Is 2020 a year to quickly forget? No. But it should give us pause, that is clear. Together with Evalan CEO Henk Schwietert, we look back on 2020. What is his view on the past year, and what were the challenges? And what does he hope for 2021? In this interview, Henk answers these questions and more.
How do you look back on 2020?
2020 has of course taken surprising turns that most companies could not have foreseen at the start of the year. For Evalan, we have had to respond very quickly and creatively to changes several times during the year. There were in particular two important moments. The first occured when the crisis just started and the lockdown commenced, with enormous pressure on the healthcare system. With our technology and services, we were able to provide support here and there. For example, we supplied sensor solutions to the emergency hospital that was set up in Maastricht to monitor the oxygen level in the blood of patients. The second moment occurred in September, when one of our customers confirmed that their sensors are able to detect corona infections quickly. Because we supply important IoT components for that solution, we had to respond fast to a completely changing demand. Our product SmartEagle, a sensor that monitors workplace occupancy, is another example. We added functionality to the sensor to monitor how many people are in a room and how much distance they keep from each other.
Due to the corona crisis, some of our projects were delayed or completely stopped. The way our team works together also suddenly changed. How do you ensure that people can continue to perform their work if the entire team is working from home suddenly? How can the processes continue, and how do you keep the collaboration effective? I want to compliment the Evalan team on how they managed this. Organizing daily stand-ups also helped, as did weekly coffee talks and internal meetings. Our Management Team really focused on communicating with all team members on regular basis. Despite everything, we ended the year well; we are growing, we have launched new products, completed large projects with good results, and received important follow-up orders.
How would you describe Evalan now?
Evalan is a dynamic company where talented young professionals work together on significant innovations in a field where a lot is happening. More and more devices, processes, and systems are connected to the internet, and the data from those systems is stored and analyzed. The collected data provides relevant insights that influence people’s experiences daily. There are many fascinating things to do in this field for engineers, business developers, and marketeers.
What lessons will you draw from 2020?
“It’s never as good as it seems, but it’s also never as bad as it seems,” a BP senior manager told me in 2000. We were working on a major project in the oil and gas industry in Trinidad and the project had quite a few ups and downs. This year I have thought about that comment many times. There is a lockdown, a lot of uncertainty, clients calling to stop projects, all cafes are closed, a whole series of messages like this emerged. Just when you think that everything is going wrong, it turns out that things are not too bad, and all kinds of new possibilities suddenly arise. It’s never as bad as it seems. I learned that that comment from 20 years ago still applies.
A second lesson from 2020 is that if you have a strong team with a positive attitude, a strong mentality, and a solution-oriented attitude, you are incredibly resilient and flexible. We have seamlessly gone from one way of working to another. And that went well immediately.
What were the positive developments, the highlights of the past year?
The professionalization of the organization is a significant highlight. Fifteen years ago, Evalan started as a start-up, and every year the work processes get better, the team is stronger, and we gain more and more knowledge and experience. Also in 2020.
The launch of BACE in 2020 is another highlight. We are still working hard to further develop the product, but it already offers a lot of added value in many IoT implementations. Together with our customers, we continue to build great solutions for their production facilities, operations, and the health of their people. Based on the results, customers also decide to equip other systems in their portfolio with IoT. It is nice to see that customers increasingly see the different possibilities of IoT. In the past year, we have achieved significant milestones in large projects. We are grateful that many of our customers actively introduce us to other companies. That is the best compliment you can get.
What are the plans for Evalan for 2021?
We want to continue to build on our foundation of long-term partnerships with customers. We continue to use our high-quality technical expertise and are also able to translate that technology into solutions that are implementable, reliable, and that meet the highest operational and security requirements. We want to scale up several of the products that we developed in 2020. Not only in the Netherlands, but also in other European countries.
Finish the sentence: In 2021 I hope that …
First of all, I hope that the health problem that exists now will resolve quickly, and that the world has learned from this experience and will apply the lessons. The pressures that a growing population of people are exercising on the earth are still going up. The results are difficult to oversee, but it has vast effects. I think structural changes are needed to address this problem. This year has shown that people generally can adapt quickly in challenging situations, and technology can help. The technology areas in which Evalan is active support some of the solutions that are progressed now, and I am excited that through those we can contribute to the efforts that deal with the challenges of the moment.