CEO Dave Vander Heyde is swift to respond when asked what gives Royal IHC its point of difference in the marketplace. “That’s an easy question,” he states. “It’s knowledge; that’s the answer. And knowledge is translated into innovation because you need a good knowledge base to be innovative.

“You also need to have a business model of co-creation with your clients. If I look at Royal IHC’s solutions, it always stems from an iterative process with our clients, which involves many discussions to ensure we understand their problems and give them the customised solutions they need to be able to maximise performance and uptime.

“Then last, but not least, it’s service. If the client gets a solution where their uptime is better than the markets’, they make more money. If we service the product so that their uptime lasts over the life cycle of the vessel or the piece of equipment, then we have a very happy client.”

Dave Vander Heyde's makes a seamless transition into the top role

Royal IHC prides itself on providing the best, most innovative solutions to the maritime sector, including dredging operators, offshore contractors, mining houses, government authorities, and oil and gas operators all over the world.

With its history dating back to the mid-seventeenth century, its operations have evolved significantly over the years – going from having several independent local shipyards to being a globally renowned company with more than 3,000 staff. Dave has held the CEO role since September 2016 and oversees the business from its head office in the Netherlands. Prior to that, he was the organisation’s CFO for a 5 year period.

He says he found the transition into the top spot interesting, and he’s enjoyed the process of gaining a very thorough understanding of the company, its culture and its people over the years, as well as of the products and projects currently being executed.

Dave Vander Heyde

If the client gets a solution where their uptime is better than the markets’, they make more money.

“I have found the move to CEO rather smooth and seamless because I was already involved, of course, in the strategy as a board member, and also in the operations. I never was a traditional CFO. I always did much more than being the man watching the risk and the reporting. I was much more operational because I like to do business. That made the transition rather smooth.

“The key opportunity was to refocus, or focus more intensely, on our own strengths: engineering, innovation, co-creation on customised solutions for our clients, and the service sites. That’s really where we can make the difference. We are now stepping up the pace of the implementation and execution of the strategy.”

The future of Royal IHC

The company’s plan going forward consists of several key areas. There’s the internationalisation of the brand (“I think Royal IHC has been rather late to the game when it comes to internationalisation compared to our competition and the overall market, so we have to catch up there,” Dave notes). Then there’s the simplification of the company structure – making it smaller, leaner and more efficient.

There’s also a strong focus on sales, as well as on engineering. “Of course, all these priorities have the same idea behind them: that we have to move up in the industry chain of added value,” Dave explains. “Royal IHC is moving away from being a predominantly blue-collar company with low-added value for clients towards a much more engineering- and white-collar-based approach – a one-stop shop, so to speak. That’s where, in my opinion, the future for Royal IHC lies.”