It all starts with customer needs

Von Gahlen and Theo Bouwman go a long way back. In 1988 he started working at Von Gahlen as an engineer and was promoted to project manager in 1999. Ergo, calling him a senior project manager nowadays is almost an understatement. Since ‘managing a project’ is a rather broad job description, we will break down his methods, habits and routines. This will give you more details on what Von Gahlen does to offer customers both guidance and assurance throughout the different stages of a project. 

Theo, how would you describe your profession?

Well, first and foremost it is pretty dynamic and versatile. Considering the type of products we make and their purpose, being a project manager is a job that comes with quite some responsibility. 

So what do you do?

Well mainly, I am communicating with others all day long. I ensure my colleagues at Von Gahlen are in sync with the customer needs, so that we are truly operating as a team towards the technical solution we need to deliver. Needless to say this has to be accomplished within the agreed timeframe and budget. 

Do you keep customers informed during a project? And if so, how do you that?

From day one onwards we involve customers in our process towards a state-of-the-art solution for their production needs. For me, it all comes down to clear and structured communication. Every week I organize a call to explain every single step we have done since the last call. We simply keep pointing out where we are on the roadmap and what lies ahead.

To do so, as a project manager you have many tools and documents to assure quality throughout the entire project. And in our industry, the V-model is a widely known and used validation concept. Obviously, this model also provides important checkmarks for both Von Gahlen and the customer. 

Looking at a customer journey, which can take a few years, where do you start?

It all starts with customer needs. Almost every project demands tailor-made manufacturing, so we develop a customer-specific short and long term strategy. There is no standard plan that I can take out of a drawer, but there is one thing that all strategies have in common: we relieve the customer from any burden. Projects that last a few years are no exceptions, and in those long periods of time, both me and the other members of the project team constantly support and advice our customers. 

How would you describe that in more operational terms?

I will not get in too much detail, but my job concerns project planning, budgeting, constantly prioritizing, planning the right production capacity and organizing recurring project team meetings. Those meetings differ, but optimizing working methods, anticipating possible risks and issues and monitoring the progress of the project, are definitely items on the agenda. 

And what do you like most in your job?

The interaction with people, within Von Gahlen of course with my colleagues and outside of Von Gahlen with our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. And like I mentioned earlier, every project is a custom-made solution, so not one day is the same. I like the whole process of bringing a customer’s vision to life. I will always be a technician at heart. Being part of creating such fantastic machinery that exactly fits customer needs, never gets boring. 

When exactly do you jump on board of a project and when do you step back?

Sometimes I am already involved at the start of a tender or during the negotiations. Once the project is assigned to us, I become the responsible project owner. As I am not the only project manager at Von Gahlen a project could of course also be assigned to one of my great colleagues. 

Closing the project happens after the Installation Qualification, the Operations Qualification and the Performance Qualification. After the machines pass these tests, the customer signs the customer acceptance document. From that point I still own the project for one more year. After that one year I ‘hand over’ the project to our service department. They handle the service agreements between Von Gahlen and the customer. That agreement could, for instance, include a yearly maintenance visit of one of our field service engineers. 

In what way do you think Von Gahlen goes the extra mile? 

Well, I already mentioned the V-model. Of course, other manufacturers comply with this model as well, otherwise they would not be building according to the GMP standards. But we actually added extra quality checks to this model. Not to be bureaucratic, but simply to be even more ‘for sure’. There are times that customers ask if this is really necessary, but in the end they always express how much they valued this extra cautious approach. And do not forget that the extra documentation that comes with these additional checks, is very helpful when GMP-auditors visit the customer’s facility.

What does the promise ‘for sure’ mean to you?

In essence, promising to be ‘for sure’ completely depends on our ability to deliver what is needed. Bear in mind that our customers have an incredible amount of knowledge in their field of expertise. They expect us to have that same level of knowledge in our profession. Customers know exactly what they want to produce and how. Based on that, they need us to guide, advise and ultimately: build a machine that has the functionalities, ergonomics and reliability to facilitate these accurately defined wishes.

Oh, it is that simple?

Haha... I admit, it sounds a bit simple that way. Let’s put it this way. We have the proven methods, technologies and experience to manage complex projects. 

Do you want to put Theo to the test? Feel free to contact us and let us know your upcoming challenges. If it comes to nuclear medicine & radiopharmacy, radiopharmaceutical packaging or lead precision: we develop, build and implement the shielding solutions you are looking for.