Archives maart 2016

Naval Innovation Environments

One of the things that can be very helpful for innovation is clustering companies that are in the same sector but are not direct competitors.

In the naval sector this is no different, and so I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the recreational harbor or Bruinisse last weekend. This large harbor (1.400 places) has a very good mix of companies. For example, they have a store for supplies, but also a boat sales company for both new and second-hand boats and two large halls were boats can be serviced indoors in a sheltered environment.

All together this creates a very fertile environment for innovation, where the companies can create new products and services together which they can immediately try on their customers which lay in the port.

It all looks quite new, and so at the moment I can’t find any news about innovations coming from there, but the environment has been shaped. And so it’s an interesting place to keep an eye out for any future boating related innovations.

And as a bonus, the parking lot has some very special stripes 🙂

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Strategy Redefinition of a Transportation Company

Over the past few years the Dutch train operator Nationale Spoorwegen (NS) was not performing as was expected from them.

For example, they ordered high-speed trains which fell apart during a snow storm, they have a shortage in trains (and seats) that led them to some ‘creative‘ solutions as they like to call them and they played an unfair game for a tender in the south of the Netherlands.

All together this led to part of the top management leaving the company and the need for a revised strategy. This week they presented this revised strategy and there are some interesting things (and some open doors) in it.

The revised strategy builds on three parts:

  • Better performance on the main lines (open door, there is still room for improvement and there will probably always be so they should always be striving for optimal performance)
  • Taking care of the stations (interesting, they want to improve the total journey by making the stations more attractive)
  • Contribute to a better door-to-door journey (interesting since they are cutting away almost all of the transport that is not related to the main lines)

This is quite a shift from the previous strategy, where it was mainly about being the biggest and being in control everywhere, either through their main name NS or through one of their subsidiaries such as Qbuzz or Abellio.

With the new strategy they adopt a more open strategy, focussing on co-operating with the other partners such as the network operator and the competitors instead of trying to do everything themselves.

Quite a bold move, since it also means that they are saying goodbye to certain parts of the company and so a large part of the staff. Not very surprising that not everybody is happy with this, including the work council.

Still, I think that it is a wise decision to step back and focus only on what they can do best and leaving other parts of public transport to other companies. Only by leaving it all to them the trust between them can grow, since it can be hard to work together and trust a party which is also bidding on a tender you’re involved in in another part of the country. The added trust can then be used to create the better door-to-door journey

So all together I think it is a wise move.

One final thing which is out of their zone of influence and which I believe is a bit weird is that their shareholder demands that 7% of the profit is paid to them each year as dividend. This is not so special for normal companies and maybe a bit low, but it’s different when you consider that the only shareholder is the Dutch State (in the form of the Ministry of Finance) and that they also see that the NS has a social function (so making sure that the Netherlands has an affordable public transportation system).

My personal opinion on this point is that I believe that the largest part of the profit could better be used by NS to reinvest in their company, for example by buying more trains or by not raising fares, instead of money flowing to the state which can them maybe invest it in the railroads. Or maybe not. Depends on where the money is needed according to the State.

I am specifically not saying here that there should be absolutely no dividend payments, but I personally think that a little less could also be fine, and that the NS should use most of their profits to improve their company.

Nevertheless I still think that the strategy is a wise move and I’m curious about what the future will bring for them, as
 the first changes are already happening.


Testing the Elinchrom Ringflash Eco

Although I had this one for over a month, I still didn’t have the time to test drive until last week (at least not for it’s intended purpose, as third off-camera light it had already been used).

The Elinchrom Ringflash Eco can be seen as an integral part of the Elinchrom Quadra/ELB system. It’s small, but still quite powerful at a relatively low weight (that is, for a ring flash, overall I still had to put it down every once in a while to rest my arms, but also my girlfriend was able to take shots with it without complaining about the weight).

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And the results are what one might expect from it: The classical ring-light touch. I topped it off by putting two regular Quadra heads behind me for some kicker lights, and voila, it worked very well.

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Just one small note. The quite large 24-120mm from Nikon can sometimes be a little bit too small for the ringflash. On the other hand, the effect of backfiring light created some very nice haze points due to some dirt on the lens, which is a nice artistic touch.

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So far so good. I will not give a full in-depth review about the details. I’d just like to conclude by saying that it is a very competitive product at a reasonable price when you’re looking for a real ringflash (so not an extension of your on-camera flash).