Wim Creyghton is a very busy guy. But he laughs easily and never appears hurried or frazzled. Nearly 30 years ago, Wim helped launch a circuit board company called Print Layout Techniek ciere, which he now co-owns. Based in Nieuwkoop, about 20 km east of Leiden, Print Layout Techniek ciere designs printed circuit boards (PCBs) which are used in a variety of electronic products. Basketball is another of Wim’s passions, and he’s enjoyed success as coach of a BS Leiden girls basketball team, guiding the dames to a U-14 national championship game in June 2017. Wim, 54, lives in Leiderdorp with his wife and two children.

Print Layout Techniek ciere was founded in 1988 by Simon Ciere, and Wim has been there from the beginning as a PCB designer. “We design the PCBs over here. We design the PCBs for all kinds of customers. Then we make the production files, and we send the production files to the manufacturing houses where they actually manufacture the boards. So that can be in the Netherlands or Germany or overseas in China or Korea. And then we get the boards back, and then the boards go to assembly houses where they put all the components on it.”

PCBs are used in “all kinds of products.” The company’s clients include “small firms, big firms, it doesn’t matter. Anyone who … has an idea to make some electronic device can come to us, and we help them to develop it.”

PCBs are used in “industrial products. medical products. Some things are for guys who [design a product they] think will break open the market. They have a bright idea, and they want to develop the pre-series before they go live. So all kinds of stuff.”

Print Layout Techniek ciere was an early mover in the Dutch PCB market. When the company started in 1988 “it was the beginning of the booming electronic business all over the world. Now everything has electronics in it. [But until then] only industrial products had electronic devices. And since then it’s exploded. The electronic devices are in all kinds of things. Washing machines, you name it. Everything’s got electronic devices in it nowadays.”

How Wim joined the PCB business: Wim studied electrical engineering at a technical school in The Hague before joining the Dutch navy in the mid-1980s. “In those days, in 1987, I was [just] out of the military, and I was looking for a job … So I went to the UWV … [a government program] for people who are seeking jobs who don’t have jobs … And they said ‘there is a course running for CAD/CAM,’ computer-aided devices, computer-aided manufacturing … They said ‘you have a technical background, go for that and maybe after that you’ll find something.’ So I went to that course.”

“And after that I went to Manpower, which was a broker for getting people to work. Simon [Ciere] was the head officer of Manpower. And he said ‘I know a firm which is in electronics and … they are looking for technical people who have a CAD/CAM background. Maybe there’s something there for you.’ So I went to them. It was electronic 2D. It was new in those days. And I thought ‘OK, maybe we’ll try this.’”

“And at the same time they were looking for a business leader. And Simon also thought ‘well, maybe I can switch from Manpower and become business leader of that company.’ So I was there, he came there, and it was something new … After one year we lost some things, we lost customers, because we didn’t know what to do … After one year, the main office in Veendam said ‘OK, we lost a lot of money, we’re stopping it.’ So Simon said ‘OK, what do we do? Should we split up and say we had a nice year and we had a lot of laughs, and we learned a lot but we’re stopping it. (laughs) Or I can buy the company [and] start for myself. You come along with me and now we know what to do.’ I said ‘OK, that’s fine with me.’ So we started.”

“We started in 1988. [Simon] started for himself, and I became an employee. And after several years I asked him if it was possible for him to buy me in. And he said OK. So that’s the story, And here we are 30 years later.” (laughs)

“We’ve evolved. We started with the big monitors and big computer cases. But everything went smaller. In those days the software was running on industrial software platforms like the Digital VAX … so, yeah, it evolved and the software became smaller … so nowadays we’re running normal PCs … the [processing power] is [much more] than in those days because the computers are now much quicker, stronger.”

