Freedom Despite Restrictions: AnneMaart on The Benefit of Restrictions

As part of our #PerspectivesOnline event, we wanted to take a look at some of the key messages raised during the event. Today, we recall a session from AnneMaart Bijleveld, CEO of Van Dam Machine where she shared her thoughts on how “restrictions can really lead you to the next step”.

AnneMaart Perspectives with Vyn

AnneMaart only recently embarked on the journey towards Artificial Intelligence for her SME stemming from the old economy where, while resources are limited, she has the freedom to explore all possibilities. Ambition and flexibility to manoeuvre are key to achieving success, rather than the slow-paced power of large-scaled corporates.

For AnneMaart, freedom stands for an endless amount of options to explore while restrictions stand for a small company with limited access to resources to explore all those options. She has worked in large corporates before, where cash is also king, but investment decisions are made much easier. Case studies and success stories on AI, big data and the likes, talk mainly about hiring people with top-notch schooling and relevant experience.

Upon downloading “The CEO’s cheat sheet on the ‘ART OF POSSIBLE WITH AI’” from a notable business school professor, she found the following 5 advice points:

  1. AI adoption must be led by the C-suite.

    For AnneMaart, as a CEO herself, she was very happy to adopt AI in all its glory.
  2. Before AI, comes data driven management.

    All that needs to be said here is that Van Dam Machine are working towards migrating their current ERP system after its last upgrade took place back in 2009.
  3. Strong data quality and governance.

    As an SME, this was rather challenging as the company focused on a wide range of tasks to achieve the required balances rather than various employees focusing on one task to achieve quality.
  4. Build a cadre of bilinguals in business algorithms.

    Though they have most employees with mechanical or electrical engineering backgrounds, hiring these well-paid bilinguals for a strict purpose of AI is a rather big gamble for their payroll.
  5. Don’t buy AI, hire AI.

    That’s an angle that solves a few issues and AnneMaart decided to do exactly that by working with Vyn.

In short, most of the advice points are simply not available for a 25 m euro company, just turning around after a period of financial distress. Nevertheless, Annemaart did not find this reason enough to turn away from innovation.

She explained that she thoroughly enjoys the freedom to explore this path into the unknown. It requires risk-taking, daring to make decisions and simply getting started without knowing the outcome. At Van Dam Machine, AnneMaart explained that their need to think small results in their steps being small. However, detailed observations and creative thinking will lead the way from the first piece of new added value to the business, to the next.

She is making sure to use all their restrictions to their benefit. Being a supplier of large printing machines for the packaging industry, travel to their globally installed customer base is key. You can imagine how the Coronavirus restrictions got in the way of their service visits, machine installations, customer training and sales visits. The advantage of this was, that these constraints pushed their people into accepting the move towards remote services.

Remote services can be recorded by a Vyn, stored and then analysed. The analysed data leads to more efficient services and more effective sales. With this, AnneMaart was quickly able to start her AI ambition. Obviously, this brought about many doubts initially within her team.

How do they explain to their customers the benefits of this approach? The direct added value will need to come first from the fact that travel is still restricted, it will pay the initial bills. If the travel restrictions flex, should they go back to normal and forget about remote service and AI thinking? The team is currently in the process of setting up the tools and, more importantly, while they do so they are getting used to the new mindset, the new approach and the new culture.

freedom despite restriction

Many large corporates think big, invest huge amounts and fail to deliver a profitable business case. In being an SME, Van Dam Machine are forced to think small but with creative and ambitious minds.

The exact AI angle for success is difficult to pinpoint. Is it efficient remote diagnostics of corrective maintenance, or is it creating digital twins and therewith strong preventive maintenance services? Will it be more effective sales or is it something they are not able to think of yet? Are they in need of the intermediate steps first before they recognize the true opportunity?

“I truly wish I could share with you the success story of how this led my company to the next level. No matter how curious I am myself to find out where it will lead us, I will have to be patient, not my strongest quality. On the other hand, it requires persistence, this is where I do come in strong, to reach that undefined success that started a few months ago with Vyn.”


Here at Vyn, we are excited to be part of this journey with Van Dam Machine and we know that AnneMaart’s persistence to reach success will result in great things.

We would like to thank AnneMaart and all the other speakers for their insights at the #PerspectivesOnline event and we look forward to next year!

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