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Sander van den Heuvel, Director at PCT:

“Entrepreneurship is so much more enjoyable and efficient if you do it together”

Strict legislation and regulations, increasing international transhipment of food and more extreme weather conditions. All this makes refrigeration technology an essential element of the primary processes of companies in the food sector. In order to reinforce its position in this market segment, Unica acquired PCT Koudetechniek in March 2020.

This family business from Brabant was founded in 1984 and the company has been a leading player in the field of industrial process cooling for many years. Director Sander van den Heuvel sees many opportunities for growth for the company as part of the Unica Industry Solutions cluster. “By working together with the network of companies, we can take on even bigger and better projects.”

Every spring, Sander van den Heuvel and his father Riny take their places at the kitchen table at the family home in Deurne, Brabant. The aim of the meeting is to go through the annual plans for the family business, PCT Koudetechniek. But when father and son sat down together, as is traditional, in April 2019, things felt different to previous years. Sander: “There was a strong sense of urgency. Over the past thirty years, the business has grown steadily. We now have 35 employees and we have built a strong reputation for ourselves within the field of industrial process cooling. But in recent years we had been so busy that we could hardly meet demand anymore. We both knew that we would have to do something, before we became victims of our own success.”

An immediate connection

There were two possibilities: achieving fast growth by taking over other companies, or being acquired ourselves. “I have three young daughters, who I have to say I don’t think will be in a hurry to join the business,” says Sander. “So we decided to look for a suitable company to acquire us.” They thought it would take three to five years to find the right party but, by September of that year, Sander and his father got talking to John Quist (CEO) and Bert Moser (CFO) at Unica. “We had an immediate connection and nine months later the deal was done,” says Sander. “It did all happen very quickly, but it certainly wasn’t a rushed decision. I sometimes ask my father, who still works in the business two days a week, how he feels about it now. And he says that he is still 100 percent behind the acquisition by Unica. As am I.”

Covid-19

The acquisition period was nerve-racking for Sander, although that had more to do with external circumstances. “We started the process in January, but then Covid-19 came along. Brabant could be in lockdown from 12 March, as the first big hotspot. But we were supposed to be signing in Hoevelaken the very next day! Luckily, Brabant stayed ‘open’ and that meeting was able to go ahead.”

Covid-19 did put a spanner in the works when it came to another milestone though. “On Monday 16 March, we wanted to inform our employees in person of the acquisition, during a celebration with cake and champagne. But the day before, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the lockdown... Unfortunately, that meant that we had to announce the news in a less personal way, in a letter.”

Together with Unica, we are working to achieve national coverage in terms of both customers and technicians

Network of companies

The biggest concern among our employees was that the acquisition would mean big changes. Sander: “You often hear of this happening, of course, but joining Unica was like coming home. We received a warm welcome from Unica and the companies in our cluster, Unica Industry Solutions. It’s great that we are still able to set our own course and that our company name will be retained for the time being. That wasn’t actually a non-negotiable. Our angle was that we wanted to find a good way to guarantee the continuity of our business, reduce work pressure and improve work satisfaction among our employees.” According to Sander, all of this has been achieved. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, we were able to benefit from Unica’s professional approach straight away. For a small company, identifying, implementing and making use of all the Covid-19 measures and the support available would have been a real challenge. So we discovered the advantages of being part of a large organisation straight away.”

National coverage

PCT Koudetechniek’s strength is the fact that it can handle the complete engineering/design, manufacture, assembly and installation of refrigeration technology. Excellent service is the cherry on top. Sander: “We focus on large, customised refrigeration installations for the food sector and meat-processing industry. We work for leading companies such as the bread baker Pandriks Bake Off, Jumbo Raalte and Jan Pannekoeken.” Although industrial refrigeration technology is a new market for Unica, things are off to a good start according to Sander. “Together with Unica, we are working to achieve national coverage in terms of both customers and technicians. Working together to build a successful future is a pleasure. Entrepreneurship is so much more enjoyable and efficient if you do it together.”