Innovation Centre pictured on Bolidt's Campus

To those operating in the cruise industry, Bolidt is a well-known name. Renowned for its unique synthetic flooring systems, Bolidt has supplied to some of the world’s leading cruise lines.

Now, the established supplier is creating plenty of buzz in the industry with the announcement of its brand-new Innovation Centre. Ahead of the official opening in October (where, rumour has it, the Dutch King will be present), Team CSI was fortunate enough to be invited to visit the Centre to get the scoop on Bolidt and its new Innovation Centre.

Getting there

Upon arrival at Rotterdam Airport, Team CSI and a handful of maritime journalists were welcomed by Bolidt’s press team, including Margriet Lommers, press & media relations manager. Croissants were distributed and soon after we were making our way to the newest addition to Bolidt’s so-called “Campus” (pictured above), the Bolidt Innovation Centre.

On the ride over excitement was in the air and, once we reached our destination, just upriver of Rotterdam in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, we certainly weren’t disappointed. When we reached the highly anticipated Innovation Centre, CEO Rientz Willem Bol was there to greet us.

Breaking the ice

The Bolidt Innovation Centre is the latest example of the innovation that the family-owned business prides itself on, and has done since its inception in 1964. The new Centre offers a platform for the company to determine its approach to sustainability, hygiene, safety, energy & data, and design. The Bolidt Innovation Centre gives physical form to Bolidt’s creative and collaborative approach in an effort to keep the company ahead of its competitors.

From your first step inside, it’s clear that the Centre is in its infancy. With the project beginning just two years ago, the Innovation Centre has only been open for business for around three months.

Located on the first floor, the Centre’s canteen is bright and spacious, equipped with quirky décor, including a bespoke piece of artwork in the form of a motorcycle, dripping in Bolidt’s signature orange color.

Beyond is a dimly lit auditorium decked out with illuminated step-seating. As we sat down, the blackout curtains transformed into a starry night designed to resemble the cosmos.

Here, we received an introduction to Bolidt from CEO Bol, who explained that the company operates in numerous markets. From the dairy industry to the medical industry, Bolidt supplies its unique flooring systems to a range of companies.

“Although we have all kinds of social media, we thought it was time to create a place where you can really come together and you stop playing with your telephone”

Bolidt Innovation Centre

An introduction to Bolidt

Sitting in the vast auditorium, it’s hard to believe that just seven years ago, several members of the Bolidt team were sat in a shed bouncing ideas off one another and discussing what was next for the company. From that conversation, the Innovation Centre was born. “Although we have all kinds of social media, we thought it was time to create a place where you can really come together and you stop playing with your telephone,” said Bol.

The tour

We departed in two groups on a comprehensive tour of the Innovation Centre. Our group was led by Robert van Aarle, Bolidt’s sales & business development manager for the maritime division, who took great pride in leading us into the aptly named Innovation Hub.

The Innovation Hub is designed for collaboration and ideas-generation. Previous work is evident on the walls, featuring intricate mind maps and buzz words. As van Aarle spoke, we spotted the words ‘Dream no limits’ written in large text, just a small example of the work that had taken place here previously. 

Van Aarle focused our attention on a vibrant display comprised of LED lights. The light display is a prime example of Bolidt’s collaborative efforts. Before us was the product of Bolidt’s signature patented Bolideck® Future Teak decking and non-Bolidt LED lights. Van Aarle explained that Bolidt strives to combine its products with external items, working collaboratively to further enhance Bolidt’s decking. According to van Aarle, this product (capable of projecting more than 1,600 distinct colours) is just one example of co-creation, showcasing how non-Bolidt and Bolidt products can interact.

As you might imagine, Bolidt decking features throughout the Innovation Centre. A particular section of decking, found just outside the main elevator, features a chemistry unique to Bolidt, which – when used in a cruise context – can sense a passenger’s location, weight and more. Though that might sound a little 1984, it actually provides cruise operators with a much more efficient way of certifying guests’ safety. In addition, rather than featuring traditional wiring structures, the decking’s chemistry is Bolidt’s own organic composition.

Bolidt flooring

Bolidt in maritime

An impressive 60% of Bolidt’s turnover comes from the maritime industry – primarily cruise, but the company also works on projects for yachts, fishing vessels, the Dutch and US Navies, submarines, and offshore markets.

