The first Optrel Dealer Event in Gorinchem immediately garnered much appreciation. Ted van der Burgt (Van der Peijl Techniek) summed it up nicely and concisely in three steps: “It was educational, there was a fun activity ,and there was plenty of time to catch up with the people from Optrel, from Vlamboog, and with my colleague dealers.”

The initiative for this day comes from Vlamboog, already the importer for this Swiss manufacturer of eye and respiratory protection equipment since 2001. Commercial director Cornelis Alderlieste is proud and careful of the approximately twenty independent welding houses that collectively form the Dutch Optrel premium dealer network. “They all do this with great passion. And in the year in which Vlamboog celebrates its 75th anniversary, we thought it appropriate to offer them this day.”

Trade Fair

Two weeks before this dealer day, there was the Schweissen & Schneiden trade fair in Essen, where Optrel had already presented a number of novelties. Jeroen Beijnes of REON weld had already taken in the most important news in Germany, but such a fair is always limited to a short conversation. In Gorinchem there was significantly more time. Jeroen: “I had not yet had the Helix helmet with the new PAPR system in my hands. Here I was able to do so nicely.”

On behalf of Optrel, Holger Hartmann (Sales Director Western Europe and Scandinavia) and Pascal Spelt (Sales Manager Benelux) took ample time to demonstrate and explain, among other things, the swiss air TH3 respiratory protection system. A set of innovative filters repels dust particles, contaminants and even viruses. It results in as much as 99.8% fresh air blowing into the welding helmet. The latest Helix welding helmet, as well as carbon filters and half-face masks made of silicone – with a transparent window in front of the mouth for better communication – passed from hand to hand generously.

Budget helmet?

In an open atmosphere, numerous current issues were discussed. Holger also informed his audience which articles will be phased out and removed from the Optrel range in 2024. Dutch-language manuals and brochures are not yet available for the Optrel articles, but that subject is high on the agenda at Swiss headquarters. Several dealers were curious whether Optrel will also come out with a cheap budget helmet under €100. To that, a firm “no” sounded from the man from Switzerland. For 35 years, Optrel has stood for innovation and pushing the boundaries in technology and, according to Holger, a budget helmet does not fit in with that: “We don’t want to go down that road.”

Value added

A current and recurring theme is competition from suppliers on the Internet. From time to time, Dutch dealers have to deal with parallel imports and suppliers, especially from Germany, who undercut prices significantly. Legally, there is not much that we can do about this. However, when Optrel gets wind of such an action, it looks for the source and speaks to it about this undesirable behavior. But, Optrel and Vlamboog argued, keep an eye on the added value of a stable dealer network. The Internet does not provide service, dealers do (two representatives of the Optrel service center in Dordrecht were also present at the dealer day). The Internet is not a knowledgeable advisor, dealers are. And the Internet does not build relationships with customers, dealers do.

Laser Welding

Of course there was also a focus on laser welding and how to protect yourself from harmful UV light and infrared radiation. Among other things, Optrel has developed a laser panel and there is a specialized laser welding helmet in the pipeline, which will be on the market from April 2024. Arnold Prinsen (Forkink Welding Technology and Advice) had the necessary questions about that laser helmet, and also had the opportunity to ask the folks at Optrel. “No,” he says with a laugh, “I didn’t get answers to all my questions yet. But there was some useful information shared. And what is also nice about such a dealer day with colleagues; you hear something new.”

Nice blend

In order to exchange information among themselves, a relaxed program was set up for the afternoon. The group was divided into groups and then sent out on E-choppers and fat bikes for a puzzle tour through the beautiful Betuwe region. Jeroen thought it was all well organized. “They had mixed the groups nicely so I got to know a lot of new people. We are all the way in the north of Groningen. Then you don’t easily meet other colleagues.”

Ted also found the scavenger hunt and subsequent barbecue a valuable part of this first Optrel dealer day. “You could have a nice chat, and it didn’t necessarily have to be about business. In this way you build a better contact and this saves you the next time you call or speak to each other. Because you run into each other in the market from time to time, of course.”