Global competition: “Ten years ago the concern was China because we had some customers dealing with large volumes. And they said ‘OK, if I bring it to China I can save money, so my profit will be higher.’ We warned them. ‘If you go to China be careful, don’t give everything to them because they will copy it and make it themselves, and you’ll be pushed away and they’ll sell it [themselves] in the market.’ [Some customers thought] we were talking rubbish. But two years ago one customer who went 10 years ago to China came back and asked us if we can re-make the boards. Because the Chinese company had an argument with them, and they started [making the product] themselves over there. They had a board with the Chinese-built materials. So we copied their board again, and now they have a working product again. They came back [to us] from China.”

“In China 10 years ago the costs were very low because the workers didn’t get paid much. But nowadays the [Chinese] costs [have gone] up and the products [have become more] expensive. So if you have a nice product design and you make [the product] by machine, it’s almost the same price if you make it over there with machines as if you make it over here with machines … There is a small price difference, but it’s not Euros it’s cents. So then you can say ‘OK, it’s a little more expensive. But if I produce it over here I have a grip on it. If something is wrong I can go to the firm and say ‘we’ve changed it.’ Whereas [if you make the product in] China you have to fly to China. And that is difficult.”

Wim regrets the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Netherlands: “Nowadays we want to do everything on knowledge. But people have to work. You can have one smart guy at one end, but the rest of the people have to do something with their hands … all the making business has disappeared from the Netherlands. I don’t know if that is a smart plan … Some people have to work with their hands.”

Wim supports government assistance for those who need it, but feels some have become too reliant: “If I look at my surroundings with all my friends, they are working everywhere, they are doing different types of jobs, they are happy with their jobs I believe. Some people are working with their hands, other people are working with their brains, and there is work … I think nowadays a lot of people are saying ‘OK, I am unemployed. I don’t want to do that.’ But I think you have to change that. The government [should say] ‘OK, you are unemployed. We have this and this [job opportunity], but you have to choose. You have to work.’” 

What keeps Wim inspired after nearly 30 years at Print Layout Techniek ciere?: “People say ‘you’re designing a board, so it’s every day the same.’ It is. But every design is different. Because sometimes it’s an easy design that you can it do in one day. Sometimes it’s a complex design, and you’ll be working on it for a month. And every time it’s interesting. Every project is different. You’re doing the same [job], but the projects are different, and the problems you get are different, and the customers you get are different. That keeps me going.”

Work/life balance: “I work to live. In the beginning, in the 1990s, we were working [long hours]. At some point we were doing overtime, but our customers didn’t appreciate it. They asked me ‘can you finish the design by tomorrow?’ I said ‘OK.’ So I worked day and night. And I finished the design and I sent it to him, and I didn’t hear from him for two days. So I called him and he said ‘well, I’m busy.’ I said ‘yeah, but you wanted to have the design in one day, so I worked the whole evening.’ ‘Well, yeah, that was true, but something came along.’ So at that point I said we will work from 8:00 to 4:30, and then I go home. And if something comes up [it can be handled] tomorrow or the next day.” Wim doesn’t work on weekends. “If something comes up on Friday we start on Monday.”

Wim would like to keep working for “as long as possible.” If he won lottery “I’d still keep working.” The money would be nice to have, “but if you’re doing nothing for, say, a month and everybody else is working you have nothing. So you [would] start working again. So why stop working? Maybe I would work [a reduced schedule]. Not 40 hours, but say 30. But I’d keep working.”

Hard work is rewarded in the Netherlands: “In my mind, if you have good motivation and positive thinking you can do anything. If you try it. People say ‘I can’t do that.’ Try it! Why don’t you try it? … Maybe with some coaching or something you can do it. Maybe you’re not becoming the best, but you can do it … people can do more than they think … you have to try it, that’s the best option. And it’s difficult for people who say they can’t do it to acknowledge that they can.”

Information about Print Layout Techniek ciere bv is available at www.pltc.nl. Information about BS Leiden basketball can be found at www.bsleiden.nl.



Peter & Calvin

Peter & Calvin