For 43 years, Henri worked at a specialist in high-end door systems.
Over 43 years ago, Henri Klein Holkenborg swapped his job as a refrigeration technician at a freezer storage, for a job as a mechanic at a small refrigeration door company. His best move ever. He saw the company grow and grew with it. He is now ready to retire and what he leaves behind is a global company in high-end door systems for both the refrigerator/freezer and the medical sector. Take a journey through Henri’s Metaflex era, including a mad bull, the Daltons, and many, many, heavy doors.
Henri Klein Holkenborg has good memories of those early days with the door specialist. It was just the four of them. The accountant, Wolterinck, mechanics Wopereis and himself from the Cold Store and a top salesagent, Keltering. They had a modest office in Lichtenvoorde and imported EMS doors from Germany. The company was called EMS Nederland. “I drove across the country in my own car to install doors and for servicing. At one point, we started making the doors ourselves and changed the name of the company to Metaflex: we used metal for the fridge/freezer doors and were highly flexible because we always thought in solutions. And we still do. However, besides metal, we now also use other innovative materials.
Salesman Keltering, in particular, left a deep impression on Henri. He formed a golden duo with director Wolterinck. “We had lost an order to a competitor. Keltering didn’t let it go and paid a visit to the cheese factory in question. There he spoke with the architect of the new building, asked him about the drawings and explained in great detail that the routing could be much better. He knew what he was talking about so well that the architect overturned the entire routing and commissioned Keltering for the doors. When it threatened to become quiet for a while, Keltering disappeared for a week or two and came back with a suitcase full of orders. Conviction and understanding of business already characterised Metaflex back then.
Wolterinck and Keltering came up with the idea that refrigeration doors should work exactly like the OR doors in hospitals. “As with the refrigeration doors, these hospital doors also have a rail system that closes hermetically. When we started offering this, orders were immediately placed, and we designed the new doors ourselves. An air-tight system. The appearance, technology, controllability, and automation have, of course, changed a lot over the years. Both with the medical and refrigeration doors. Now, it is all high tech and high end.” Nowadays, for example, certain hospital doors must meet all kinds of hygienic, fire, smoke and radiation-resistant requirements. The doors contain lead – “literally lead weight!” – and are no longer made of wood but special, fire-resistant materials. “Imagine that a medical fire door has to withstand the heat of a fire for at least an hour. We can make it happen. All our doors have the necessary certification.”
Not only in terms of technology but also in terms of design, Metaflex is highly resourceful. “All our doors are tailor-made. We once made a sliding door of 12 metres high and a revolving door of 27 x 6200 cm. The narrow door was intended for a company that produced enriched uranium. High panels needed to pass through that opening to shield certain areas from the heat to allow people to work there temporarily. It was quite a puzzle, but I finally succeeded by assembling two narrow doors on top of each other.” The same creativity can be found in the appearance of the doors; an important factor when it comes to, for example, the well-being of hospital patients. All imaginable prints are possible. Doors have a soothing forest print or are even completely made of glass, such as for the Amphia in Breda. “Name it, and we will find a solution to the customer’s question. That is also our distinguishing strength,” says Henri. “We produce quality, in all possible variations. We are known for this, even abroad.”
Henri remained a service mechanic until 1991, in addition to his new work preparation position. Then he went to work in the office permanently. This took some adjusting. “I no longer experience exciting stuff, such as the mad bull that escaped from the slaughterhouse and headed for my ladder while I was installing a three-metre-high door. I could just barely catch the rail, otherwise, I would’ve been dragged along. Or the job in which the four of us tried to hang a five-metre-high door and the smallest mechanic suddenly remarked: ‘Hey, we look like the Daltons’. He was right; we stood in a row from the smallest mechanic of barely 1.70 metres to the tallest among us, over 2 metres tall. But cracking up is not practical when you’re holding a heavy mega door.”
On the other hand, in the office, Henri was able to achieve product improvements and share his valuable knowledge with the younger generation. Concerning installing and selling Metaflex doors and his knowledge of odd jobs around the house. Because Henri is incredibly handy. “I will not sit still after my retirement. I will most certainly miss my lovely colleagues, the great atmosphere at Metaflex and, of course, the doors.”
Henri, thank you for your many years of commitment and enjoy a well-deserved retirement!