Urban Arrow x VDL
Urban Arrow and VDL Lasindustrie: Dutch drivers of the global bike industry
Our bikes consist of around 250 components: all designed or selected with care with an eye for detail, quality and functionality. We work with suppliers and assembly partners to combine all those components into the perfect cargo bike. One of those dependable parties is VDL Lasindustrie and VDL Steelweld.
At VDL we want to be a valuable partner for Urban Arrow. We have 15,000 employees with lots of knowledge.Sander van Herpt
Dutch family business
The VDL Group is an industrial Dutch family business with 105 companies, divided across four divisions: finished products, buses, car assembly and supplies. VDL Lasindustrie comes under the supplies division, and is a total expert in the robotic welding of steel, stainless steel and aluminium. If you ride an Urban Arrow Cargo, your aluminium box and front frame were welded together by one of the VDL robots in Eindhoven (NL).
Bike pioneering together
When they first made contact five years ago, VDL were not yet active in the bike industry. “I saw an article in Bike Europe about re-shoring in the bike framing industry, and saw opportunities there for VDL. So I set off to explore. Directors pointed me towards Urban Arrow, and after talking to Jorrit and Gerald and our engineer, we entered into a collaboration,” explains Sander van Herpt from the sales department at VDL Lasindustrie. At that time, Urban Arrow needed to expand and we were looking the partners who could offer growth. VDL were prepared to grow alongside Urban Arrow and to pioneer together in the bike industry: a growing market with substantial volumes.
Since then, we have been investing in the future together in order to offer the very best in terms of both functionality and design. Ted Havermans, managing director of VDL Lasindustrie, explains: “The innovation lies in the robotised welding process. The control of our equipment is ever more far-reaching. We can set welding parameters digitally, so that almost every weld is made perfectly. We can specify curves down to the hundred-thousandth second: how much aluminium or steel, how much power and what the drip should look like. That enables us to rapidly translate aesthetic requirements into a strong functional design.”
The innovation lies in the robotised welding process. The control of our equipment is ever more far-reaching.Ted Havermans
Trial and error
“The great thing is that we really do go for it together. We have engineers, lots of knowledge and the right machines. Urban Arrow like to bounce around ideas about feasibility and design. That interplay between our engineers, the search for constant improvement, works very well,” explains Sander.
The building of a work horse
A good example of that interplay is the development of the front frame of the Cargo. The welding on the bikes must be strong, but also beautiful. Cargos are used commercially, and carry heavy loads. Regularly bouncing on and off pavements initially led to the front frame breaking after a while. With trial and error the welding was optimised, and we refined the frame in collaboration with VDL. So that the Cargo is now a reliable workhorse even for heavy-duty carriers.
Over the past year, some 5000 Tender and Cargo front frames and 1000 aluminium Cargo boxes have come off the production line at VDL. In addition to welding, they also carry out assembly work. Frames are powdercoated in the distinctive UA white or UA black at VDL, then they fully assemble the box and deliver it to Gyroscoopweg in Amsterdam. There our in-house assembly team prepare the cargo bike for its first trip.
Local and national industry
For Urban Arrow, the collaboration with another established Dutch business offers a further important benefit: “Keeping this work within the borders of the Netherlands offers us flexibility. And that is an enormous benefit. You can literally be standing side-by-side at the workbench within an hour if necessary, and we speak the same language. That enables us to make changes even at a late stage in the production process, in terms of both manufacture and assembly. We implement changes together on the go.”
Urban Arrow and VDL come together in enterprise. They’re a good example of how local industrial collaboration results in progress. “At VDL we want to be a valuable partner for Urban Arrow. We have 15,000 employees with lots of knowledge. We are keen to use that to enable new developments and improvements,” says Sander. ‘Strength through collaboration’ is VDL’s slogan, and we will need that capacity to accelerate over the coming years. The growing demand for electric cargo bikes in the business-to-business market promises enormous growth. “We’re ready for that. Let’s celebrate many successes with Urban Arrow – we enjoy doing that in the southern Netherlands. With a boat trip through Amsterdam’s canals or something,” concludes Sander enthusiastically.