BUSINESS CONSULTANTS OF VLAIO SUPPORT ENTREPRENEURS
The five former provincial Innovation Centres join forces in the VLAIO Team for Business Projects, thus creating one contact point for entrepreneurs for all their questions concerning innovation, support, advice and subsidies. For more information, you can consult the website www.groeiwaarts.be
The team already has an impressive track record. Here, we will highlight the case of Prefamac, a Limburg manufacturer of chocolate machines and – not coincidentally – a partner of Flanders Make! You can read an extract of their story below and visit the website for all details.
BUSINESS MANAGER MYRIAM SCHEPERS TELLS US HER STORY
Prefamac not only makes chocolate machines but also machines to cover biscuits with a layer of chocolate, cooling tunnels... and it does so mainly for the international market. Only 5 percent of their production is intended for the Belgian market, including deliveries to the big names of the chocolate world: Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini.
Myriam heads the company, in 2018 already for 30 years. But she’s still very motivated. “I still see many opportunities and have no intention whatsoever to quit!”
Throughout the years, Myriam has always been in search of new applications to meet her clients’ wishes. “Chocolate and biscuits have been invented ages ago. They’ve always been tasty but today’s consumers are continually in search of something different, something new, something unique. While our machines are copied in China and Turkey, we permanently strive for better, more efficient and more beautiful machines. This requires permanent innovation. Besides, it is also fun to regularly produce new machines and continuously meet new customers that want to produce new chocolate surprises. But it is equally challenging to address issues after my meetings with existing customers. An Indian customer of mine complained about the great deal of manual work that is involved in the production of biscuits. He couldn’t see how he could increase production and, at the same time, have everything ready in the holiday season. Hearing this, I immediately start thinking about how I can develop a machine that can do everything but is still tailored to the customers’ specific needs.”
CO-CREATION AND CO-DESIGN
“I focus very strongly on co-creation. We work with modular machines”, explains Myriam. “Every machine can be adapted to the needs of the specific customer, up to the final product. If a customer wants a praline with 10 nuts in the first layer of chocolate and 16 in the second layer, we will sit together and make a tailored machine that is able to deliver. It gives our customers a huge increase of scale when they no longer need to do this manually but can use our machine for this.”
But co-design is important as well. “We have for instance a development lab in which we test new techniques and machines. All big chocolate manufacturers can test our machines free of charge using their chocolate and cocoa butter. These smart people then give us tips or tell us what they would like to see differently. This leads to a new machine, which we can then offer to our customers.”
Prefamac worked closely together with the business consultants of VLAIO and with Flanders Make for creating a big, new machine. While VLAIO helped us to take on a more strategic approach to innovation, Flanders Make supported the company with the development of a prototype. A feasibility study led to the initiation of an innovation trajectory. This should result in prototype(s) for new machines to manufacture new products at Prefamac and, as such, create a new market and realise further growth for the company. Flanders Make sees this as the valorisation of research and the transfer and further development of knowledge within an SME. In other words, a win-win-situation for all parties involved!