Atlas Copco's Antwerp plant has a major innovation program. With this, it is consolidating its leading position in the Swedish group.
“Den Arpic” (“The Arpic”). That's what people in the 1950s called the small factory on the Antwerp Boomse Steenweg where compressors were made. In 1956 the Swedish company Atlas Copco bought the factory. Ten years later the Swedish multinational decided to concentrate the production and R&D of compressors in Wilrijk, district of Antwerp. Compressors account for 45% of Atlas Copco's approximately EUR 11 billion global turnover. Atlas Copco in Belgium employs more than 3700 people.
Today June 29 2022 the company announced a mega-investment of 70 million euros. The investment is spread across the entire site: from lab infrastructure to an expansion of production and even a new parking building. But as well in education of its personnel.
"The USP of this site is that we engineer the product, develop the production process and also make the product. It's an engineer's Walhalla here," says Wouter Ceulemans, president airtec divsion. "By keeping these three things so close together, we can make adjustments very quickly. That efficiency offsets our disadvantage of high labor costs."
Compressors are evolving technologically at lightning speed. The most recent evolution is the integration of Internet of Things. Wouter Ceulemans: "Around the world, more than 200,000 Atlas Copco compressors are in constant communication with our headquarters. This is how we prevent downtime. The latest wave of innovation revolves around energy savings and reuse of residual heat. We are also looking at the possibilities of hydrogen. That will be the innovation of the next few years."
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The past five year Atlas Copco in Antwerp has grown with an average of almost 130 new employees, a trend the company intends to uphold. Currently, there are more than 150 job vacancies. "We are looking for software developers and data specialists,” says Wouter Ceulemans. "All STEM engineers are welcome here." That the plant is located in a metropolis with a large labor reserve and many new graduates helps.
Atlas Copco has found a good breeding ground in Antwerp. "We can't innovate on our own," says Wouter Ceulemans. "We have a lot of collaborations. For example, for the IoT innovation we made contacts with some startups in the IoT innovation hub The Beacon. That was very instructive. We want to take additional steps in this regard. The Antwerp ecosystem can be a big help in our innovation drive.”