Royal Ten Cate NV: Market leader in hightech textile


Royal Ten Cate, market leader in high tech textiles

2010 Ten Cate transformed from a traditional textile company into a company focusing on new applications of high-tech materials in the last 15 years. The company is worldwide market leader in several niche markets. This is because of technical innovation, but also thanks to social and open innovation.

Ten Cate is founded in the beginning of the eighteenth century when the Ten Cate family began to wove textile in Almelo (the Netherlands). They were not alone in the region; the textile industry was determining the economy in Twente for ages. In the middle of the last age the company changed her strategy: the traditional textile products were replaced by high tech materials. Ten Cate searched for new applications actively. Today Ten Cate produces a high diversity of products for the Dutch market as well as for markets in many other countries.

Open innovation
The transition of the company  took ten to fifteen years. ‘Technological innovations are necessary to make steps forward all the time. Or else you arrive in a market where the lowest price is the only thing that counts. But technological innovation alone is not enough. To maximize the profit you have to invest in social innovation in the company as well and in open innovation together with external partners. The several innovationtraject support each other,’ this is what Ron Bijkersma says. Bijkersma is corporate director Human Resources. Open innovation in this case means collaboration with research institutions, universities and other companies in the production chain.

Social innovation
For the employees of Ten Cate a lot has changed the last years and many investments in social innovation were done. ‘The people are the biggest capital of a company. It is an internal network that has to operate as open as possible’ says René Bosch, HR-director Nederland. Ron Bijkersma adds: ‘The company has a flat hierarchical structure. In the main quarter only 34 people are working, the majority of the responsibilities lay on the shop floor. The company consists of several divisions each with a board that is responsible worldwide, the rest of the responsibilities lie on the shop floor. We supply decision room to the people and allow them to make faults. Trust is the starting point.’ This policy leads to creativity and intrapreneurship; and the power to  innovate is stimulated in the company. A  few times per year the head quarter controls the developments by checking the performance criteria derived from the business model. Technological innovation is one of the corner stones of this model. ‘ we challenge people to create a work climate where innovation can be successful.

Results and challenges
The organisational climate and the autonomy for the workers make that people like to work for Ten Cate. The average time of employment is 23 years. ‘For ages Ten Cate is concerned about good employer ship, for instance because it attributes to long term profit’, says René Boshc. However the aging workforce forces Ten Cate to think about sustainable employability. Bosch: ‘together with the employers association AWVN investigate the conditions that facilitate  employees to stay at work as long as possible. For instance via adjustments in their time schedule’. Looking into the future retention of knowledge and skills is very important. That is why Ten Cate ordered for a new book with descriptions of jobs. Ron Bijkersma: ‘This made jobs more generic and it became easier to rotate. This means that it is easier for us to allocate people through the divers divisions in our company’.