Royal IHC – 400 Years of Excellence
With nearly 400 years of practice, Royal IHC knows a thing or two about innovation.
Royal IHC is a supplier of innovative, efficient equipment, vessels and services that have seen use everywhere from sea level to the most challenging depths of the ocean floor. They’ve been a reliable, preferred partner for the offshore, dredging and wet mining industries.
“It’s hard to be brief because we do a lot,” laughs Hans Greve, the Managing Director for the company. “Royal IHC began as a shipbuilding company. Our earliest activity started 400 years ago in the Netherlands, but we’ve grown into a company that supplies to the mining industry, the dredging industry, and the offshore industry.”
The company’s wealth of engineering and manufacturing knowledge has been used to construct integrated, high-performance vessels since their origins as a Dutch shipbuilding company in the mid-17th century, and today their portfolio includes not just a wide catalogue of equipment, but also a range of sustainable services.
“We are a technology provider, not just an equipment manufacturer,” Greve points out. “We pride ourselves on innovative thinking, providing solutions for customers rather than just products. We have to produce highly complex and innovative pieces of equipment and project solutions in the dredging industry, offshore and mining.”
Royal IHC is a team of more than 3,000 people working at sites and offices around the world, providing support and a local presence on every continent, all led from the company’s head office in the Netherlands. They work with dredging operators, oil and gas corporations, offshore contractors, mining houses and even government authorities around the world, providing them with high-quality solutions and services driven by a real commitment to technological innovation, meeting the specific needs of every individual customer in a world that’s changing rapidly all the time.
The Technology You Need
“The key selling point of IHC is that we are offering the best technology on the market,” Greve says. “The technology is always a balance between providing the best performance for our customers, making it cost-effective and of course safe as well. Our equipment operates in harsh environments, so safety for our people and customers and caring for the environment key factors.”
Because Royal IHC’s customers are spread across dredging, mining, and offshore construction, their technology needs to not only be the latest and the best but also resilient enough to function within some of the most hostile environments on Earth. With decades of experience at the forefront of the industry and a history of game-changing innovations, Royal IHC is in an enviable market position, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to rest on their laurels. Research and development is a constant area of investment.
“We have a quite extensive R&D programme. A substantial amount of our revenue goes back into R&D projects” Greve explains. “We have both our own R&D department and collaborate closely with other technological institutes and universities.”
3% of IHC’s revenue goes on innovation every year, putting the company in the top 15 Dutch businesses in terms of R&D spend. The company’s specialist in-house R&D institute, IHC MTI, has over 200 employees working in the field, and they are constantly looking for better solutions and new, improved products to ensure we deliver the best option for any project.
“In terms of product development the type of projects that we do are technologically challenging as well, so our teams need to be capable of coming up with solutions themselves rather than simply taking them off the shelf,” Greve says. “Different customers require different levels of technology.”
Of course, to have a team capable of that, Royal IHC needs to be able to draw in the very best talent.
“We bring talent into the business by trying to be an attractive company to work for,” Greve tells us. “The type of work we do is challenging for young engineers and working together with universities means we constantly have students doing either practical work or graduation work within IHC. It gives us an opportunity to meet the right people. We make sure people have the possibility to develop within the company.”
Ready for Change
Of course, while Royal IHC is working to help their customers succeed in a changing world, that changing world can also affect their own business.
“There are many external challenges to do with the way the markets develop, the way economics develops,” Greve admits. “Our projects are usually relatively long-running projects between two and five years in length so we don’t usually see the effects of a drop in the economy until a few years later. These are factors we can’t influence. We can only try to react to them and make sure our organisation is capable of coping with these changes.”
One of the ways Royal IHC is able to navigate these changing circumstances is by simply not keeping all of their eggs in one basket.
“We can see the changes coming but one of the ways we’re able to adapt is that the cycles of the oil and gas industry are different to those of the mining and dredging sectors,” he says. “They’re both linked to world economics but we can cope by having these different pillars so we can shift work from one sector to another depending on how the different industries are performing.”
Looking to the future, Royal IHC has more change in mind.
“We have ambitions of course,” Greve says. “We will try to grow further as a company on the international level. Much of our work has been focused on our shipyards in the Netherlands and Europe but we see the possibility to do more and more through our international offices.
It means that we seek to grow more in these areas so that we’re able to build locally for local customers. At the same time we’re constantly looking for new solutions and new opportunities, new what we call incubators so we can expand our activities, by investing in technology that we think is unique for the market.”