May 1st, 1961 “I had two weeks to decide whether to go into business by myself,” Piet Brouwer recalls. “Perplexed and doubtful, I stood on the path outside the Hoekman engineering plant in Urk’s western harbour. I was faced with an ultimatum - if I didn’t do it myself, they would commission a company from outside of Urk to install the electrical equipment onboard the fishing boats.” After careful consideration and securing the necessary assistance, Piet finally took the plunge and started his own business. This was on 1 May 1961, the beginning of an adventure and a company carrying his name that is still going strong 50 years later.
Urk There has been a thriving community on the former island of Urk for over 1000 years. The history of the eponymous village has been inextricably linked to fishing on the Zuiderzee (South Sea) throughout its existence. The saltwater sea inlet was closed off in 1932 to become the less saline IJsselmeer Lake, and the reclamation of the Noordoostpolder began in 1939. The fishing industry – and therefore the whole economy – of Urk was under threat and a difficult period began for the village. As always, however, the people proved resilient, innovative and entrepreneurial, and continued to find new ways to keep their heads above water.
Fishing as mainstay The culture of Urk is strongly represented in the company founded by Piet Brouwer over 50 years ago. At the time, he worked to fix electrical faults on fishing boats in Urk. Piet soon needed to hire more manpower, and expanded into installing systems on newly built vessels. Piet Brouwer has a special bond with his customers – is shown by the many anecdotes he has accumulated over his company’s 50-year existence. “It wasn’t just about earning money, it was about helping each other. This has created numerous bonds, resulted in many satisfied customers and the regular generation of business in unexpected ways.”
North Sea fleet With the rapid development of the North Sea fleet, Piet Brouwer’s company also grew strongly, and eventually started installing electrical marine equipment throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. The first vessels were outfitted with AC systems around 1968 to 1970. The pioneer was the UK224, followed by the ‘hekkotters’ UK60, 63 and 243, each equipped with 3 x 220 volts at the time. The last vessels to have 110-volt DC systems fitted were the UK104 and UK156 built at Hakvoort Shipyard in Monnickendam in around 1972.
Onshore In the 1970s Piet Brouwer also expanded into onshore facilities for industrial, commercial and residential applications. The company now had around 15 employees. The difference with yacht and shipbuilding is that the company mainly operated on a local and regional level in this field. There was even a time when the division between marine and onshore installations was fifty-fifty, although today the onshore activities account for just 10 percent.
Henk Brouwer takes the helm Piet retired in 1992 and handed over the helm to his son Henk, but the company continued to carry his name Piet Brouwer Electrotechnology. It specialised in fitting electrical installation on all types of commercial sea vessels and luxury yachts. In addition, systems were installed in onshore projects in industry, utilities and upscale housing. In 1993, a separate department was set up to specialise in the development, production and sale of ship alarms. These activities were brought under the umbrella of the subsidiary Marble Automation.
Developments and rapid growth The company has been managed by the brothers Henk and Bram Brouwer since 1997, and now has more than 60 employees. Since 2008, they have shared responsibility for the day-to-day management with operational manager Martin van Veen. The employees of Piet Brouwer Elektrotechniek have the capacity to build and deliver quality systems in many different disciplines. In the 1990s, this dedication to quality was rewarded when the company become one of the first recipients of a warranty certificate (waarborgcertificaat) from the National Home Warranty Institute (Garantie Instituut Woningbouw) in the Netherlands.
New facilities Some of the generators now supplied by Piet Brouwer Elektrotechniek are larger than the entire building where Piet Brouwer initially started the company. Steady growth has led to several relocations until the latest facilities – a large new building at the Marsdiep – were eventually found in 2001. Friday 28 December saw the official opening of the new premises. The stylish building incorporates the latest installation techniques, is environmentally friendly and requires minimal use of energy. Geothermal power is used as the main energy source for heating.
Luxury yachts Piet Brouwer entered yacht construction in the late 1990s, with an installation on the motoryacht Cpt. Michailos. Today, Piet Brouwer Electrotechnology and Marble Automation staff travel the world fitting electrical installations and automation systems. Engineers from both companies work on large superyachts in the most luxurious marinas and are equally at home at some of the most renowned yacht building yards.
Technological developments The half century in which Piet Bouwer Electrotechnology has operated has witnessed unprecedented technical progress in all fields – not least electrical engineering. The company has closely followed all developments and regularly played a leading role in the introduction of new technologies to commercial vessels and luxury yachts.
Piet Brouwer Elektrotechniek BV