By far Bolidt’s most popular product in the cruise market is Bolideck® Future Teak (pictured above on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Flora), a patented decking composite designed to mimic the look and feel of authentic teak. Initially, the demand for Future Teak was borne from the need for a material that required less frequent maintenance updates, however, it soon evolved into a sustainability solution.

Bolidt Innovation Centre

Additional features

You may think the Innovation Centre contains nothing but sleek, shiny flooring, 15-meter high windows, and bespoke artwork, but behind all that lies Bolidt’s warehouse. After all, the company’s products have to be kept somewhere. Although the Centre was created to showcase Bolidt’s ethos and heart, it also required a more spacious warehouse area. The room stores all the products to be shipped that day. With around 90 projects on the go as of July, it’s no surprise that the warehouse was filled to the brim.

The tour continued into another dimly lit room, one that wouldn’t look out of place in London’s Natural Science Museum (where, funnily enough, Bolidt’s flooring can be found). As we entered the room – one that van Aarle confessed is his favourite – Lommers offered an explanation as to the walls of videos that surrounded us. One of her projects had been to collect footage from Bolidt team members across the globe, whether they’re working on a ship at Meyer Werft or providing free flooring to sports centres in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Irma. The videos span Asia to Europe to the Americas, showcasing not only Bolidt’s vast array of projects on the go, but also the heart and passion of each team member.

Downstairs is the exhibit room, which doubles up as the auditorium; when the ‘cosmos’ curtain is drawn open the room transforms into a large space featuring interactive exhibits, including a VR headset (pictured above) that shows users the entire composition process of Bolidt products.

The Centre makes use of various symbols to guide its guests and clients through the venue. The leaf symbolizes sustainability, the pencil represents design, hygiene is conveyed by monster-like figures, and the shield symbol relates to safety.

VR at the Innovation Centre

R&D efforts

Edwin Verhees, director of the laboratory, guided us through the new R&D centre, where Bolidt team members can be seen hard at work. Although Bolidt maintains its old basement-based lab (now used for confidential projects), Verhees admitted it took some adjusting adapting to the transparent design of the new lab – one of the features that makes this R&D centre so unique is the glass panelling that surrounds each workspace, allowing onlookers to peek in at whatever the lab team is working on.

Bolidt’s impressive climate chamber is also found here, which allows the lab team to mimic any climate on Earth and test new compounds under these conditions. Verhees passed around three of Bolidt’s famous compounds, each one becoming lighter in correlation with the year in which it was created. The compound from 2018 is considerably lighter than those that came before it, demonstrating just how far the business has come in terms of innovation.

“It is our mission to replace traditional materials in order to make a contribution to a better living environment.”

Sustainability takes priority at the Innovation Centre

Sustainability at Bolidt

Sustainability is at the heart of Bolidt’s work and a key consideration as the company works to improve its processes. During the presentation, Bolidt’s purchaser Coen Geerdrink posed the question, “How sustainable is Bolidt?” In answer, he provided the company’s mission statement: “It is our mission to replace traditional materials in order to make a contribution to a better living environment and a more sustainable planet with safety, durability, energy & data, design and hygiene as key drivers.” Next, he outlined what Bolidt is doing to reduce its environmental footprint.

To reduce single-use plastics, Bolidt is planning to implement several initiatives. These include using plant oil-based resins versus petroleum-based ones, repurposing the plastic it uses and putting it back into the value stream as new product, and using biodegradable and non-plastic packaging.

According to Geerdrink, what the company has planned in terms of products will not only reduce the negative environmental impact, but also has the potential to help combat the industry’s most pressing environmental issues. Examples include energy-generating and CO2-absorbing flooring, which could be on the cards for the near future.

By 2020, Bolidt hopes to introduce energy harvesting surfaces, flooring, and decking systems. So far, the company has already achieved its goals of replacing the Bolidt fleet with hybrid & blue motion vehicles and created the first prototype flooring and decking system to consist of 100% bio-based materials. It has also achieved a 90% reduction in the use of acetone for cleaning since 2005.

Innovation Centre chemistry

Final thoughts

From hiring a chief happiness officer (yes, really) to showcasing its team’s talent throughout the Innovation Center, Bolidt’s united passion for its craft is contagious.

The day ended with a ride on one of Bolidt’s very own speedboats, complete with orange branding, downriver and into Rotterdam, stopping off for a bonus tour at collaborators and award-winning yacht designers Oceanco, which also prides itself on Dutch craftsmanship.

You may not get to visit the Bolidt Innovation Centre until October, but you can read more about it here in the meantime.