'Making complete process systems, that's just cool to be able to do!'

René van Herk began his adventure at Gpi De Gouwe in 2014 as an apprentice sheet metal worker/welder. Since then, he has made quite a few steps and is now a true all-rounder in a team of dedicated colleagues. His motivation? Delivering good workmanship and thinking along on process equipment innovation.

His first introduction to welding was when, as a 12-year-old boy, he was allowed to go with his father to repair a tugboat belonging to the local scout club. “Repairing it, making something, that attracted me,” René says. The love for vessels grew and so after high school, as a 15-year-old, he started an intermediate vocational course in ship and yacht building. René: “I took this course for two years, but actually I was far too young and that’s what killed me.”

With the help of his mentor, René found a trade that suited him better. He ended up as an apprentice sheet metal worker/welder at De Gouwe. He progressed from level 2 to level 3. After graduating, he really learned the intricacies of the trade. “At De Gouwe, I was given every opportunity to try everything. So I not only learned to weld well, but also cut, roll, cut, forge, grind, edge and the additional turning and milling work I was allowed to master.”
René is grateful for the very good apprentices who guided and shaped him into the versatile craftsman he is today.

‘Seeing process equipment in use on site is great to experience and educational’

In addition to his work in the production hall, he also enjoys “going on jobs” as it is called at Gpi De Gouwe. “Our process systems are installed – if desired – on site. When you are there then, you see how everything is used in practice. That is not only great to see, but you also learn a lot from this.”

Doing work on site regularly involves challenges, René calmly continues. “Sometimes it seems impossible to get the work done in the time available for this. Afterwards, it gives a great feeling when it does work and the customer is satisfied with the solution we agreed on and provided.”


Perfection in every detail
René has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience over the years, and now he is working with a project team to make Gpi’s Kelstream scraped surface heat exchanger more widely applicable. “The Kelstream is a versatile product. You can heat and cool or both with it. It is an ingeniously thought-out system where every detail is important and all parts must fit together perfectly. Working on a Kelstream requires precision work. It’s really fun to do my bit to create a product that works perfectly down to the smallest details,” says René enthusiastically.

In addition, René’s heart also beats faster when making completely integrated process solutions in frames (skid construction). “Being responsible for making complete process systems from the moment I get my hands on the drawing to the final end result, that’s just cool! There is nothing nicer to make something so great out of stainless steel” says René.

‘Stainless steel is something magical, it is wonderful material to work with and to make something beautiful out of it’

René reveals that not only the diversity of his work, but also his colleagues contribute to his job satisfaction at Gpi: “Through our close cooperation we bring out the best in each other. It goes without saying that you are responsible for your own work. We deliver quality, are solution-oriented and self-reliant. In challenging projects it is nice to discuss together how best to tackle certain issues, without mutual rivalry. We are there for each other and help each other when necessary.”

When René is asked what the biggest compliment he has ever received from a customer is, he replies, “That we deliver a high-quality, beautiful product at a fair price. You can’t get a nicer (indirect) compliment about your work”.

René hopes to be with Gpi for some time to come. His motivation is to lift the quality of the products to an even higher level, to work more efficiently where possible and to let the mutual cooperation be even more effective. Because in his opinion: together you achieve more!

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