Bilfinger Industrial Services
Making orange juice and running a manufacturing facility might seem completely unrelated, but to mass produce the orange juice consumers are used to seeing on their grocery store shelves, beverage companies need to run advanced manufacturing operations.
Doing so ensures the morning drink of millions is just right, from the acidity to the packaging.
To allow OJ manufacturers, for instance, to focus on the pulp and not the machinery, Bilfinger Industrial Services asks, why not outsource some manufacturing responsibilities? Just as large companies outsource security guards, trucking, even IT, more are starting to outsource industrial services, and they’re looking to partners like Bilfinger. And it’s not just the country’s juice producers who can benefit from this approach. Bilfinger works with the biggest names in the food, paper, chemical and consumer goods industries.
“There’s a trend in the industry that companies try to focus more on their core activities—developing, making and selling their products—and are looking for competent partners to help them more in the areas of upgrading and maintaining,” says Boudewijn van Lent, Bilfinger’s president and CEO. “We’re trying to step on that trend.”
Based in Ballwin, Missouri, Bilfinger provides industrial services, including manufacturing plant upgrades, expansions and maintenance.
With roughly 1,500 employees and a national reach, Bilfinger can do everything from install new production lines to exchange reactors and generators, upgrade buildings, install manufacturing equipment and pave private roads. It completes mechanical and electrical work—“basically everything associated with getting the plant in better shape,” van Lent says.
“They need to be lean,” he says. “They want to focus on the thing they really need to do and to outsource many of the activities that are not key to developing, making and producing the product.”
A dynamic toolbox
Bilfinger is part of an international conglomerate founded in Germany in 1880, and it has parent and sister companies that specialize in the petrochemical, oil and gas industries. The companies’ shared experiences give Bilfinger strength that few competitors can challenge.
Bilfinger prides itself on using the most advanced tools and technologies available. It uses building information management (BIM) software, laser scanning technology and cloud point scanning to make 3D models of facilities and their equipment. When buildings or machines need to be upgraded, maintained or replaced, Bilfinger brings those models into the plants on large digital screens, which offer more flexibility than old school paper drawings, van Lent says.
In addition to the physical tools Bilfinger uses, it has created a more figurative “toolbox” for its employees.
Adapting a system that its parent company developed, Bilfinger recently standardized its approach to manufacturing plant maintenance. To do so, Bilfinger created 16 modules. Each module guides Bilfinger employees through a broad range of tasks in a step-by-step fashion. Now, in addition to physical tools, Bilfinger’s employees also have these more figurative tools.
“We can come in and basically have a very defined approach of how we go about our work and take our client through it and they see how it works.”
While Bilfinger employees don’t technically work for the manufacturing plants they support, they are no less invested in their success, van Lent says.
Often, when van Lent visits a Bilfinger employee on a jobsite, that employee shows him around the facility as if it’s his own.
“One thing this organization is very good at is that they work very closely with the client and the organization,” he says. “Over the years [they’ve] developed a very good approach to working with the clients.”
Because Bilfinger’s employees develop such a deep understanding of each client, they also get a unique perspective into the world of manufacturing.
“We can tell you how chemicals are being made, how orange juice is being made, how paper is being made, how chips are being made—you name it and we can tell you how it’s being made,” van Lent says.
That’s not the only perk of the job. For starters, there’s no shortage of work for electricians, welders and mechanics, and if the Trump administration fulfills its promises to invest in infrastructure and other manufacturing-dependent industries, the demand for those workers will only increase, van Lent says. Plus, he says, “these are not your basic wage jobs; these are good paying jobs,” and Bilfinger helps its employees develop their skills in order to build meaningful careers.
Some Bilfinger employees have been with the company for as many as 34 years.
Many like the fact that they’re not tied to a desk and that they get to see the fruits of their labor on a daily basis.
“When my people show me around, you can just see the pride that they have for the work that they do,” van Lent says. “The nice thing about the work that they do is, after you’re done, you can really see what you’ve accomplished. If you bring in a whole new line and it’s running smoothly, that gives the people a sense of pride.”
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