thousand meters of glass, renovations, but also the conversion of greenhouses and the realization of business premises. We focus on such projects with an almost turnkey approach. As the main contractor, we are able to realize projects from the application of permits to completion. In addition, we will always be there for our customers when it comes to service and breakdowns. Our motto is 'nothing is impossible' and that is exactly how we work."
Last year, the company realized these 14-metre-high compartments for Caldic Ingredients, a major player in the food industry
Showing your face
This approach has demanded some adaptability from the office team in recent years. Internal operations are highly automated and investments have been and are being made in front desk service, work preparation, and project management. But great strides have also been made in the field service. "If we could hire four more mechanics or installers, we would do it right away," laughs Luc, "Unfortunately it's not that easy. But, we have managed to build up a nice, young and motivated team that we can trust blindly."
Like many engineering companies in the sector, Bransen Group works with a loyal permanent team and with a flexible shell. "This allows us to quickly scale up when needed. For example, last year after the heavy snowfall in February, we quickly tripled our team and had 45 people on the road to help growers in need." The three brothers themselves are also often seen on projects. "We do that very consciously. We learned that from Dad: direct customer contact is important. We remain ultimately responsible and we think that you should also show this. We notice that you get trust and appreciation in return. He has gained many loyal customers, who still return to us. It is important to maintain that bond with the customer and you do that by showing your face."
A horticultural project in Monster, where Bransen Group demolished three houses and around 6000 m2 of greenhouse. They also created a complex new pipeline route by filling in old ditches and around 2,200 m2 of replacement water
In the brothers' busy working weeks, Thursday evening is sacred. That is when they get together to further optimize operations and discuss current projects. "These hours are very valuable to us. We not only discuss the ongoing business but also think about new construction techniques or technical solutions to challenges that we encounter a lot in custom projects."
In that context, Luc points out that it remains important to keep room for service and maintenance in greenhouses, even if it involves a lot of high-tech technology. "That is something that is sometimes forgotten. Sometimes an extra meter of a concrete path is better in the long run than an extra meter of crop. If something has to be adjusted or repaired in the greenhouse, it is easier to access. One thing is certain: careful consideration at the start of a project is worth it."
For the same reason, extensive talks are also held with insurers and damage experts. "The requirements for a greenhouse change over the years, with risks being excluded as much as possible. Toughened glass or a fire-retardant screen cloth has become quite normal. We have our own engineers in the office and when setting up projects we also take on an advisory role when it comes to these kinds of issues. In addition, we have a range of partners who all do what they are good at. We can make good use of this teamwork in projects, where there is considerable diversity!"
Bransen Group works not only in greenhouses, but also in offices and business premises
As the end of Friday afternoon approaches, it is time for Luc, who was still in North Limburg for a project in the morning, to have one more appointment. At the moment, there are some larger, complex projects that require a lot of attention. "In the past two years, we have received assignments that are larger in size, complexity, and lead time than what we were used to in our organization. It shows the steps we are making, although we are wary of growing too fast. We have big ambitions, but it has to be done step by step. That way, after years of operating 'under the radar', people will start to see us more often. Although we don't shout it from the rooftops. Our father never did and we will not. Together with our team, we continue to build on the foundation that our father laid with our mother."