"Never a dull moment" is how Leander van Bellen of Fruitify Experts describes its activities through the years. This Dutch company specializing in quality inspections and expert assessments is celebrating its tenth anniversary this week. "It's been ten wonderful but also challenging years. When you see where we've come from and how we've dealt with all the recent global developments, I'm nothing but proud of our team. I look forward to the next ten years."
Leander van Bellen and Hans Troost
This business adventure began in 'Mooy's hay loft', as Leander puts it. "Mooy Logistics was looking for a quality assurance partner. So Otto de Groot, HDG Survey Group shareholder, started a new private company along with Mooy's management: HDG Service.
I was asked to join," he begins. "And together with Hans Troost, and later Marco Smit, we started in their attic with three desks and three laptops. Mooy, however, went under four years ago, so we came to be loose on the market. Our name and that of our sister company, HDG Rotterdam, were similar. We, thus, decided to change the name to Fruitify Experts."
The company wants to be its clients' independent eyes. "Our logo since the name change is, therefore, an iris. We work a lot with overseas companies who can't assess the fruit themselves when it comes into port," Leander explains.
"We then want to be their eyes and provide great service on their behalf." The company checks all the vegetables, and mainly fruits coming in from its customers. "Of course, the fruit has to comply with EU regulations."
"But, nowadays, many customers often have their own specifications as well. We're happy to provide that extra bit of service. Fruit has to be of top quality: a minimum Brix value, minimum size, etc. We check for this and report that it's been inspected according to client requirements," says Leander.
The work has changed considerably over the years, he says. "Quality inspection has become much more professional, but also more challenging. Consider automation within our profession - we used to write everything in a notepad, only to enter it all into computers manually."
"These days, we have our own software tool, QC4U, which makes everything much faster and more professional. Big data is becoming increasingly important. We've collected a wealth of information in recent years, so we can quickly access and use all that information."
There is also significantly more pressure on Fruitify. "As I said, more and more is being asked of the products coming into the ports. However, more is also being asked of the packaging and the reporting speed. There's enormous pressure to send out reports as quickly as possible. Fortunately, a software tool like QC4U obviously helps tremendously with that," Van Bellen continues.
According to him, finding good personnel is the biggest challenge within the quality control field. "The labor market is already very limited, and our profession is fairly unknown. There's no training at school for quality inspectors. We're therefore trying to draw more attention to this wonderful profession. For example, we were at a career information market, telling students about this job."
"We're also very active on social media and train people internally. That's a good way of passing on one's knowledge. We're considering giving guest lectures about the work too. We're in contact with educational institutions about this, but it's still early days," Leander explains.
Looking ahead, the businessman remains very optimistic. "Looking back, time's flown by. At first, it was truly pioneering work, setting everything up. Now, we're taking on more of a guiding role. My passion still lies with inspections and assessments, but we now have 18 employees in three offices. Then you're more of a manager."
Fruitify will be relocating in late May. "It's very close to our current head office, but with much more space. We want to use this to respond to the growth we'd like to see in the coming years. The future lies open. Customers are growing, and new ones are added. As part of HDG Survey Group, we're happy to grow with them," Leander concludes.