09-12-2022

RIWO about future-proof entrepreneurship

“With the same technological building blocks, you can also create impact in other areas.”

RIWO about future-proof entrepreneurship

What began twenty-three years ago as an idea scribbled on a beer mat has since grown into RIWO, a business that specializes in industrial automation and control. In a market where technology is becoming increasingly complex, director Wim Spit is able to keep his business future-proof. He shares the secret of his successful business in Oldenzaal.

RIWO does not have any products of its own. Instead, the company takes the entire process of solving a control or automation problem out of a client’s hands. Although the technology is becoming increasingly complex, RIWO is able to keep up with the latest developments. Wim says: “The world of agricultural automation presents some interesting opportunities, which we are capitalizing on. In the past, farmers would feed their calves by hanging a little trailer behind a tractor. These days, a feeding robot runs through the stable 24/7 to serve out exactly the right amount of feed. These technological changes are happening incredibly fast and it is essential for us to keep up. A service engineer who used to install relatively simple technology now has to know their way around advanced robots. That is also why we train our staff in house, so we can always react quickly to new technological developments.”

Technological building blocks

This is not always easy for an SME, yet RIWO is managing it just fine.  Wim explains: “The world around us is changing, so you have to adapt. You constantly have to meet society’s expectations and come up with new solutions to problems. This is especially true for tech companies. To develop these solutions, we begin by looking at the technological building blocks that we already have. What technologies have we used in the past to solve similar issues? What is already available on the market? What else can we do with that? For example, we examined what other applications we could come up with for our apple-picking robot by making a few minor modifications. We discovered that we could use the same technology to sort pears. That makes the business case a lot stronger. With the same technological building blocks, you can also create impact in other areas.”

Sharing solutions

In other words, the company is able to operate efficiently by not trying to reinvent the wheel time and again. On top of that, RIWO is able to maximize its impact by working together with other businesses in the TValley cluster, which centers around innovation projects in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence and mechatronics. “Collaboration is very important to us,” says Wim. “There are only seventy of us here, so we cannot develop everything ourselves, nor do we have an infinite R&D budget. That is where TValley comes in. It is a pool where you can share your thoughts and ideas with like-minded people. Of course, building real trust takes time. We have managed to create an open atmosphere together in which everyone is willing to share the solutions they have come up with. That is when the real magic begins to happen. If we can get something out of it, we can give something back as well. What is relevant to us right now might become relevant to another business in six months’ time. That is why it is so valuable to share your experiences with others. Here in Twente, we must set ourselves apart by working together. For example, even though Voortman Steel Machinery is mostly active in the steel industry and we operate primarily in the agricultural sector, there is still a certain technological overlap. When you look at those technological building blocks, you can innovate much faster together.”

Global ambitions

Wim believes RIWO can become a global player in ten years’ time by making smart use of existing technologies and working together with other parties. “We do not aspire to offer a complete solution, but we can be part of the big picture. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we will seek out cooperation partners. This allows you to stick your neck out for innovation and expedite the innovation process. We are also looking at different business models, such as servitization. We first implemented that back in 2012 by allowing engineers to log in to the system remotely. Over the past decade, this has grown into the RIMOTE digitalization platform we know today. It was an intensive process, but I would be happy to do it all again. A solution-oriented mindset, making good use of existing technology and the entrepreneurial mindset that is typical of Twente certainly helped as well. It is about seizing opportunities. That is true for RIWO and for the Netherlands as a whole, if we want to play a meaningful role on the global stage. If you are able to keep your eye on the ball, the sky is the limit.”

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