‘Innovation and the drive to do things ourselves are in our DNA.’
My Unisign story: Ruud Beelen is a relative newcomer at Unisign. He joined as a Senior Quality Control Engineer in October 2021, when his predecessor took retirement. His connection with the world of CNC milling and turning, however, began well before then.
Ruud heads up Unisign’s Quality Control department. ‘It is up to me and two colleagues to monitor the quality of every item that leaves our component manufacturing facility,’ Ruud explains. ‘We also check all components that are sourced elsewhere, as well as the parts we machine for clients during a factory acceptance test. Our clients often have strict tolerance requirements. That means the machining head on our CNC machines has to be extremely accurate. We verify everything with great care, using state-of-the-art measuring benches and occasionally by hand.’
Miller and turner
Ruud trained as a traditional CNC miller and turner. The youngest of six boys, he attended Nijmegen technical college, just like his brothers before him. There, he chose to specialise in high-precision machining. Ruud: ‘After graduating in Nijmegen, I did an apprenticeship at Stichting Opleiding Metaal and also took an evening course in bench work. That is how I got into this profession.’
Ruud feels that his ample years of working with a CNC machine himself are an advantage. Ruud: ‘I understand the work my colleagues are carrying out on the shop floor, as well as the problems they run into. Supporting colleagues when problems occur during manufacturing is a large part of my work. In those cases, we need to review together what has gone wrong and how we can get it right next time.’
Greasing the wheels
Ruud: ‘Walking around our facilities and seeing everything going on, it’s an impressive sight. All the disciplines that work here, the space, the order and tidiness. It makes you think about where you fit into it all. My role as Senior Quality Control Engineer is pretty flexible. My mission is mainly to improve efficiency and further increase accuracy. My work links to all parts of the business, trying to grease the wheels between all the different departments. I look at the challenges we face from every angle to try and figure them out, so we can ultimately address and resolve them together with colleagues.’
The year 2021
Like 2020, much of 2021 was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington. International trade was massively impacted by the grounding of container ship the Ever Given in the Suez Canal. Dutch crime reporter Peter R. De Vries was shot in Amsterdam, with his injuries ultimately proving fatal. Formula 1 returned to the Circuit Zandvoort race track after a hiatus of 36 years. The race was won by Max Verstappen, who went on to become the first Dutch world champion later that year.
Milsbeek is where Ruud calls home. The journey takes him 50 minutes each way. Ruud: ‘It’s a distance you would only drive twice a day if you’re happy where you work. I love technology in all its forms. At Unisign, we manufacture amazing machines with great colleagues in a pleasant atmosphere. That’s how I would sum up Unisign. What’s also great is that I can use my knowledge and experience to contribute to further improvements.’
One recent example is the use of digital measuring tools, an area in which Ruud has 30+ years of experience. This served him well when he had to measure the Capto axis that holds the tools in a CNC machine. Ruud: ‘The shape of this axis can only be checked using a measuring machine that has a scanner. This effectively compares the object you’re measuring with a software model. I passed this knowledge onto my colleagues and our department now uses this measurement technique to also check other components.’
Squeezing more out
What struck Ruud over the past 18 months he has been with the company is Unisign’s determination to keep as much of the work in-house as possible. Ruud: ‘I feel Unisign does this more than other companies. We want to be less dependent on external parties. Innovation and that drive to do things ourselves are in our DNA. Unisign has a huge desire for knowledge and we are equally ambitious in the level of accuracy we target. The bar is very, very high. An example I sometimes use is a fuel-efficient car with a factory specification of 30 kilometres to 1 litres of fuel. Unisign being Unisign, we would do everything possible to squeeze 32 kilometres out of that one litre. We have this incredible passion for high-precision work and I love to see it. That is the key to the quality of Unisign machines after all.’
Ruud loves to get out on his motorbike in his spare time. He also does repairs and maintenance himself. Motorbikes are another passion he shares with his 5 brothers. Every year, they take their bikes out together for a long weekend away. Ruud: ‘There is this sense of adventure and it strengthens the bonds between us. I think Unisign is pretty adventurous too. We are always looking ahead so we can develop CNC machines that are anything but average. This comes with technical challenges from time to time but it also bring me and my colleagues a lot of job variety. That challenge and variety are what make this job great for me.’
28 june 2023