The Netherlands in the late 1970s: Xella introduces an innovation. A non-bearing wall panel that can be installed much faster than the usual, smaller blocks. Initially, the market has no interest in the unknown panels - but Xella makes a virtue of necessity and decides to offer the installation itself. This was the birth of Construction Services, which has since become a flexible approach based on the needs of its customers. Today, Xella is much more than a supplier of building materials, but a solution provider and installs 50 percent of its interior walls in the Netherlands itself. In six other European countries, customers often prefer Xella's installation service, because it ensures efficient project management, from scheduling to crane rental and coordination. And the transformation doesn't stop there: 45 years after the first installation offer, the Xella Construction Services team is working on one of the latest Construction Service solutions – innovative panels that can be combined with triangular roofs instead of more expensive and less efficient blocks.
Various customers looking for a reliable partner
“Some customers ask us to do their installation because of the shortage of skilled labor. Another large customer here in the Netherlands uses us for every project – whenever something happens, we are the one who delivers and installs it”, explains Niels van der Wouden, Head of Construction Services. “But both are looking for the same thing: a reliable partner at their side.”
Crisis as an opportunity for rapid change
Becoming a reliable partner in every situation comes with challenges: Rising costs and higher interest rates are causing an ongoing crisis in the entire construction sector, which is also affecting Xella’s Construction Services. But Van der Wouden sees every crisis as an opportunity for change, especially in the corporate culture. This was evident at a recent meeting to launch Silka Construct, which was introduced alongside the long-standing use of Ytong for Construction Services. To break down silo thinking, a recent meeting to introduce Silka brought together the engineering and sales teams. “At this meeting, the teams really found each other. They realized that they can and need to support each other. This is really happening now, for example in customer dialogues”, concludes Van der Wouden. “As happened there, we need to talk more about our opportunities and challenges within the countries and between the departments. With different types of skills, both technical and entrepreneurial understanding, we need this cultural change to realize the full potential of the construction market.”
Extension to Silka Construct well received by customers
After many years of using only Ytong AAC, Construction Services recently expanded its repertoire to include Silka calcium-silicate blocks. This has been well received, for example, by a housing project in Schinnen, the Netherlands: For the construction of eight rental apartments, Xella supplied both the Silka and Ytong materials and the labor for gluing and setting the wall elements.
Hans Zegveld, operations manager of Janssen Bouwen, the construction company responsible for the project, is more than satisfied with the collaboration: "What surprised us positively was the good communication around the project," says Zegfeld - also from the Xella managers on site: "They think along with us and take care. They work cleanly and ensure that deadlines are met." The fact that Xella not only delivers the materials on time, but also installs them reliably, is of great benefit to his company: "It's getting harder and harder for us to maintain schedules and quality because there are fewer and fewer skilled workers." Contractors like him keep costs under control with Xellas Construction Services. By providing a total price, there are no negative surprises after the fact. Janssen's experience with Silka Construct in Schinnen has led him to use them for other upcoming projects.